I like to reread Dickens’ A Christmas Carol every year, and every year I come to the conclusion that when it comes to the movies, the Muppets did it best. As a narrator, Gonzo can’t be beat: he plucks the best lines from the book while carrying on comic banter with a rat. His sense of adventure adds endless giggles to what is, on its own, a thoroughly eerie tale. Of course, by eliminating some of the eerier parts, he also eliminates some of the impact. I don’t know how the Muppets could have softened the moment in Stave Three when the two children are revealed beneath the Ghost of Christmas Present’s cloak “Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish,” who are revealed to be Ignorance and Want. “Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware [Ignorance], for on his brow I see that written which is Doom,” says the Ghost. One of the more important moments of Dickens’ tale, I’d say, but a little deep and dark for the general Muppets demographic. But still, I’d argue that the Muppets make the story more accessible than any other adaptation I’ve seen (Scrooged excluded, because, well, that’s not exactly Dickens), and how do you make something accessible? You cut the preaching, for one. You cut the arcane language. If you’re dealing with Dickens, you cut a lot of words all around.
And there are a lot of extra words in this text. More than any other Dickens novel I’ve read (which is not all of them, to be sure, but the most popular handful), this book (novella?) makes it clear that he was paid by the word. But that’s partly why I like to reread it. It takes a while to pick apart the excess verbiage, if it is really excess after all. I think I find a new favorite passage each year, but this year’s has nothing to do with the Christmas spirit or Scrooge’s salvation. It’s a chunk of text that I don’t recall hearing in any TV rendition, but it struck a chord with me: Continue reading “Scrooge, Lemon, and the Great Gonzo”