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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

A Christmas Carol (1984)

Soooooooo.... lots of things to disclose at the top of this:

  • This particular Christmas Carol was a staple of my childhood and I am not really keen on revisiting that outside of therapy these days.

  • I have become deeply bitter towards Christmas Carol because of theater and the production of it I used to work on.

  • I am a far left leaning (slanting? lying flat on the floor and pointing my body to the left? tattooing 'eat the rich' on the L my left hand makes?) anti-capitalist and the idea that we should applaud a man being haunted into being human? The idea that he would actually change? The fact that the only thing that creates in him significant change is the reminder of his own inevitable end? Nahhh. Not having it. Not interested.

  • The Muppets Christmas Carol exists and it is perfect.

I'm coming into this one with baggage.


Which is not to say that I wasn't curious about revisiting it. I wondered how it would hold up. I was grateful it was 100 minutes. I wondered if there was a non-Muppet ACC that would do anything for me. But mostly I found it nonsensical.


Early in the viewing, Ben and I talked about the fairy tale that someone can wake up one day and decide they're different and everyone around them will not only accept that at face value but celebrate it. "That's not how life works," I said. "That's not how forgiveness works," Ben said. And it's true. Scrooge, as this movie and the book end, hasn't really earned the trust of anyone in his life yet. There's hope, sure, but I find no inspiration in a man who is ultimately moved only by a reminder of his own mortality. Does he not understand that he's going to die someday? Why is the lens of this story so firmly fixed on Scrooge? (In case you're wondering, I also have immense issues with the parable of the prodigal son.)




Gosh I'm having the hardest time writing this. I'm so angry and full of Feelings about this story and what it says and what bullshit it all is. There will always be Scrooges. There will always be more Cratchits. And this story about investing in your fellow humans instead of investing in money will always be capitalized on, primarily for making money. When I think about the pittance I was paid to design costumes for ACC, not to mention the fraction of that I received as an assistant or dresser, knowing what tickets cost and who was making waaaaay more off of it. The time kept away from my partner and the toll it took on our relationship. The relentless emails of "In this season of giving" and "Don't be a Scrooge!", but how much more am I supposed to give? How can I not be bitter? How do we make a story that honestly has so much to offer, actually mean something?


Quick shout outs to David Warner (Tron! Titanic!), Roger Rees (West Wing!) and beautiful baby Joanne Whalley whom I assumed I was hallucinating because with the new Willow series I have had Joanne Whalley on the brain. Gosh she's stunning.


Wax, metal, wood, gold leaf, paint.




Takeaways:

-Well this became waaaay more about witchcraft than I expected. Haha. My immediate thought for the project was "Burn it down." Much like My Fair Lady . I thought about doing a holly wreath or a flaming figgy pudding or something but it all felt derivative. Then, I got incredible news. I got a job. A job I'd been hoping for, honestly even praying for. A job that would let me walk away from costume work forever. A fresh start with new people. People who seem positive. People who seem to like their jobs. People who are well paid. When I got that phone call on Monday morning, I can only describe the feeling as what it feels like to take a heavy backpack off after a long hike. I've been so haunted by my mistakes in theater. I am keenly aware that I came to this profession when I was profoundly emotionally injured. I was bleeding on everyone when I started and it was messy. I was ready to leave in 2020 but I've been haunted by the ghosts of Catholic guilt and low self esteem whispering in my ear, "You can't quit until you show everyone that you're worthy." And I've only gotten more tired and bitter and I haven't proven myself to any of the people I'm ashamed to have bled on. Least of all myself. I've been chained down by negativity, my own and, even when I work to escape it in myself, in many of my colleagues.

-I'm wild about the descriptions of the ghosts in Dickens' book. Past looks simultaneously very young and very old and somehow like a burning candle. In witchcraft, fire is used for transformation spellwork. I can think of few moments in my life that feel more transformative than the one I'm in right now. Flame is also used for release. It also harkens back to my initial thought of "burn it down."

-Ultimately, the man shaped candle, the chains, the image of a clock, the flame are all secondary to the ritual that this was. Once I recognized it as a ritual, I started to question whether or not it was art. And then I had a profound (and annoyingly simple) realization: all artistic practice is ritual. I've loved seeing my friend Andy's videos of lighting a candle and sketching a cake and I realized this week that what I love about it is the ritual. (I used to light a David Byrne saint candle when I started the art for the week and I need to get back to that. It's such a lovely, gentle call to action.) I've been following the book, The Artist's Way Every Day, a sort of artistic devotional and every day for this year I've read about how artistic practice is ritual and magical/spiritual and only now has it really clicked. So I wrapped the wax figure in chains of varying sizes and weights, lit the wick, and prayed in gratitude to the universe for light and second chances and the optimism of more time. Not infinite time, but more. And the hope that I can do good with it. I prayed that my ghosts and chains would fall away.

-I wish it would have burned further. I committed myself to letting it self-extinguish and not help it along the way. I imagined the chains falling away as the candle burned but they kind of collapsed inwardly. Still, it was a very freeing experience. This week has been incredible for my soul.

-I have time lapse video to edit and it'll be on Instagram.


Next week, a brilliant and moody Christmas film that feels like an excellent companion to this bit of art: The Green Knight. My favorite movie of 2021 and I cannot wait to revisit it!


I hope this next week is balm for your soul. I hope you find moments to be reinvigorated and hopeful in the face of a magical time of year that has become mundane and burdensome with expectations.



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