Well, Christmas is coming, and that means a Christmas-themed blog! Over the last few days, I’ve been indulging in watching various adaptations of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol.” No matter which version I watched, be it the Disney short, the film version with Patrick Stewart, the Muppets, or one with a Doctor Who twist, I found myself not getting at all tired of the story. Sure, it’s been heralded as a timeless classic, but one of the reasons I’ve always liked the story is how people choose to present it. As a side note, I’m writing this on the assumption that you’re familiar with the story in general. If you aren’t, well, there are a bajillion versions out there and as such no real excuse for you not to know the story.
Anyway. presentation can mean any number of things when it comes to “A Christmas Carol.” One method is how they tackle the book overall. For example, the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim seemed to try to explore more of Scrooge’s character by showing not only his usual defining moments, but even how he met Marley and became the money-grubbing miser he is. Most versions omit details here and there, especially when the story focuses on Scrooge’s past. Some include his family background, others choose to focus on him being lonely, and most include his meeting of Belle (or whatever name an adaptation might give her) at Fezziwig’s party. The biggest exception I’ve seen so far is the 1935 version which ONLY focuses on Scrooge already being miserly by the time Belle dumps him. No childhood exploration, no Fezziwig’s, not even his initial meeting/relationship with Belle. It’s a bizarre version to say the least.
My personal favorite method is when TV shows or films either parody or put their own spin on the story. A lot of that is done by using an established character or newly introduced one as a placeholder for Scrooge. The reasoning behind their attitude can be similar or very different from the original source, but it’s interesting to see how the story can be applied to nearly any kind of genre. It’s still one of the main reasons why I enjoy the Doctor Who adaptation so much, because they play around with the story while making it work with the timey-wimey aspects of the show. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a unique take. While I’ve always felt there isn’t technically a bad way to tell the story, there are some that miss the mark. There are TV versions I’ve seen (mostly kiddie ones) that like to focus on just the “grumpy miser who hates Christmas” aspect and come off a bit shallow as a result. If I want to see a story like that, I’ll watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
I’ve found over the years that I appreciate “A Christmas Carol” more than I ever did as a kid. I guess that can be chalked up to having a better understanding of the material and more respect toward the message it conveys. But I also think it’s because as a kid, my exposure to it started with the Disney short. Because that’s such a bare-bones adaptation (still love it, though), the simplified story never resonated all that much with me. But as I grew up and saw stuff like the Muppets, a few live-action versions, “Scrooged”, and Doctor Who to name a few, I’ve grown to consider it one of my favorite stories among those of the season. Maybe one day I’ll actually sit down and read the book itself, but until then, there are plenty of versions out there to bring out my Christmas spirit.