Mein Klaus: A Deep Dive Into Fascism in 'The Santa Clause 2'
The Santa Clause 2 sees Tim Allen return to the role of Scott Calvin, a man who murdered Santa Claus roughly eight years ago. Due to a magically binding contract, Scott has performed Santa’s eldritch duties every Christmas since. In this insanely problematic sequel, Scott is faced with another magically binding contract (hidden in the fine print of the original). Tim Allen must find a wife, a Mrs.Claus, within thirty days (just before Christmas). Just to make matters worse, Scott’s son, Charlie, is placed on the naughty list due to minor teenage angst. So, how does Santa Claus manage to live a double life? Dating, being a father, and being Father Christmas? Easy! Scott builds an evil tyrannical robot Santa to handle the basic operations in the North Pole while Scott is busy hoodwinking innocent women into moving to the North Pole and becoming immortal.
The premise alone implies a number of themes and ideological underpinnings. Monogamy as a requirement for identity. Without a relationship in matrimony, you lose who you are. You are nothing without a spouse, a partner, etc. Another theme is that of the parents' dilemma: they must work, raise their children, and find a healthy balance between the two.
This film also prompts the question "What does it mean to be naughty?" or "How can we redeem ourselves?" and "Is it justified for one person to determine who's naughty or nice, who deserves punishment or reward?" If someone commits any naughty act then does not that instantly make them guilty? What acts can be pushed away and ignored and what acts are punishable?
We are made to ask the question, where is the line drawn between the balance of naughty and nice? How does Santa determine this?
None of these ethical questions are answered, but the very fact that The Santa Clause 2 brings them to the audience's attention is interesting. The movie wants the viewer to think about the systems that govern the characters’ lives, which only begs more questions, like…
Is the North Pole a greater metaphor for fascism?
Santa Claus enslaves an intelligent form of life (elves) and makes them build toys, monitor their factory, and maintain the means of production. Their labor is exploited in service of the public at large, with recipients of their surplus value determined not by their class or demographic characteristics, but on vague ethical merit. Is this ethical in and of itself? Does the public benefitting from slave labor make them just as responsible as the slaver and, therefore, naughty?
Does the joy of a child once a year justify a slave camp hidden in the north pole?
Then there’s the “Santa Clause” to consider, the relevant portion reads as follows: "The card holding acknowledges a WOMAN of his choosing to be bound in holy matrimony… true love- not valid in the state of Utah."
Scott Calvin must marry a woman before Christmas Eve to maintain his grip on the system he took over when he murdered the previous Santa (and we're just not going to ask what happen to that Santa's wife).
The Clause fails to take all sorts of possibilities into account. What if Scott was gay? What if the person who killed Santa was a woman?
Again, more questions are raised and none answered. This says a lot about the system in place at the North Pole and calls attention to the fact that the inhabitants repeatedly refuse to question anything. The elves work day and night to please Santa, they feel like failures when they cannot make toys, if they cannot serve then they are useless to Santa. At the end of the day, one must consider the possibility that this is a form of yuletide fascism. There's a society that punishes the naughty (who the people in power determine with their own flexible rules), where people feel useless for not being able to fulfill their roles in society, and where serving without question, for the good of Christmas and the North Pole, is enforced by all members of the society, regardless of class structure.
What we already know from Scott Calvin from the first film is that he has already gone through the wringer: he’s been married before and that marriage failed. Throughout the first film, he learns how to be a loving father and to handle the responsibilities of being a divorced dad. I guess that all it takes to earn your child's love is to become the figure young children idolize the most?
Either way, Scott learned to prioritize the things that make him happy: his son, Charlie, and bringing joy to others. He never felt he needed to be married but now, he’s forced to.
The film’s dilemma fits neatly into the old stereotype of a political leader needing to be married (in a heterosexual relationship) to maintain power over the people, regardless if the marriage is authentic or if the couple is actually in love. In other words, a marriage of state.
The film could’ve been about Scott learning to challenge the ancient, barbaric rules of the Santa Clause.
But no… the film goes in a far worse and weirder direction.
Enter the Mechanical Santa.
