Advance ticket sales have ended but plenty of door tickets remain available.
Profs and Pints DC presents: “Lights, Santa, Action!” an unflinching look the rise of Santa Claus in worldwide cinema and some of the nasty Christmas surprises that resulted, with David Wilt, professorial lecturer in film studies at George Washington University.
[You must show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test from the previous 72 hours to attend.]
Having made his first screen appearance in 1899 and starred in blockbusters in recent decades, Santa Claus looms large in film and popular culture. But how did this culturally specific character become a global media icon, even in places where Christmas isn’t celebrated? And how have his appearances rated among fans and film critics who know when movies have been bad or good?
Be on hand at DC’s Church Hall, where big screens line the room, as such questions are tackled by Dr. David Wilt, whose research focuses on the interaction between cinema and society and who previously has given devilishly fun Profs and Pints talks on The Exorcist. He’ll go behind the scenes to reveal the true meaning of Christmas—or, at least, the Christmas cult film.
Like Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, he’ll offer us three cautionary tales of Santa cinema so delightfully bad it might better be called “Santanic.”
First he’ll look at how Santa Claus conquered the world, showing how film helped Santa Claus push aside the Three Wise Men as the traditional dispensers of holiday gifts to children in Spain and Latin America. Among the works helping bring this about was the Mexican-made 1959 cult film Santa Claus, widely seen in its English-dubbed version and even spoofed by Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K). In the struggle against cultural imperialism, the Three Wise Men didn’t go down without a fight.
Then he’ll discuss “Santa Saturdays,” or the 1960s holiday “kiddie matinees” that helped expand Santa’s repertoire beyond a mere handful of feature films and turn him into the star of so-awful-they’re-great classics such as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny.
Finally, he’ll show us bad Santas and even worse ones—the evil and anti-hero Santas who began to appear on screen in increasing numbers in the 1970s. It should have seemed inevitable that iconoclastic film makes would coopt Santa, that paragon of generosity and good humor, and churn out notorious “Santa slasher” far as Christmas Evil and the highly controversial Silent Night, Deadly Night. This trend continues, albeit in slightly more upscale form, in movies like Bad Santa and Fatman.
You’ll find this talk to be a delightfully subversive holiday treat. Just don’t let the elf on the shelf know you are going. (Advance tickets: $12. Doors: $15, or $13 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later. Please allow yourself time to place any orders and get seated and settled in. Profs and Pints will ask that you wear a mask except while seated and eating or drinking. Church Hall, where this event is being staged, follows all C.D.C. and Washington D.C. guidelines regarding public health. The venue reserves the right to modify all rules to align with current and future regulations and best practices to maintain a safe and fun environment. In addition to bar service, it provides contactless ordering and hand sanitizer at all tables.)