The Nightmare Before Christmas And Cultural Appropriation

The Nightmare Before Christmas And Cultural Appropriation

It’s not only a lovely film but also a great allegory.
744
views

Around Halloween, I always get the opening music from The Nightmare Before Christmas stuck in my head (“This is Halloween, this is Halloween…”). And the closer we get to Christmas, the more the rest of the songs will be in my head (“Making Christmas, making Christmas…”). But Nightmare isn’t really a Halloween movie, nor is it a Christmas movie. It isn’t about scaring your pants off or getting into the spirit of giving. Just like the recent Disney film Zootopia, Nightmare is an allegory. It’s about a social justice topic that a lot of people have a hard time explaining or understanding: cultural appropriation.

Culture is a fluid concept. It’s nigh-impossible for diverse people to interact without becoming exposed to and adopting aspects of other lifestyles. That is not cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is when one group exploits the culture of another group, taking their practices or intellectual property without first asking permission or even having any understanding of the purpose or significance of the culture. The appropriating group then benefits from the use of the appropriated group’s culture, repackaging it and misrepresenting it so it’s “theirs” now, while the appropriated group goes unrecognized.

In the United States, the white Christian majority appropriates minority cultures. For example, white people perform black people’s music styles without giving credit to their origins or recognizing the purpose of the styles, and white people dress in Halloween costumes that mimic many other cultures’ outfits, ignoring the significance of the outfits to the cultures they’re from.

In The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington appropriates Christmas.

Jack is the king of “Halloweentown”, which sets up and performs Halloween every year. One year, he gets bored with his job and decides he wants to try something new. He stumbles across “Christmastown”, sees it as something cool and special, and decides he wants to be a part of it. But instead of talking to the people of Christmastown about it to learn more, he takes pieces of Christmas back to Halloweentown and tries to understand it there.

But it’s impossible to truly understand another culture from the perspective of one’s own culture, and Jack can’t figure out what Christmas “means” by looking at it through a Halloween lens. Jack eventually decides that it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t understand Christmas—he should just take Christmas for himself, and “improve” it by making it more like Halloween!

So Halloweentown sets about creating a twisted version of Christmas with gloomy decorations and monstrous toys (singing as they do so about how “it’s ours this time!”). They even kidnap Santa Claus so Jack can do his job for him, ignoring Santa’s protests. In our world, minorities protest white Americans’ exploitation of their culture all the time, and are similarly ignored.

Naturally, Jack’s Christmas is a disaster; the people of the world are terrified by his presents. Realizing his mistake, Jack and his friends hurry to return Santa to his role so he can fix Christmas. And because it’s a Disney movie, everything works out for the best: Christmas is restored to its proper form, and Jack learns that he can’t just go around stealing other people’s holidays.

Jack liked Christmas and thought it was cool, but that didn’t give him the ability to replicate it. It also didn’t give him the ability, or the right, to take it and “improve” it—Halloween and Christmas are different holidays with different purposes and meanings! Because of Jack’s meddling and theft, Christmas, and everyone who understood and would have otherwise benefited from Christmas, suffered. And the same goes for people of different cultures in the real world.

At the end of the film, Santa brings snow to Halloweentown, a gesture of willingness to share his culture with the curious Halloween people, who finally get a sense of what makes Christmas different from Halloween. Like I said before, it’s okay to share cultures, if all people involved are okay with the exchange, and if the group that really owns the cultural practices still gets to call their culture their own. Respect and understanding are key when interacting with other cultures. Unfortunately, in the real world, the practices and properties of the “Christmastowns” often continue to be exploited by the unrepentant “Jack Skellingtons”.

Cover Image Credit: The Daily Beast

Popular Right Now

A Playlist From The iPod Of A Middle Schooler In 2007

I will always love you, Akon.
72771
views

Something happened today that I never thought in a million years would happen. I opened up a drawer at my parents' house and I found my pink, 4th generation iPod Nano. I had not seen this thing since I graduated from the 8th grade, and the headphones have not left my ears since I pulled it out of that drawer. It's funny to me how music can take you back. You listen to a song and suddenly you're wearing a pair of gauchos, sitting on the bleachers in a gym somewhere, avoiding boys at all cost at your seventh grade dance. So if you were around in 2007 and feel like reminiscing, here is a playlist straight from the iPod of a middle schooler in 2007.

