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The Grinch: Social Sorrow

Genesis 2:18a, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone....’.”

Something I consider wonderfully unique about Illumination Studio’s Grinch is how he preserves the original Grinch’s core characteristics yet is an ‘everyman’. He’s not Whoville’s ‘Boogie Man’ like in the Carrey film. He’s just the Whos’ local grumpy neighbor—an introvert who mostly keeps to himself and takes care of his dog, Max. It’s sad how criticized this Grinch version is though. ‘He’s too nice, and this film is too modernized.’ Well, aren’t film’s intrinsically a product of their times anyway? And yes, while the Carrey version and the Karloff cartoon upped the anti on his disgusting nastiness, what exactly was the Grinch in the original book? A grouchy hermit who tried to steal Christmas. That’s it. Thus, I’m inclined to argue a rude recluse who’s still a decent dog owner isn’t out of character for a Grinch. The problem is, how ‘unlike’ something is to what we’re used to can distract us from the genuine good that new thing offers. I see so much behind this movie. It not only shows an excellent understanding of introverts. It successfully captures the inner turmoil people with acute social anxiety face everyday, especially at Christmas.

Cumberbatch’s Grinch suffers symptoms associated with emotional anxiety. He’s chronically depressed. He resists big events. They tend to put him in shock after all, yet he kinda wants them anyway. He keeps animals for company and regards his isolation with tired resignement. He eases his upset feelings with activity and food. Max adequately acts like his service dog for daily living and mental support. Even more telling is the Grinch’s confliction over why he’s so miserable. He’s so used to hurting, he forgot how or why it started. He incorrectly blames Christmas for intensifying his loneliness, but it’s really loneliness itself that plagues him. This Grinch’s backstory is also incredibly realistic in how he got this way. Simply put, he was a small orphan who only ever experienced Christmas alone. It’s not that anybody mistreated him or said he couldn’t celebrate Christmas. They just didn’t invite him into their circles. Some may argue the Grinch should’ve just jumped in and celebrated with other Whos anyway. Not so fast. It’s not that simple for some.

One misunderstood myth about introverts like the Grinch is that they hate big gatherings. That’s not always the case. Gatherings do often make introverts uncomfortable, but most of them love being with others as much as extroverts do. The difference is, while extroverts desire a quantity of friendships; introverts desire quality friendships. In fact, it’s quite possible that introverts have the right idea on how to value relationships better than most extroverts do. They want sincerity. Hence why, to them, making a good impression and not embarrassing themselves or anyone else matters to the point of terrifying them. This innate sensitivity they possess grants them remarkable social awareness. Unfortunately, that same hyper-awareness can produce fearfulness. This then causes a major confliction. If they’re too scared to reach out and no one so much as bothers to share a simple conversation with them, they wind up feeling worthless—not worth a thought. Let those hurts go too long and an introvert can give up social life completely, bitterly convincing themselves they don’t want relationships at all. Suddenly, it’s more than reasonable to believe Christmas can be the worst day of the year to some.

I’ve personally witnessed similar heartaches firsthand. You see, I’m the only natural-born extrovert in my immediate family. I can’t recount how many times I’ve watched my mom and siblings suffer from similar social anxieties—all those tears they’ve shed over situations when nobody was mean to them yet they felt utterly neglected. To clarify, we have many wonderful friends. We’ve gone to several large parties they’ve thrown too. Unfortunately, those select times when nobody sought them out even to ask how they’re doing, it says to them they’re the bottom of the friendship barrel. In their minds, their friends have a ring of much closer buddies to automatically pal with that they weren’t worthy to be a part of. Now, I know for a fact that our friends never ever intended to make them feel that way ever, but that still didn’t erase how they felt. There’s no single culprit here. There are things both sides of this could have done better, but it’s largely just a side-effect to this sin-cursed world we live in. Thankfully, there is a God given cure, and it lives at the very heart of Christmas.

God created mankind for relationships. That’s why Jesus was born among us even while we still resisted Him. He wanted to save us and personally give us the intimacy we crave in Him. His selfless love, the ultimate spirit of Christmas, transforms lives. Cindy Lou Who from this film expresses that same spirit too. Her sole Holiday goal is to find help for her overworked mom, who’m she deeply loves. Her desire is so strong, even the Grinch notices. Then Cindy, upon learning of the Grinch’s hurt, extends similar love to him. She personally invites him to their home to dine. Then comes the final scene. The Grinch timidly asks to share a few words before carving the roast beast, and his following confession says it all. Christmas worsened his loneliness for a time, but thanks to a little girl, he finally....finally learned and experienced the Christ-like love that birthed the very season itself. His solitary hurt ends. His new life begins.

“Ma’am, your daughter’s kindness changed my life.” - The Grinch to Cindy Lou’s Mother.

1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

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Dec 18, 2021

I finally got to see the ending, and I agree with you, it's a great movie from start to finish. I think I like it the best out of all of them.


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