It’s almost Halloween, which means it is time for me to over-analyze spooky movies!The movie The Nightmare Before Christmas came out in 1993 and became an instant holiday classic. Recently I was re-watching the movie and was struck in particular by Sally and her relationship with Dr. Finklestein, her creator. Sally has very little say in her own life and is constantly poisoning Dr. Finklestein so that she can leave and be able to go about the town and participate in daily life. Dr. Finklestein created Sally to be his companion and insists that she needs to do what he says because he created her and gave her life.
This conflict is just played off as funny in this kids’ movie, but it’s an interesting question on a variety of levels.
One of my favorite Halloween movies is The Nightmare Before Christmas. I’m a sucker for Tim Burton and the music of Danny Elfman, and when you combine it with Christmas cheer and Halloween gothic macabre, you basically get the best Christmas/Halloween crossover extravaganza ever. But because over-analyzing things is my third-favorite hobby (next to soul-harvesting and baking), I got to thinking: could there be something more behind our stop-motion miniatures? I think there might be. The Nightmare Before Christmas is rich with lore and depth, andcan serve as a cautionary tale against religious syncretism.
Religious syncretism is different from cultural appropriation. Usually cultural appropriation involves a “dominant” culture borrowing important or sacred elements from an oppressed culture for frivolous reasons. A non-Native American wearing a war bonnet as a costume or fashion accessory is a kind of cultural appropriation, because war bonnets are important spiritual and political objects worn by Native American men in tribes from the Plains region. The non-Native wearer doesn’t understand or care to understand the significance of the object. Religious syncretism involves the successful or unsuccessful melding of two belief systems, and is intimately connected with meaning. It’s precisely Jack’s search for meaning that moves him from cultural appropriation to attempting religious syncretism.
Spoilers for The Nightmare Before Christmas below, of course.
In yesterday’s post, I discussed Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas, specifically noting that the fact that she is a rag doll and that being treated like a rag doll drove her to attempt to become something more.
For Jack Skellington, the appointed Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, the opposite feeling made him yearn for more.
Alright, let’s get this out of the way first. I love Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s an absolutely brilliant movie, musical, and what else you want to call it. I personally love movies that can be labeled whatever you want to label them, and this is one of them. Children’s movie? Yep. Adult? Sure. Christmas? Absolutely. Halloween? That too. You can’t go wrong.
And the one character I love more than anything is not Jack, although his character is well thought out too. I love Sally.