I’m guessing Rene Cardona’s Santa Claus was intended to be a children’s film, but the lessons it teaches are questionable at best. It’s a Mexican production from 1959.
In Cardona’s version of Christmas lore, Santa lives in a castle floating on a cloud in outer space. I know it’s just a story, but the lack of air pressure disturbs me. I don’t want Santa to end up like Schwarzenegger in Total Recall.
Like the NSA, Santa is a master of mass surveillance. Of course, Santa doesn’t spy on everyone, he only spies on children. Hmm, that doesn’t really make it sound much better. There is no way around it, Santa is creepy. Since Cardona’s Santa is depicted on an interstellar scale, the film explains that Santa brings presents to every child on Earth. Seeing as most children on Earth are either Chinese or Indian, it must be a confusing day for all those Hindus and Buddhists, never mind all of Islam.
In the film we are taken behind the scenes where we get to see the international sweatshop he runs out of his castle. There are child slaves from every country. Santa keeps a remote eye on all of them from a TV screen mounted on his organ. His pipe organ, you degenerate.
Each group of workers is dressed in the ceremonial garb of their nation, except the Africans who dance around in what Cardona imagines they wear, that being leopard skin loincloths and bones in their hair. Not exactly historically accurate, but more importantly, why would children from an African tribe be making Christmas toys? And loincloths are just not appropriate for the North Pole or for outer space.
Santa’s surveillance capabilities are terrifying. He not only can see you when your sleeping or awake, but in this film he can even observe children’s dreams. That doesn’t seem fair. You not only have to be good, you have to be subconsciously good.
Santa watches one little girl’s dream who wants a doll for Christmas. She has a Busby Berkeley-inspired nightmare where dancers with doll heads dance around and torment her. Satan infiltrates her dream and has the doll dancers try to convince the girl to steal a doll from a local store, but like a good, little girl, she refuses.
The little girl is very poor, but she must abide by the cruel inequities of capitalism if she is to meet Santa’s strict rubric. Her mother advises her. “If you are good, somehow you will be rewarded.” Really? That is what you want to teach this innocent child? I guess Santa is used as a gateway dug for children before they are ready for the full fledge opiate of the masses. Santa is to heroin as Jesus is to Fentanyl. There’s a sentence that has never been written before.
The film is full of bad advice. Santa scoops up a lonely, little rich boy to gently comfort him. The child’s parents have left him home alone while they go to a Christmas party. The boy asks, “Are you really sure they love me when I’m left all alone?” Santa answers, “Yes, of course they love you, and you must believe they love you.” Maybe Santa needs to stop gaslighting the poor kid and call child protective services, or maybe just give the kid some Fentanyl.
Then there is the matter of the Devil. Satan is obsessed with trying to foil Santa. He’s so obsessed, he performs an expressionistic ballet about it, amidst the fires of hell.
It’s never been made clear to me who or what Santa is, but if he can bring presents to children all over the world in one night, he must be very powerful, possibly a Timelord. Either way, Santa must use his powers to contend with Satan’s henchman, who is constantly trying to either lure kids into doing evil, or trip Santa up in some way. The henchman’s name is Pitch, which can sometimes be mistaken for a different word when the narrator speaks too quickly, as in, “Tough luck, *itch!”
Pitch and Santa battle it out with the children caught in between them like pawns. As you might imagine, the good kids get their just desserts in the end, the bad kids get coal, and poor Pitch runs off in shame. The whole thing seems a little too scary for children to watch, but what else is the Devil for, but to scare people into obedience? Santa offers the carrot and the Devil threatens an eternity of torture and damnation, or even worse, an expressionist ballet. The justice of the surveillance state may be harsh, but no one escapes Santa. That sounds like a good quote for a Christmas card!
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