Christmas is a Thresher That Separates the Other from the Norm: Why the Grinch is a Queer Icon

Cover art by the fantastic @BurgaBossu

Much has been written on the process through which children’s movie villeins become queer and otherwise non-conforming icons. The basic idea goes: villains are often coded as minorities, especially LGBTQ, and marginalized kids go from relating to the bad guy to dressing up as them at parties. With Tumblr’s recent decision to off itself in one go, like trying to chop off a gangrenous limb only to thrust a chainsaw through its own heart, I’ve been thinking about the way Tumblr’s mix of net-native youth and no holds barred sex positivity (at the best of times) showed how people on the margins saw iconic characters.

Christmas is the peak of cultural alienation for the mostly English speaking world. I’m not talking about over enthusiastic house decorators vs people annoyed by Christmas songs on the radio in October. I’m talking about the perception of Christmas as a peak for suicide (I know it’s not actually true), as a reminder that you haven’t spoken to half of your family since you came out; as a time to learn that, more distressing than Santa’s non-existence, the kid from the other side of town got a PlayStation 4 despite objectively being a shithead, while you got socks. Christmas has a way of highlighting the ways in which many people surrounding you are happily sipping dat nog and making homemade stockings while you’re upstairs in your room with the lights off, researching seasonal depression and chatting with your similarly isolated net friends.


The intersection of Christmas, attraction to monstrous weirdos, and the lingering scars of childhood finds us looking squarely at Mr. Grinch. After all, the forgettable and mediocre Lorax movie spawned piles of Onceler self-cest bondage fanfiction all on the power of a villain who looked and acted like a teen in an indie band. The Grinch has had many incarnations, but there’s a definite streak of queer coding after a certain point. He’s a flamboyantly meticulous confirmed bachelor sitting in his carefully decorated cavern atop Mount Crumpet, moaning about his paunch to the dog. The new animated movie, from Illumination, really hits all the right notes of an acerbic type A older gay man having decided the world can go fuck itself while he works on intricate engineering solutions and plays sad songs on his massive underground pipe organ. His life is musically commented on by the equally talented queer outsider Tyler the Creator in some truly bumpin’ Seuss covers. In the valley the whos of Whoville craft Christmas props with gusto, replicating the theocratic-capitalism approved imagery of the holidays. In the new film the Grinch literally flees a horde of perfectly in-sync carolers belting out God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen:

For Jesus Christ our Saviour

Was born upon this Day.

To save poor souls from Satan’s power

Oh Satan, another goth powerbottom cursed to live in the basement, forever cruising for souls on Grindr. And lest we forget, Krampus, the fiendish dom bringing both digitigrade cloven boots and whipping into the bedroom. Point being: While the whitebread below kiss under mistletoe a lonesome beast posts erotic cosplay to a private feed in between working on a masterpiece novel, both endeavors tinged with unique sadness.

But the big money stories aren’t yet made by the Grinches of the world, so the holiday villain’s fate is to be subsumed by good cheer. Just another Scrooge infected with Christmas spirit, now using their powers to blast street urchin sized turkeys into the homes and hearths of all. But this narrative conveniently frames the initial offense as a misunderstanding: Grinch thought people were being greedy, but they genuinely care! Whoorah! Why then was the Grinch subjected to that formative sadness if the whos had it all in their hearts to begin with? How could this community let the orphaned Grinch grow up in poverty, excluded by his appearance, and allowed to isolate himself to the point of hermitage until the day he realized he simply misunderstood a few moments? It’s the story of the ousted as written by the ouster, we tolerate the weirdo and in the end he comes into the fold.

Fuck that. The Grinch should find his own family among the smart dogs and fat reindeer (also in the newest version). Put that masterful ingenuity to work building their own holiday. Grinchmas would easily out-style and out-kindness Christmas leading to the whos slowly but surely appropriating Grinch traditions to spice up their stale parties. The whos of this world would have you believe that your sadness and your otherness are one and the same, and that both will be healed once you see the light. Instead lets continue to Grinch it up with cobbled together families and creative new traditions. The Grinch, Satan, and Krampus all take the same sleigh home after meeting at a Christmas party, and a messy threesome blossoms into a new life for three grumpy, out of place weirdos.

Header art is by fantastic artist @BurgaBossu

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