The Female Gaze: How “The Man Who Invented Christmas” reveals the impact of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” on the Christmas holiday

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The Female Gaze: Lindsey Jones
The Female Gaze: Lindsey Jones

“A Merry Christmas to us all. God bless us, everyone!” is the famous line by Tiny Tim in the classic story, “A Christmas Carol.”

You might have read “A Christmas Carol” in grade school or watched one of the film adaptations as a family tradition each year. The story has been told countless times in almost every medium since the 19th century.

This holiday season, there is not a new rendition of “A Christmas Carol” coming to theaters, but, better yet, audiences who love the canonized tale from Charles Dickens can watch “The Man Who Invented Christmas” (2017). 

Starring Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”), “The Man Who Invented Christmas” depicts the author whose book has impacted millions of people’s perceptions of the Christmas holiday: Charles Dickens.

Rather than telling the same story again--especially since the latest version came out in 2009--director Bharat Nalluri, alongside screenwriter Susan Coyne, wanted to spotlight the writer behind “A Christmas Carol.”  

In the winter of 1843, young author Charles Dickens is struggling financially and needs to write a bestseller. After overhearing a young nanny, Tara (Anna Murphy), whisper a ghost story into the ears of young children, Dickens starts writing his newest novel.

“The Man Who Invented Christmas” portrays Dickens’ quirky creative process by imagining his characters and interacting with them in his everyday life. The inspiration behind his characters Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim, and Jacob Marley (Donald Sumpter) all come from someone in Dickens’ life or even inside himself.

Short on time before the Christmas holiday, Dickens has to finish Scrooge’s story in less than six weeks. He ultimately realizes that part of himself lies within Scrooge’s character. He struggles completing the novel because of deeply rooted issues with his father and upbringing, but--like most films--ultimately reconciles his relationship, finishes the novel, and celebrates Christmas with his family.

Though on the surface this film attempts to teach audiences how “A Christmas Carol” came to be, in the end it actually reveals the profit-motivated creative process that authors must engage in to maintain a living wage.

The film has mixed reviews from U.S. and U.K. critics, but it should be applauded for mixing a biopic narrative with a touch of whimsical fantasy. Its reinvention of the classic “A Christmas Carol” story also teaches audiences about how much one text can impact an entire  culture’s understanding of a holiday.

In the U.S., Christmas was recognized as a national holiday in 1870. Originating from the Christian religion, Christmas has now developed into an annual tradition of decorating everything in shiny bright lights, gift-giving, family gatherings and waiting on Santa Claus with a glass of milk and cookies.

In the Victorian era when Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol,” his version of Christmas was a celebration of wealth, greed and consumerism, leaving those who could not afford it out of the picture. The film argues that Dickens’ story recentered the holiday to center around family, community and charity, values which continue to sit at the heart of the Christmas celebration.

If you and your family celebrate Christmas or love the Dickens story, go watch “The Man Who Invented Christmas” this holiday season and learn a little bit more behind the man who adopted the phrase “Bah, humbug!”