YMMV / A Christmas Carol


  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Scrooge's anger and bitterness towards Christmas. Given the lifetime of tragedy he's suffered, with nearly ever bad thing in the course of his life happening to him at that time of year, who wouldn't hate the holiday after that?
    • Also the Ghosts in general, is the Past another Good Is Not Nice spirit trying to teach Scrooge about his past, or a Jerkass who really loves to exploit the flaws of Scrooge's past and in some versions show what he could've had if he was not greedy; pushing him away from loving Christmas due to regret, and enjoy it as he/she/it invaded his mind. Or are they just after his money? Tends to depend on the adaptation though, as some versions of ghosts seem more benevolent than others.
  • Anvilicious: But good! Apparently Dickens even considered "The Sledgehammer" as a title. While the moral of charity and giving is obvious, more specifically, the novella was meant as a Take That! to Thomas Malthus, whose warnings of overpopulation resulted in laws that Dickens hated because he felt they hurt the poor.
  • Awesome Music: So, you've just finished watching the Zemeckis adaptation and the ending credits start to roll. Unless you were paying attention during the opening credits, you probably weren't expecting Andrea Bocelli to suddenly throw down an incredibly epic version of "God Bless Us Everyone". As well as nearly half the movie's soundtrack, especially during the eye popping aerial shots of the town.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The Ghost Of Christmas Future chasing Scrooge in the Zemeckis adaptation.
  • Common Knowledge: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come being portrayed as a skeleton in a cloak in any adaptation. While we never saw its actual face, the spirit is described in the book as having "a pale, gaunt hand", suggesting that said hand did have skin on it, it was just pale and thin.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Some readers gloss over Scrooge's actions pre-reformation, claiming he's just trying to do his job. This ignores the fact that it's said he overcharges his tenants for more than their measly houses are worth, and pays Bob Cratchett a pittance when he has four children to provide for. That's not to mention how cold and dismissive he is to his nephew. And his response to claims that they'll die if Scrooge puts them on the streets is that they should hurry up and do it to "decrease the surplus population".
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Out of the three spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Past is the clear favourite. Productions usually have a lot of fun with creating that ghost. This is lampshaded in an episode of Sabrina: The Animated Series when Sabrina and her aunts are re-enacting the story, and they all want to be Christmas Past. What's more is that the Christmas Past segments are the ones that are most prone to Adaptation Expansion.
  • Fair for Its Day: Back at the time Dickens wrote this, it was considered highly progressive as it showed the audience that they are obligated to help disabled people to survive and that the idea that people with disabilities should be killed or allowed to die was heartless. However, some disability rights activists today take issue with the portrayal of Tiny Tim as Disabled Means Helpless- essentially a magical cripple who exists solely to elicit pity from Scrooge and the audience, despite the fact that poverty was the primary reason for his helplessness and possibly for his disability.
  • Fanon: Christmas Past is often portrayed by a woman in adaptations, possibly due to the Ambiguous Gender nature in the original text. If the adaptation plays up the gender neutral nature of the spirit, it will usually be played by a woman anyway, though others will go for it being played by a child instead.
  • Fan Wank: Much ink has been shed over the decades about some of the details Dickens left out. What exactly Scrooge does for a living (Money-lender? Landlord?) is one. What exactly is wrong with Tiny Tim (Polio? Rickets? Unspecified kidney disease?) is another.
  • Genius Bonus: Christmas Present's appearance is heavily modeled after the traditional folklore appearance of Father Christmas.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • The scenes of people mocking and celebrating Scrooge's death in his Bad Future. Similar sentiments were expressed, especially in Scotland and North England, when Margaret Thatcher died.
    • Scrooge's infamous suggestion that the poor and homeless be put in prisons or workhouses - which when it's repeated to him, he suffers a Heel Realization. In 2017 as the homeless crisis reached its peak, some British and Irish figures suggested housing the homeless in prisons - and others were quick to point out the comparisons.
  • Iron Woobie: Bob Cratchett works a job he hates for very little money - all so he can provide for his family. He still remains good-hearted and appears to be a loving father despite everything.
