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I'm Dreaming of a Vengeful Christmas

"It's not fair," the wife said, as our traditional pre-Christmas viewing of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" reached its dramatic conclusion, with the title character joining all the Whos in Whoville for a redemptive dinner of roast beast.

"What's not fair, honey?" I asked her. This not only gives my wife the impression that I am interested in what she has to say, but also buys me enough time to quickly determine whether I'm the cause of her irritation.

"This show," she replied. "The Grinch."

"Look, I realize the Jim Carrey movie was awful, but I don't think it in any way diminishes the 1966 animated classic that we're..."

"No, no, no. It's not fair what happens to the Grinch."

And here is the essence of my wife's complaint. After spending the better part of 30 minutes slandering, plotting against and ultimately stealing from the Whos, the Grinch -- having had his heart grow by three sizes -- returns to Whoville with his stolen loot and, instead of being clapped in irons, is greeted warmly by his one-time victims. My wife, an animal lover, is particularly incensed by the Grinch's abusive relationship with his dog Max and that the animated special does not conclude with the Whoville chapter of the ASPCA stomping a mudhole in the Grinch's belly. Yes, Max receives a generous slice of roast beast at the end of the animated special, but does that really compensate him for a lifetime of suffering at the hands of someone who was perfectly willing to conscript poor Max into hauling a heavy sleigh up the side of Mount Crumpett?

My wife would argue no. And I believe our marital vows compel me to agree with her, at least publicly.

Granted, the central theme of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" -- that Christmas isn't something you buy from a store, but that Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more -- doesn't leave much room for violent revenge fantasies. But then again, my wife may be on to something. After all, it's not like the Grinch's spiritual apotheosis lasts for very long -- a scant decade later, he's back to menacing the Whos in Halloween Is Grinch Night. How do you think the Whos felt about sharing their roast beast with the Grinch after that incident? Like suckers, I'm willing to bet.

The lack of evildoers being made to pay for their crimes by vengeful mobs -- that's a concept missing from most Christmas-themed specials, come to think of it. Ebeneezer Scrooge shows up with a goose and a few kinds words for Tiny Tim at the end of countless televised retellings of "A Christmas Carol," and the entire Cratchit clan is supposed to forget about how he's dicked them over year after year. Rudolph saves the day in Rankin & Bass's "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and receives cheers and adoration of his fellow reindeer. But if he ever enjoyed any measure of revenge for being denied entry into their reindeer games, well, it happened off-camera and was never immortalized in the lyrics of Gene Autry's little ditty. And magic silk hat or no, Frosty the Snowman never manages to get the upper hand on his old enemy, the sun.

Look, no one's saying the messages behind these beloved holiday classics aren't valuable. Treat others with kindness and charity. Heroes can come from unlikely places. There are few better ways to wile away a winter's afternoon than with a magical talking snowman. But incorporating scenes of unmitigated vengeance -- the three ghostly visitors pimp-slapping Scrooge around, for example, or Rudolph flinging down his badge Marshall Will Kane-style in front of the other chastened reindeer -- would allow us to enjoy oft-told Christmas tales on whole new level.

It's too late, of course, for the Christmas stories mentioned above. But I beseech future spinners of holiday yarns -- when creating your sure-to-be classic Christmas tales, in addition to your usual themes of peace on earth and goodwill toward man, mix in a little bit of the gift that keeps on giving -- bloodthirsty revenge.

And on behalf of all the Vidiots, I'd like to conclude this holiday season and welcome the new year by wishing you and yours all the best for 2004 -- peace, happiness, and the warm cheer that comes from hearing the pathetic whimpers from the broken bodies of them that wronged you.


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