Fat Suit —
Well, we survived another War on Christmas, but the War on Santa rages on. As a strategic campaign within the wider War on Fat, people who demand a skinny Santa claim he’s an unhealthy “role model.” Lindy West nailed it:
I’m sorry. Santa is not a “role model.” I mean, is the Easter Bunny a role model? Is Zeus a role model? Is Rumpelstiltskin a role model? Oh hey, mom, could you amputate my arms and legs and paint me orange and feed me a candle, please? I want to be more like this jack-o-lantern, MY ROLE MODEL.
First of all, I have to say that I love Santa Claus, but blaming Santa for the increase in childhood obesity rates between 1980 and 1999 is like blaming the Easter Bunny for the increase in sexually transmitted diseases among teens. Yes, we all know that rabbits are horny little bastards (click here for the cutest example bunny fucking ever — just look at that little cottontail wag!), but there’s a tenuous-at-best link between the two facts (bunnies like to fuck and teenagers are contracting more STDs).
The fact is, as long as they have existed, bunnies have been sex fiends and Santa has been fat. These aren’t sudden developments that coincide with the trends in question. For over 100 years, artists have portrayed Santa as morbidly obese.
The exception is the very first Santa Claus, which was drawn by Thomas Nast and published in Harper’s Weekly on January 3, 1863 in the midst of the Civil War.
Nast’s first Santa looks more like an evil wizard than a jolly, old fat man.
This first Santa also gave some of the creepiest gifts ever, including both the suicidal puppet above, as well as the Trilogy of Terror doll below.
Most interestingly of all, Nast’s first Santa also inspires the horrific tradition of giving socks as presents.
But cut Nast some slack — the man gave new life to a character that had been popularized by the 40-year-old (at the time) story, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (aka “The Night Before Christmas”).
Throughout his career, Nast would refine the jolly old elf.
In fact, Nast’s Santa became the standard by which all future Santas would be measured: red-suited, white-bearded and fat as Chris Christie in Speedos. As a service for those who believe fat Santa is a late 20th century invention, I submit the following review of Nast’s Santas for your review (click if it isn’t animated).
Now, does anyone remember the Great Childhood Obesity Epidemic of 1885?
Then shut the fuck up.
Especially Roy Pickler, the Biggest Loser asshole who inspired Lindy West’s wrath by saying, “The world is going to have to change their acceptance of what Santa looks like. Santa is a role model, and kids don’t want to have a role model that’s fat.” [emphasis mine]
I love how Pickler makes it sound like the anti-fat Santa outrage is coming from children. For over a century, Santa has looked like this…
… and kids have been perfectly content with fat Santa. Suddenly kids aren’t ready for this bowl full of jelly? Bullshit.
If kids are changing their minds about Santa, it’s because overwrought grownups with a Messiah complex have swooped in to Save the Children™ from a mythical character. And what better way to make your case to children than through children’s books.
This year, I stumbled across two books that have taken it upon themselves to deconstruct Fat Santa in order to promote the Skinny Santa worldview.
The first is called “How Santa Really Works.”
I apologize, but we took this one back to the library before I got a screencap. The gist is pretty simple. Most of the book is interesting and appeals to kids with detailed diagrams and schematics that explain away all the doubts that your kids may have about Santa’s present delivery system.
Where it gets weird is when the author, Alan Snow, explains that Santa isn’t really fat at all. In fact, that fluffy red suit is actually a machine that helps Santa do his job. When Santa steps out of the suit, he’s as wiry and skinny as the arms and legs you see on the cover above suggest.
I found it weird, but it didn’t seem like they were emphasizing Santa’s fatness as bad and thinness as good. It was more like “Here’s another tool in Santa’s arsenal.” Were this the only book to employ the “Santa is secretly thin” motif, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.
But then we read “SantaKid” by James Patterson (yes, that James Patterson) to our girls and I was bothered the way Patterson exploits Santa’s size to preach the Gospel of Living Thin.
I haven’t felt this irritated by a children’s book since I reviewed “The Gulps,” a horrific collaboration between Marc Brown (“Arthur”) and Rosemary Wells (“Max and Ruby”).
“SantaKid” is Chrissie, the daughter of Santa and Mrs. Claus, and right off the bat, she explains that things aren’t always what they seem at the North Pole.
That’s right, Santa isn’t really fat at all because if Santa were fat, he’d be dead, children. Dead as a doornail. So, really, Santa is thin and beardless, except on Christmas Eve, when Mrs. Claus fills his suit with stuffing so he looks fat for some unspecified reason.
The beard thing I understand. Growing a beard just for the winter months makes sense, but why maintain the illusion that Santa is really fat? Patterson doesn’t explain it. He just wants you to accept that Santa is secretly thin because he doesn’t want to die, right kids?
Then one day, a jumbo jet from “EXMAS EXPRESS” lands at the North Pole. Without warning, the owner, Warrie Ransom, busts in Santa’s door and announces that he’s buying Christmas. Warrie is loud, bossy, mean, and (surprise, surprise) very fat.
Although Santa tells Ransom that Christmas is not for sale, the angry fat man takes over the North Pole anyway in what I assume was hostile takeover (the details of how Ransom acquires Christmas against Santa’s wishes aren’t divulged).
Immediately, Exmas Express takes over toy production, replacing Santa’s nice friendly toys with obnoxious toys like Princess PeePee and PooPoo. On top of that, Ransom demands that the elves increase Christmas participation among children from 21% to 50%.
On the page where Ransom screams at the elves, Patterson says, “Warrie Ransom was a large, angry person whose face was almost as red as Santa’s suit.” No word on how Ransom’s stress levels are bad for the heart.
Both of my daughters picked up on something at the same time when they saw this picture. “He’s fat,” they said. It’s weird: we’ve read dozens of Christmas books with dozens of incarnations of Santa, all fat; we’ve read other books that feature main and minor characters who are fat; we’ve read books that feature good guys and bad guys who are fat; and yet, this is the only book where my daughters have stopped to point out that a character was fat.
Perhaps because Patterson draws attention to the weight of his characters, like when Chrissie runs to get Santa’s help but finds him in a depressed state:
Santa had stopped going to the Toy Workshop
Then he stopped going out of the house.
Finally he stopped getting out of bed.
He began to put on a lot of weight.
And grew a long, white beard.
Santa started looking like Santa.
And not in a good way.
Ah, yes… nothing says Christmas like teaching kids that fat people are depressed, lazy losers. Not only that, but on the next page, when we’re told that Exmas Express is destroying Christmas with commercialization, we’re treated to more stereotypes:
And Santa didn’t seem to care. He just stayed in bed.
And ate his weight in Sugar Snackolas.
As could be expected, Exmas Express is unable to do Santa’s job. The trucks get stuck in the snow and it looks like Christmas is canceled. Then, Chrissie begs Santa to step up and save Christmas, but Santa tells Chrissie, “I’m too heavy for the sleigh.”
This is where I’m just done with this book. Santa’s too fat for the sleigh, yet a few pages later, Chrissie explains that the “magic of Christmas” allows her to carry ALL THE TOYS IN THE WORLD and DELIVER THEM ALL IN ONE NIGHT, yet Santa’s too fat to fly.
For this incredible lapse in logic, as well as the mountains of bullshit within this concern troll’s letter to Santa, I would like to give James Patterson a present on behalf of Santa Claus, rational human beings and all the children of the world:
If you’re going to address childhood obesity, couldn’t you start with a cultural phenomenon that actually coincides with those trends? Because Santa has been a great big ol’ fatass since his creation and he does not need to be reinvented as a skinny savior by some asshole who is more businessman than author.