There’s a new movie set to be released Thanksgiving week called Rise of the Guardians. It features an animated Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Sandman, and Jack Frost as the ‘guardians’ of the happiness of the children of the world.
At the risk of entering the saga in the role of Scrooge, I admit that (a) while I love adventure flicks, (b) the previews of this movie bother me greatly.
I am not above some gratuitous violence in a movie, but this is a children’s movie and it uses children’s icons.
Icons are just that: symbols of something.
Santa Claus, derived from a variety of historical and imaginary figures, has his origins in Saint Nicholas, with the gift-giving tradition arising from stories about his many and secret gifts to the poor.
The Easter Bunny probably arises from pagan observances incorporated into Christian practices in celebration of Easter and the resurrection, the rabbit or the hare and the egg long having been symbols of life itself.
In Rise of the Guardian, Santa Claus is a sword-wielding warrior (modeled by the author on James Bond) and the Easter Bunny throws egg bombs and a “mean boomerang” in the battle against evil.
The problem is this: the icons of Santa and the Easter Bunny, distinctly Christian for centuries, are symbols of the nativity, the herald of peace among people, peace being specifically understood to include justice and care for the poor; and Easter is the defeat of death and the victory of life, achieved not by violence, but by sacrifice.
Mythologies teach us something. There are important lessons brought by these icons: care for the poor, the blessing of giving, the understanding of Jesus' advent as a gift for all humanity, God cares for children, humility as a way of life, life itself as divine gift, the certainty of the resurrection promise, to name but a few. The James Bond lesson that the ends justify the means is a problem.
The Christian tradition recounts the battle of good and evil and the triumph of good. These icons bear witness to that story. It is the story of life, of courage, and of sacrifice as the ‘tools’ Jesus uses to bring about the triumph of good.
A sword-carrying Santa and a bomb-throwing Easter Bunny?
Not Good News.