To stay on schedule for Christmas day and find a wife in time, Scott Calvin needs to be in two places at once. To avoid worrying the public, Santa and a small cabinet of higher-ups create the mechanical Santa to keep production moving while Santa deals with his… family situation.
Now the mechanical Santa or 'Toy Santa' is another real life political strategy, the tactic of using a bodyguard or doppelganger being used to ensure the public's confidence in the political leader's health and status has been practiced throughout history. Toy Santa is the ultimate form of industrial production: the workers are now being ordered and pushed around by a toy. It’s a classic case of man vs. machine, or even man vs. society, and towards the end of the film, man vs. himself.
Scott’s son, Charlie Calvin, is the movie’s secondary protagonist. Throughout the film, Charlie is on the naughty list and must redeem himself for his crimes before Christmas Day. Throughout the film, he constantly defaces public property and challenges the institutions he is forced into.
Why? Well, at the end of the film, we learn that it’s all because Charlie is tormented by the burden of loving his father so much. He loves that his dad is Santa, but hates that he cannot tell the world. He hates that the public school system does not decorate the halls and celebrate Christmas. This is the reasoning the film gives us, and we just have to say, “Oh, okay, yeah, that makes sense.”
Alas, holiday fascism and dear leader Santa Claus are not the end of the movie’s ravings. There’s another question that hasn’t even been asked: what does The Santa Clause 2 mean for divorced families?
There is something nice about the films' depiction of divorced couples, they are both happily separated and decent towards each other’s partners. Take Neil for example. Neil (Judge Reinhold) is not joked about or ridiculed like you may see stepdads are in countless other movies, like Ant-Man (2015). Just kidding! He’s constantly harassed by Scott Calvin and is depicted as lame and dull. This whole dynamic is emphasized in the principal’s office scene when they address Charlie's actions.
It’s a tired joke, especially when Neil was just trying to find the actual reason for Charlie's behavior. Scott treats the whole parent-teacher conflict as dismissive and stupid, frequently interrupting the conversation, which just comes off like Scott doesn’t really care about his child. The mother, meanwhile, has no input whatsoever. So Neil ends up looking like the only parental figure in Charlie's life that cares for his well-being. Neil needs more love.
Another problem that Scott has with Principal Carol Newman (Elizabeth Mitchell) is the fact that her domain, a public school, lacks any decorations for Christmas. When she points out that it’s a religious holiday, Calvin shakes it off as if that point is without merit.
Principal Newman is yet another cog in Calvin’s political machine and will later marry him, a move that allows them to exert even more power over Charlie Calvin's life, finding new ways to punish him.
Scott Calvin does not tell Carol until the end of the film, minutes before Christmas, that he needs to marry someone to keep the Christmas spirit alive. He guilts her into marrying him; if she doesn’t, all the elves disappear from existence, Christmas will disappear. She must agree to a life of isolation from society and live in a cold, distant fascistic society. The only question she has is, "Is there a school here?" The ultimatum Calvin presents to her is self-evidently disgusting and manipulative and yet the movie glosses over it and acts like she was not put into a position where she felt forced to marry him. Where was she going to go? She was in the middle of the North Pole! I guarantee that if she said, “No,” and everything disappeared, Charlie, Scott, and Carol would have frozen to death.
Scott Calvin constantly uses the powers gifted to him for his own gain. There's no rhyme nor reason to the Santa Clause, he operates with no real limits, this is seen most clearly in the case of the Toy Santa, as they operate the same system, the only difference being that one uses a militia to enforce order while the other seems to just earn the respect of his slaves. Somehow.
The elves know Scott killed their previous boss, yet these poor creatures are obligated to serve countless masters, each and every one a murderer, but never once can they so much as touch anything resembling power or agency. They must have made a deal with some demon or hell king and this is their punishment.
In conclusion, this film and this franchise incentivize the need for magic (coercive political power) to get people to love you, whether that be a partner or your child. It is a dark message that makes viewers (especially divorced dads) feel like they are lacking in the relationships that they currently have and that all they need to do have a better life is stage a coup and become a combination dictator-slave driver.