November 23, 2017

Wait...Is 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' Actually a Thanksgiving Movie?

Some say "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is a Halloween movie. Others say it's a Christmas movie. This video essay says it's neither.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Damn, V's trying to ruin my holiday." I'm not. Promise. I bear no ill will against you, your turkey, or your family that just flew in from Chicago. All I'm saying, and call it heresy if you want, is that maybe The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Thanksgiving movie.

And I know what you're thinking now. You're thinking, "Hey idiot, the director himself said it was a Halloween movie." I know. Henry Selick was very clear about which holiday the spirit of his film was intended to be infused with. All I'm saying, and call me a stupid idiot if you want, is that maybe The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Thanksgiving movie.

"Wow, V. You're really reaching. And I mean that in the meanest way possible." I understand. I really do. But once you watch this video essay by ScreenPrism, you might find that the holiday from which this film gets its theme is even more difficult to pin down than you might've previously thought.

Full disclosure here, I think The Nightmare Before Christmas is both a Halloween and Christmas movie. The imagery, however earthy and warm it becomes, screams Halloween and Christmas. It just does. It. Just. Does. 

However, even though I'm not buying the whole "It's a Thanksgiving movie" theory, I really like that ScreenPrism took a stab at it anyway, because they really made some interesting and even convincing arguments. 

I mean, it's true—Thanksgiving does fall right in between Halloween and Christmas and we do spend most of our time occupying that space in the movie. And it's true—Jack Skellington does learn the value of thankfulness, as well as appreciating what he has. Really, you could call that a Thanksgiving Day miracle if it happened on the last Thursday in November. But it doesn't. It happens on Christmas. In fact, two of the most important Hero's Journey events occur on the two holidays: the Call to Adventure on Halloween and the Ordeal on Christmas.

But perhaps the most convincing argument ScreenPrism makes is how the themes of the film, as well as Jack's character arc, don't reflect the themes of either Halloween or Christmas, but rather those of Thanksgiving, which are self-reflection, a search for a new world, and thankfulness.

So, maybe the film isn't a Halloween movie, or a Christmas movie, or a Thanksgiving movie. Maybe it's all three, combining elements from each holiday to create a rich tapestry of storytelling through the lens of the naturally diverse themes of the holiday season.

Or maybe it is just a Halloween movie. But what's the fun in that?      

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November 23, 2017 at 8:05PM

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Jacob Floyd
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November 25, 2017 at 4:55AM, Edited November 25, 4:55AM

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