In defense of… the Grinch
If I may, I’d like to speak for just a moment in defense of the Grinch.
I know, I know.
But given our history together, you guys should not be surprised right now. Just hear me out. I think we need to reframe our understanding of this “nefarious villain” by first addressing the obvious bias on the part of the narrator of his Seussically-delightful poetic ballad.
Unreliable narrators, as a general rule, tend to be first person. Because people are historically uninsightful and lack objectivity about their own motivations and pathologies. But they’re often equally lacking in honest metacognition when talking about others as well.
I’d argue that confirmation bias is insidiously at work in the traditional telling and retelling of the Grinch’s narrative (but not in my columns at all, of course), and that the narrative is no more reliable than water cooler gossip. While I don’t dispute the facts of the case, I’d like to offer a revised polemic that offers sanctuary to the possibility that the Grinch is, while still a felon, misunderstood nonetheless.
I’ll do this through a thorough deconstruction of the source material, literally taking the text apart in order to apply an alternative filter to our traditional understanding of him in the hopes that more people can appreciate the subtler notes of his complex personality and motivations.
I can’t imagine why I’m still single, either.
So let’s just jump right into it, shall we?
The very first couplet, which summarizes the story’s main conflict, is in and of itself blatantly prejudicial. “Every who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot/But the Grinch who lived just north of Whoville did not.” The clear intent of this statement seems to be to imply that the minority (the Grinch) is less “good” than the majority (all the other whos down in Whoville) based on his lack of reverence for what the narrator would have us believe is a black and white, absolute given: that Christmas is enjoyable.
Just because the narrator loves Christmas, and just because all of the other whos down in Whoville do, I don’t feel like that’s enough to really damn the Grinch for not liking Christmas. It’s a sneaky attempt to assign value to a set of facts that, in and of themselves, are neither good nor bad.
Furthermore, the narrator goes on to make a pretty bold and presumptuous claim immediately after this devious tainting of his audience two lines above. “The Grinch hated Christmas. The whole Christmas season,” apparently. Readers are then warned not to even question him because no one knows why the Grinch had this inexplicable dislike of what he seems to imply is the most unimpeachable holiday in the history of ever.
Look, I could go on and on, deconstructing this little narrative line by line. I mean, that’s basically the only thing you can do with a writing degree anyway, unless you want to teach.
Which I do.
But they won’t let you do that without a graduate degree, it turns out.
And I’m having way too much fun over here writing columns to waste my time on legitimate education. So.
The point is, this narrator is kind of a judgemental ween. He’s talking crap on the Grinch’s shoes. Diagnosing the poor guy with microcardia. And I have to ask, where in the text do we see anyone attempt to reach out the Grinch? Clearly he has some issues. A hostility toward Christmas and community that certainly implies a history of negative social interactions.
Which I would know nothing about.
(She said, hoping that referring to herself in the third person would fool someone.)
And I’m not trying to justify the Grinch’s actions.
Certain reporters in the newsroom are not wrong in their protests to what they assume will be my attempt to exonerate the Grinch of his unwise reaction to frustration by appealing to the emotional consequences of his social isolation and basic human empathy.
Can I just…
There is plenty of evidence in this text that the Grinch may be at least a little misunderstood.
It’s not uncommon, and I’ll even concede that I may be biased by my identification with a demographic of the population whose outward behaviors nontraditional personality traits sometimes appear odd, even Grinchy.
Some of the world’s greatest writers have been crotchety, eccentric, sometimes volatile weirdos. But they also gave us treasures like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Slaughterhouse Five.” So, yeah. Maybe they were “weird,” but they were also visionaries, and eventually recognized for their literary genius.
Now, I don’t mean to suggest that the Grinch will be winning any Pushcart Prizes. Certainly, I don’t mean to suggest that.
Some people might recognize the phenomenon of overstimulation in the Grinch’s strong opinions about noise. Maybe the Grinch lives on a mountain just north of Whoville because the whos just can’t shut the heck up. I know that I, for one, get a little twitchy when I can’t get a moment’s peace every day either.
You know what the who Christmas sing looks like to me?
It looks just like that morning that my kids got their voice changing bullhorns out, and found the batteries I thought I’d hidden well enough but clearly hadn’t, and woke me up at 5:23 on a Saturday morning with a smack to the forehead and an…ahem…“charming” rendition of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain,” which you may or may not know is just a metaphorical precursor to old-timey gospel ditties about the second coming of Christ.
It’s a twangin’ country song about the end of days, you guys. For children. That’s truly all it is.
And it’s no more pleasant at 5:23 a.m., belted out in the high-pitched squeals of jacked up children who sound as delusional and enraged as every German person who ever made a speech in the 1940’s, than it is anywhere else.
So yeah. I kind of understand the hypothetical daydream the Grinch has probably had, many a time, of grabbing every terwinkler or flamboozledeedoodle or whatever the stupid whos play all day long, and catapulting them right over the edge of Mount Crumpit too.
I also get the ambivalence. Clearly the Grinch harbors a quiet affection for Christmas, but is a little standoffish. Probably, that’s thanks to a history of negative interactions with whos that have left him feeling jaded and misunderstood. I mean, if every who is as judgey as the one telling the story, it probably was pretty early on in life that the Grinch started being ostracized for his alternative feelings about the sacred Christmas holiday.
The whos, if you ask me, seem like a pretty xenophobic, about-as-exciting-as-florescent-beige, group of deep, in the box thinkers. They probably didn’t create an especially welcoming or accepting atmosphere in which a divergent thinker like the Grinch could freely express his thoughts and opinions.
I mean, maybe it’s just me but I can see it not taking more than one or two whos to get real tweaked out by his radial weirdo thinkin’ and start openly trying to expel him from the group because their fragile egos couldn’t take a deviation from the group opinion.
And the rest of the whos all seem to have the follow-along gene deeply rooted in their personalities. I mean, they all sit down at one long table to eat a regimented meal of who pudding and rare who roast beast. There’s absolutely zero talk of diversion from the very specific and potentially undercooked traditional holiday meal. What if one of the whos wants to explore veganism? What if one of them would really prefer a tofurkey instead of bloody roast beast? Or what if there’s a random, displaced family of whos that prefers to celebrate Kwanzaa or would rather erect a Festivus pole than the traditional murdered and slowly dying tree of future foot needles?
Oh, that’s right.
There aren’t any. Because no who has ever had an original thought in any of their predictable obnoxiously loud lives.
Look, I could go on and on.
But you’re smart, you guys. I know you are.
You’re picking up what I’m laying down.
Should the Grinch have broken into Cindy Lou’s residence and pulled a straight up burglary like they were living in the poor part of town and the Grinch needed money for a balloon full of black tar?
Okay? Obviously not.
I’m not an animal, Cotton.
I mean, you guys.
But can we all agree that the whos ain’t all that, either? And that maybe the Grinch was just tired of all their Malvina Reynolds, “Tiny Boxes,” kill the nonconformist jaundiced weirdo with emotional strangulation nonsense? And that maybe they’re not the blameless caricatures of uncomplicated victims that the narrator wants you to believe they are?
I’m just saying. Ask yourself some hard questions before you jump on the Grinch hatred party wagon.