by Katherine Noble
The holidays are a time to connect with family, to celebrate life, love, and all those good things. However, each year we seem to be bombarded by increasingly shallow media and the glorification of excess and greed. There’s nothing better than cozying up to watch a good movie with your loved ones, but it can be difficult to find a decent holiday movie. Here’s a list of five holiday movies that showcase Consistent Life Ethic themes.
A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Since its original publication in 1843, Charles Dickens’ classic story has been a staple in nearly every home in America. It has been performed and told through hundreds of stage productions, at least two dozen major movies, and innumerable radio shows, television episodes, and other forms of media.
A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an old miser who mistreats his poor clerk and lives alone, caring for no one. Scrooge is visited by three ghosts who show him the past, present, and future. It’s a dark future, one where a young, innocent child dies. So does Scrooge — and no one mourns him. Through this awful premonition, Scrooge realizes the consequences of his actions. He has a change of heart, seeing that his greed impacts those who are suffering. Scrooge becomes a generous, caring man, going out into the community to celebrate the gift of life and to share what he has with others.
This Christmas classic reminds us of the incomparable and irreplaceable worth of each and every person — from sweet Tiny Tim to crotchety Ebenezer Scrooge, and everyone in between. This film champions Dickens’ messages of compassion and the value of life, with the adorable twist of the Muppets being added in for just the right amount of levity. Because what classic isn’t better with the Muppets added in?
An American Tail (1986)
An American Tail is an animated Hanukkah film that tells the story of a group of Jewish mice fleeing to America to escape persecution. The protagonist, Fievel, dreams of a world without cats — the persecutors of innocent mice. This is a light-hearted family movie with surprisingly deep and relevant socio-political themes.
This film’s executive producer is Stephen Spielberg, and it features moments drawn from his own grandparents’ Jewish upbringings in New York. Fievel is sold to work in a sweatshop, listens to school lessons from outside in the snow, and is extorted by a bad boss. Fievel is segregated from the “American” mice, and he and the other immigrant mice — Italian, Irish, and Jewish — are all treated poorly. It’s in coming together that they celebrate the idea of equality and community.
Especially in a year like this, when so many of us are separated from or have lost family members, it’s heartening to remember our communities: the people who uplift, support, and love us for who we are.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
How could we skip this one? It’s a Wonderful Life is a quintessential holiday film that brilliantly showcases Consistent-Life-Ethic themes. George Bailey is a family man who has given up on his dreams and is on the verge of committing suicide when his guardian angel Clarence comes down to help. Clarence shows George how different the world would be without George in it. In the end, the money woes that drove George to almost kill himself are resolved through his family, friends, and neighbors coming together to help.
This film beautifully demonstrates how much impact a single human life can have, and how important each and every one of us is. In the film, George is told “he’d be worth more dead than alive.” This is a stance that often features in arguments for euthanasia and abortion — but how can we know this? Why do we get to say that someone else’s life is worth less, or that our world would be better without them? Every human life has intrinsic value, from womb to tomb.
Tangerine is not a typical Christmas movie. There is no snow, no traditional family, and no ugly Christmas sweaters. Tangerine is, however, a beautiful movie that follows two best friends on Christmas Eve. It just so happens that these friends are two sex workers in a Hollywood donut shop looking for an ex-pimp.
This may not seem like a traditional Christmas film, but for many people, this is what Christmas looks like — a day like any other, with, perhaps, its small joys. Life is hard for trans people, for poor people, for Black people, and for sex workers. This year alone, roughly 41 trans or gender non-conforming people have been fatally shot or killed by other violent means. Tangerine showcases the lives of two people from one of the most marginalized groups in our society, Black trans sex workers, and proudly declares that their lives matter.
This film centers on a friendship that’s more like a family, a relationship that sustains two people through violence, trauma, and pain. Tangerine shows us that every life is worth it. Whether you have a white Christmas surrounded by family, or just a quiet evening in a laundromat with your best friend, your life matters.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
A Charlie Brown Christmas is a familiar children’s Christmas classic that hides a deeper message underneath the surface. At the beginning of the film, Charlie Brown is depressed, despite the season. His friends don’t support him, and he grows more and more discouraged as he sees the gross commercialism on display. Everyone is asking for expensive gifts and competing to have the best decorations, losing sight of the true meaning of Christmas. Charlie Brown picks the only real tree in the lot, a comically small sapling. At first his friends mock it, but upon seeing how that affects him, they gather round and give the tree a makeover, realizing what matters.
Too often, life is disregarded as an “obstacle.” With abortion, there is often an argument made that a baby keeps the parent from achieving their goals. With euthanasia, the sick or elderly are seen as burdens on their caregivers. We devalue life to prioritize material possessions. A Charlie Brown Christmas is valuable in its simple recentering of the Christmas season on what matters: friends, family, and the ability to be alive and here to love them.
This holiday season, whomever you spend it with, cherish it. Love and treasure the gift of every human being, and every minute you get to spend with those you love. Life is our most central and inalienable human right, and we are so fortunate to be here at all.