“Scrooge became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world… And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”
— Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol
Did you ever notice how people blindly use the term Scrooge or Grinch to describe an uncharitable or cranky person at Christmas time? Doesn’t anybody remember the fact that these characters ultimately redeemed themselves and even exceeded their peers in terms of humanity by the end of their respective stories. In pro wrestling, it’s called the Heel-Face Turn. So, when we throw these terms around casually, the whole point of the stories are lost. Stink. Stank. Stunk.
The whole point of a majority of human Storytelling revolves around the idea of Transformation. Blake Snyder (perhaps others before him) called stories “Transformation Machines”. Darth Vader is the baddest man in the galaxy, blowing up planets, performing home amputations on his son, and choking middle managers with the power of his mind. By the end of the original trilogy, he saves his son, kills the evil Emperor, and becomes a blue force ghost and hangs out with Obi-Wan and Yoda like nothing happened. No bitterness or hard feelings over the whole intergalactic holocaust. But still, people think of Vader as the quintessential villain, rather than as Anakin Skywalker, a complex (mostly) human being on a Journey of self-actualization.
See also Serverus Snape, Oskar Schindler, Catwoman, et al.
Maybe it’s because we are cynical about the whole deathbed conversion thing. Like, hey, I’ve never killed anybody with my brain or a Death Star, I pay my taxes, and this guy blows up Alderaan just to make a point, and cut Obi-Wan in half, and Yoda’s like, c’mon Anakin, let’s loom creepily and watch a bunch of Ewoks get wasted and shoot fireworks.
Same thing with Scrooge. Decades of dickishness, undone with a turkey and a couple of Human Resources initiatives. The Grinch gets to carve the Roast Beast because he returned all of the Christmas gifts, food, and decorations that he stole in the first place. To people who are overly concerned with fairness and one-size-fits-all conceptions of justice, this is appalling.
If a bastard like Scrooge, an asshat like the Grinch, and a sociopathic, religious cult member like Vader can change, so can we. And think of the impact on their loved ones. Luke can finally show his face in Mos Eisley and say, OK, technically my dad was a Goebbels-esque madman, but he’s different now. Someone may even buy him a drink.
So this year, call someone a Scrooge. Call them a Grinch. Because it doesn’t mean they’re a jerk. It means they used to be one.