1. "Bad Day" — Daniel Powter

2. "Hips Don't Lie" — Shakira ft. Wyclef Jean

SEE ALSO: 23 Iconic Disney Channel Moments We Will Never Forget

3. "Unwritten" — Natasha Bedingfield

4. "Run It!" — Chris Brown

5. "Girlfriend" — Avril Lavigne

6. "Move Along" — All-American Rejects

7. "Fergalicious" — Fergie

8. "Every Time We Touch" — Cascada

9. "Ms. New Booty" — Bubba Sparxxx

10. "Chain Hang Low" — Jibbs

11. "Smack That" — Akon ft. Eminem

12. "Waiting on the World to Change" — John Mayer

13. "Stupid Girls" — Pink

14. "Irreplaceable" — Beyonce

15. "Umbrella" — Rihanna ft. Jay-Z

16. "Don't Matter" — Akon

17. "Party Like A Rockstar" — Shop Boyz

18. "This Is Why I'm Hot" — Mims

19. "Beautiful Girls" — Sean Kingston

20. "Bartender" — T-Pain

21. "Pop, Lock and Drop It" — Huey

22. "Wait For You" — Elliot Yamin

23. "Lips Of An Angel" — Hinder

24. "Face Down" — Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

25. "Chasing Cars" — Snow Patrol

26. "No One" — Alicia Keys

27. "Cyclone" — Baby Bash ft. T-Pain

28. "Crank That" — Soulja Boy

29. "Kiss Kiss" — Chris Brown

SEE ALSO: 20 Of The Best 2000's Tunes We Still Know Every Word To

30. "Lip Gloss" — Lil' Mama

Cover Image Credit: http://nd01.jxs.cz/368/634/c6501cc7f9_18850334_o2.jpg

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

My AP Environmental Science Class' Cookie Mining Experiment Shows Why Capitalism Is Destroying The Planet

Who cares about the environment with profits this high?

207
views

With the AP exams in May approaching quickly, my AP Environmental Science class has wasted no time in jumping right into labs. To demonstrate the damage to the environment done by strip mining, we were instructed to remove the chocolate chips from cookies.

The experiment in itself was rather simple. We profited from fully or partially extracted chips ($8 for a full piece and $4 for a partial) and lost from buying tools, using time and area and incurring fines.

This might seem simplistic, but it showcased the nature of disastrous fossil fuel companies.

We were fined a $1 per minute we spent mining. It cost $4 per tool we bought (either tweezers or paper clips) and 50 cents for every square centimeter of cookie we mined.

Despite the seemingly overbearing charges compared to the sole way to profit, it was actually really easy to profit.

If we found even a partial chocolate chip per minute, that's $3 profit or utilization elsewhere. Tools were an investment that could be made up each with a partial chip, and clearly we were able to find much, much more than just one partial chip per tool.

Perhaps the most disproportionally easiest thing to get around were the fines. We were liable to be fined for habitat destruction, dangerous mining conditions with faulty tools, clutter, mess and noise level. No one in the class got fined for noise level nor faulty tools, but we got hit with habitat destruction and clutter, both of which added up to a mere $6.

We managed to avoid higher fines by deceiving our teacher by pushing together the broken cookie landscapes and swiping away the majority of our mess before being examined for fining purposes. This was amidst all of our cookies being broken into at least three portions.

After finding many, many chips, despite the costs of mining, we profited over $100. We earned a Franklin for destroying our sugary environment.

We weren't even the worst group.

It was kind of funny the situations other groups simulated to their cookies. We were meant to represent strip mining, but one group decided to represent mountaintop removal. Mountaintop removal is where companies go to extract resources from the tops of mountains via explosions to literally blow the tops off. This group did this by literally pulverizing their cookies to bits and pieces with their fists.

They incurred the maximum fine of $45. They didn't profit $100, however.

They profited over $500 dollars.

In the context of our environmental science class, these situations were anywhere from funny to satisfying. In the context of the real world, however, the consequences are devastating our environment.

Without even mentioning the current trajectory we're on approaching a near irreversible global temperature increase even if we took drastic measures this moment, mining and fracking is literally destroying ecosystems.



We think of earthquakes as creating mass amounts of sudden movement and unholy deep trenches as they fracture our crust. With dangerous mining habits, we do this ourselves.

Bigger companies not even related to mining end up destroying the planet and even hundreds of thousands of lives. ExxonMobil, BP? Still thriving in business after serial oil spills over the course of their operation. Purdue Pharma, the company who has misled the medical community for decades about the effects of OxyContin and its potential for abuse, is still running and ruining multitudes more lives every single day.

Did these companies receive fines? Yes.

But their business model is too profitable to make the fines have just about any effect upon their operation.

In our cookie mining simulation, we found that completely obliterating the landscape was much more profitable than being careful and walking on eggshells around the laws. Large, too-big-to-fail companies have held the future of our planet in their greedy paws and have likewise pulverized our environment, soon enough to be unable to return from.

Related Content

Facebook Comments