“Bad Santa” and Eli Plaut’s “A Kosher Christmas”
[This article was originally posted on Dec. 24, 2013; it is a comment on an article that appeared in Tablet on Dec. 17, 2013. Tablet has seen fit to repost it in 2014, on Christmas eve, so I thought I would repost my comment.]
Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox in Bad Santa.
It’s that time of year again. Time for Jewish angst about Christmas. The Tablet has a revealing article by Adam Chandler that gets at the Jewish view of the season (“All-Star Team of Jews Defiles Christmas in Billy Bob Thornton’s ‘Bad Santa’: How the Coen brothers and Terry Zwigoff helped create a holiday classic that angers gentiles“). Described as “the greatest Christmas movie of all time,”
ten years after its release, Terry Zwigoff’s Bad Santa, a rail whiskey blend of Brecht and Bukowski, has become a holiday standard. Brought to life by a Jew from Wisconsin (Zwigoff) and four Jewish brothers (two Coens and two Weinsteins), it is regarded as a classic send-up of Christmas culture gone awry. The crude, brilliant movie is a staple of Comedy Central’s December line-up. …
With an assault of impiety, the film makes Christmastime in America seem an impossible place to be if you live at the margins. The way that message is conveyed throughout the movie, however, is more fluid than solid. After his introductory monologue, Willie stumbles into the alley behind the bar where, with the Chopin nocturne still lilting, he upchucks loudly into the snow. It’s a beautiful shot, retching Santa and all, that ends with the postcard appearance of the movie title in red lettering.
Uplifting stuff for the holidays. The artistic contribution of the Coen brothers is critical:
In an interview last year, director Terry Zwigoff explained how the Coen Brothers turned Bad Santa from holiday pastiche into scorched earth. “Like the kid would ask Santa, ‘Do you and Mrs. Santa ever think of having kids?’ And in the original script it was just, ‘No, thank God.’ And the Coens made that into, ‘No, thank the fuck Christ.’ That’s their gift. They have a gift for dialogue.”
Such an improvement! The gleeful desecration of all that is held dear by the hated and resented outgroup.