  • It Was His Sled: It's supposed to be a twist that the vision by the Ghost of Christmas Future takes place after Scrooge's death, but thanks to how ubiquitous the tale is, virtually nobody is surprised to learn this. Even if one hears the story completely fresh, it's not hard to figure it out ahead of time since all the other visions took place in Scrooge's life, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is described in terms meant to invoke the image of the Grim Reaper.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Scrooge of course. The Jerkass part is at the forefront for the first act of the story. Then Christmas Past happens and you see just how tragic his backstory is.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Scrooge and Marley earn this in the 1951 version. They offer to bail the Mercantile Association out of the debt caused by Jorkin's embezzlement, provided they'll be allowed to buy up 51% of the total stock. They'll only save the company if they can become the company, and both look really pleased about it. Jorkin himself, a charming, jovial unrepentant embezzler who gets away scot free having groomed Scrooge and Marley, playing on their greed and misanthropy, to become his Bastard Understudies.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Bah, humbug!"
    • "Merry Christmas." While this story didn't invent the phrase - that goes back to the 16th century - it did help popularize it. Beforehand, "Happy Christmas" tended to be used more often, since "merry" implied drunkenness.
    • "Scrooge" has become a euphemism for a stingy, cold-hearted person.
  • Moral Event Horizon: The three spirits make Scrooge himself go through his past to realize how far his actions have gone, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come shows him the consequences of crossing this line, by continuing to take advantage of the destitute and stealing with the tolerance of the law. What Scrooge sees, especially the aftermath of Tiny Tim's death, truly horrifies him.
  • Narm: The Patrick Stewart film has the Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come use a human hand instead of draping black cloth or using a skeletal hand to point at objects/people.
  • Newer Than They Think: As stated in the description, more than a few Christmas traditions were inspired by or received a wider audience because of this story.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • Really, anything to do with Marley. He's not exactly a comforting sight to begin with, wrapped in chains and pretty dead-looking as he is; he visits Scrooge in frankly terrifying circumstances, scares the crap out of him, and tells him about the horrific fate in store, which he is already suffering. And then, to top it all off, Marley warns Scrooge that he was only the first of many hauntings he'll receive that night.
    • There is also the fact that Marley off-handedly tells Scrooge in the book this isn't the first time he's wandered the halls of his house as a ghost.
    • The Ghost of Christmas Future in general. Tall, silent, and meant to be akin to the Grim Reaper.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • Scrooge's plea to Marley's ghost about having all three spirits at once and getting it over with may seem like a bit of modern snark, but this is straight from Dickens.
    • The notion of others thinking Scrooge has gone crazy on Christmas Day onward may seem like a modern subversion, but the book has Bob Crachet's first reaction to Scrooge giving him a raise on Boxing Day is the thought that he should knock his boss out and call the Loony Bin.
  • Stoic Woobie: Fred when you think about it. His mother died in childbirth and his only living relative keeps rebuffing his advances ("I want nothing from you, I ask nothing of you; why can we not be friends?"), but he remains a Perpetual Smiler nonetheless.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks: Happens with many adaptations in general.
    • The Ghost of Christmas Past in particular tends to get hit with this. This could be because the description in the book is virtually impossible to depict visually, other than via some form of animation (either conventional or CGI); the first paragraph of the description is fairly doable, but the second paragraph...
    "... its belt sparkled and glittered now in one part and now in another, and what was light one instant, at another time was dark, so the figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and clear as ever."
  • Uncanny Valley: The land from whence Mr. Zemeckis draws his CGI characters. There was some improvement over his previous efforts (The Polar Express in particular), but he did tend to re-use faces for several characters (compare Fezziwig and Bob Cratchitt), and in one scene (in the future, where the Cratchitts are mourning Tiny Tim) the eldest son's face freezes after he's done with his lines.
  • Values Resonance: Part of the reason why this story continues to be adapted to this very day. The message of the true meaning of Christmas being about how one spends their life, not their money, might be more relevant in these recessionary times more than ever.
  • The Woobie: Tiny Tim of course. Not even ten years old, already crippled and doomed to die within one year due to his illness. Scrooge's Heel Realization is even started with seeing how Tim is The Pollyanna despite his circumstances.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Pretty much every version of the story that gets told with existing characters has one in-story character that there's no good fit for, and one actor-character that there's no good role for, so they just squish them together. The animated Christmas Carol: The Movie wins the gold in this event - Jacob Marley is voiced by Nicolas Cage using an accent from no recognizable part of England.


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