Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Jan. 31
China and Christmas
Another tidbit dropped from the heaped-up holiday table that is The Big Screen's Debut Cover Story: for reasons of both space and theme, I was unable to pursue the developing theme of the Chinese and Christmas that began with my reference to A Christmas Story and continued through our discussion of The Lemon Drop Kid. It's a pity, because I'm sure that good things would have come of discussing a marvelous piece of lowbrow Christmas goodness like Gremlins with the estimable Mr. Marks.
Where does Dad find Mowgli? In Chinatown. How does he get him? Through rather dishonorable means - playing upon the greed of a child and violating the express wisdom of the ancients. So, Gremlins is about Christians (read: people who celebrate Christmas) engaging in the economic exploitation of the Chinese for the sake of their own holiday traditions. A fairly scathing attack on the crass materialism embodied by all the Made in China goodies we cram under our collective Christmas tree. Gremlins seems to be arguing that we deserve what's coming to us. A little gamesmanship here, a little carelessness there, and boom: chaos in the streets.
After all, where does the name "Gremlin" come from? A wartime curse hurled at the efforts of foreign saboteurs. And now, in the '80s, says Mr. Futterman, those same foreigners are sabotaging Christmas with all their cheap crap. It is clearly no accident that the same American-built snowplow so prized by that same Mr. Futterman is commandeered by the Chinese-born (but American-spawned) Gremlins and turned against him.