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Moral Themes Conveyed In Holiday Movies

Social Commentary has often been at the center of many films – Morality, insight and wisdom gained from mistakes made and lessons learned when common themes are explored. Now that Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is approaching and Christmas lists are being planned, its appropriate to pick a holiday that speaks sociologically to cultural values. Especially unique are the movies involving the myth of St. Nicholas, known by many names in different cultures as Santa Claus or Papa Noel, El Espiritu De La Navidad.

All legends about Christmas resonate the themes of sharing, sacrifice and generosity. Over time, Santa Claus became the image of great wisdom  reflected as an old man always ready to offer millions of gifts every year. “I have been coming to this planet for thousands of years  from a distant galaxy, to be on Earth,  a beautiful place to exist. Blessed with the power of precipitation,  my mission is to radiate contagious joy and share with everyone my knowledge of life in other parts of the universe.”

A cinematic version of this fable was explored in a 1964 Science Fiction film, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. Directed by Nicholas Webster,     the screenplay was unknown. It received notice at the Canned Film Festival in 1986, and appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The plot originates on Mars and covers several themes using martian family relationships, exploring how the martian culture educates its youth. Momar and Kimar are unhappy about their kids watching too much Earth TV, but they notice the positive effects that Old St. Nicholas have  on their children when he is interviewed on Nickelodeon from his workshop in the North Pole. The couple seeks the  counsel of the 800 year old sage, Chochem the wise.  He had long  criticized martian culture for being too strict in the methods of educating their children, “fed knowledge into their brains through electrodes connected to machines,  they are not allowed individuality or freedom of thought.” He suggests this path is stifling their creativity. “The only way to correct this control is to allow the children freedom to have fun.” He argues that a Santa Claus figure like the one on Earth would give the children the spirit they need, enhancing joy and happiness in their lives. One of the martian children, Girmar, is played by six-year old Pia Zadora, in her dramatic film debut.

Unfortunately, advice is often not interpreted as intended. The leaders devise a plan to kidnap Santa Claus and bring him to Mars to work in one of their factories created for him, to make toys for martian children, and bring laughter and happiness to all the land.

Kimar flies to earth with other members of “the council”, and Torg, a robot, (an anagram of Gort, the beloved robot appearing in  The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951), and use a freezing ray on Mrs. Claus forcing Santa to go Mars.

There are many complex subplots, the special effects, makeup, and robotics are   cheesy, however the morals conveyed by the movie supersedes all that. Perhaps this film contains wisdom for adults and children alike. Don’t use TV as a babysitter; Be careful how you interpret the words of great sages, oracles and mystics; Don’t steal Santa Claus’s from other planets, and “It really is” all about education, not assimilation (as in the Borg Collective).

As the film ends Santa is returned to earth as the martians choose one of their own to become the Santa Claus of Mars. Chochem, the guru would probably have said: “Listen up folks, you can’t find laughter and happiness by stealing it from someone else, but by finding it within.”

And so the tale ends as the spirit of Santa Claus conquers Mars, bringing laughter and cheer and a Ho Ho Ho.