The Herald has more on the Winchester Middle School cancelling the trip to the Miracle on 34th Street at the Stoneham Theatre:
“The people who complained were concerned about the very narrow focus on Santa Claus,” French said yesterday. “The ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ is not in any way, shape or form tied to our curriculum. That was brought to my attention by parents.”
“It’s a wonderful story about a miracle on 34th Street, and it’s all about Santa Claus,” French said. “It doesn’t really tie into the McCall Middle School curriculum.”
Good point actually, although I doubt that the curriculum had as much to do with the decision as he is letting on here.
But, in fact, the school is not cancelling their trip to the North Shore Music Theater's A Christmas Carol. Dickens is a part of the canon and that seems enough to override the small minority protesting that trip as well. With Miracle, the principal is on shakier ground educationally.
“It is something we teach in the sixth-grade curriculum. They read an abridged version of the Dickens classic,” French said. “None of that is true for ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’ ”
One of the saddest things I have read in the coverage of this whole incident is that they are reading an "abridged version of the Dicken's classic." After all, the unabridged version doesn't take much longer to read than a trip to North Shore Music Theater to see the work on stage.
Hey, at least its Dickens, whereas Miracle on 34th Street is not.
But, not so fast.
Miracle on 34th Street, while I am not arguing for its canonization, is about a lot more than Santa Claus. Remember, the film's conflict arises when an iconic image runs afoul of the corporate entity that has coopted it for profit.
And the courtroom drama that sits at the center of the film and the discussions by adults about Kris Kringle are actually not a bad introduction for children to the philosophical debates over existence, reason, and the individual versus society and the dangers of corporate expansion. And here in a movie made in 1947 you have a child of divorce.
Why aren't more Christmas plays being written by today's dramatists? It seems a ready-made subject for the supposedly left-leaning corp of playwrights and theatre practitioners. (The blogosphere is buzzing about a column in the Guardian blog about the dearth of conservative plays.)
Christmas isn't going away, in fact the spirit that is at the heart of it, is under attack more than ever. The Christmas Holidays are a remarkable combination of religious celebration, warranted and unwarranted optimism, corporate perpetuation of images, etc.
Is Dicken's classic, (as Harold Bloom would put it,) an unscalable barrier in the the world of his anxiety of influence? Or is it simply the market leader, the massive head before the long tail. In Boston we do have alternatives in the form of The Santaland Diaries, (with John Kuntz, above left,) and Ryan Landry's Silent Night of the Lambs. (At right.)
I suppose that Miracle on 34th Street is not quite in the curriculum, or the canon, but at least the creators were trying.
Jose Rivera in his 36 Assumptions about Writing Plays said the following:
Don't be afraid to attempt the great themes: death, war, sexuality,
identity, fate, God, Existence, politics, love.
To which I'll add Christmas.