The Nightmare Before Christmas
“Well, at least they're excited, though they don't understand, that special kind of feeling in Christmas land .Oh, well.” Poor Jack Skellington, our trusty pumpkin king but also our failed cultural anthropologist. Jack wanted so desperately to bring the spirit and cheer of Christmas to Halloween Town but in his co-opting of the culture he lost its true identity. So where exactly did Jack go wrong? Jack’s inappropriate perception of Christmas, his poor ethnography, and the choices he made in describing the culture of Christmas to the people of Halloween Town were ultimately his undoing as an anthropologist.
When we are first introduced to Jack Skellington, he is in what can be best described as a funk. After countless years as the spirit of Halloween, Jack is unfulfilled and bored with the predictability of it all. When he stumbles across the bright and splendid Christmas Town, it provides him with all the excitement he’s been lacking. The ultimate participant observer, Jack sneaks into homes and toy factories to take in every sight and sound. Jack becomes obsessed with Santa Clause. Rather than appreciating Santa Clause in his role in Christmas Town, Jack decides to basically steal his identity and incorporate Christmas in Halloween Town. But Jack does not see the town as its own entity instead he sees it as a means to an end for his life’s monotony.
Thomson/Wadsworth Publishing’s Cultural Anthropology -The Human Challenge states “When participating in an unfamiliar culture, an ethnographer does not just blunder about blindly but enlist the assistance of informants, members of the society being studied who provide information that helps the researcher make sense of the activities taking place.” Jack did not adhere to this concept at all. Jack didn’t ask the people of Christmas Town to explain the significance or the source of the cheer he immediately felt instead he stole their belongings and did weird experiments on them....