Viking Night: Bad Santa

By Bruce Hall

December 29, 2015

He's still nicer than the Santa from A Christmas Story.

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You know that label they put on bottles of bleach that say “Warning: Do Not Drink This Bottle of Bleach?"

I hate those. I feel very strongly that if you are old enough to read, and you still need someone to specifically tell you not to drink bleach, then maybe we’d all be better off without you. You’re probably the kind of person who needs to be reminded that Christmas is a time of happiness and cheer, that it is better to give than receive, and that family is important because yadda yadda yadda Christmas ratings Black Friday buy/consume/conform.

I don’t need to hear Jingle Bells ever again. I don’t need to see Rudolph, or Frosty, or the Grinch. I don’t need to be reminded what a wonderful time of year this is. I have two four day weekends in a row. I get a nice little bonus in my paycheck. For the first time all year don’t mind checking the mail. And for a few weeks at the end of every year, we all pretend to be happy, joyous and tolerant. It’s the perfect annual campaign of nationwide cultural disinformation, and I’m happy with it the way it is.


The last thing I need is Lifetime or Disney shoving a spoonful of candy coated Christmas pabulum down my throat on top of it. This is why I prefer dark, irreverent, even impious fare when it comes to Christmas movies. I’m talking the kind of material that reminds us that violence, car chases and kinky hot tub sex can also be part of the holidays. That’s not to say that crime pays. Hans Gruber learned that lesson right before he face planted into Nakatomi plaza. Mel Gibson taught us much about selfless personal sacrifice in Lethal Weapon. And who can forget the majesty of family fellowship embodied by Randy Quaid in Christmas Vacation?

What I’m saying is that I like my Christmas movies a little raw. Chestnuts roasting and little red-nosed reindeer are fine for some people. But there’s enough cheer in the air already. All that’s necessary is to combine it into the things we already love best about movies. Namely, violence, car chases and kinky hot tub sex. That’s why a movie like Bad Santa always intrigues me. It takes something good about the holidays and twists a lot of ugliness into it. Not unlike a candy cane, it’s two weird things existing together in the form of something that would not in any way feel acceptable at any other time of year.

Bad Santa is very much in that category, as it is the story of the thoroughly revolting Willie Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton), a career drunkard who moonlights as a department store Santa during the holidays. It’s apparently possible to make a living this way, unless you’re a stinking drunk with a broken moral compass and no immediately specific reason to be alive. Willie manages to stretch himself through every year this way, much to the irritation of his partner, Marcus (Tony Cox). By day, they pose as a dime store Santa (Willie) traveling with a merry dwarf (Marcus), spreading Christmas cheer, unfiltered profanity and possibly gonorrhea through the malls of America’s heartland.

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