Your Fucked Up Childhood #3: The Snowman

tumblr_inline_nfzu25X0UK1qzwijzLooking forward to it snowing this year? No?! Can you pinpoint the exact moment at which your sense of wonder blackened, crumbled and blew away on the breeze? Maybe it was the day you saw Channel 4’s 1982 animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ ‘The Snowman’. Every time the subject of snow comes up at this time of year I inevitably end up gnawing on the knuckles of my clenched fist as a means of both plugging my mouth and preventing me from raining a flurry of punches upon those balking at the fact that this astonishing annual phenomenon might prevent them from, wait for it, getting to work.

If opening your curtains to a completely transformed world no longer gives you a total soul blow job, you are of no further use to anyone other than your delighted boss and/or as a daily cautionary tale to your kids.

Not that there isn’t anything disconcerting about a man made from snow standing silently on your lawn all day and night finally turning around, waving and approaching as you stand alone peering through a cold pane of glass in the stillness of your darkened house at midnight, but the image I used to lead-in with is misleading. There’s nothing sinister about this particular snowman, oh no, if there were that’d deprive you of the kick between the adolescent legs you were going to get, and the older I get I can’t help wondering if the majority of the film it wasn’t so damn charming as a device to ensure that the aforementioned boot landed with maximum impact.

Lookit kid, the world is a blank canvas on which for you to make your mark. Canter out there and make the boldest strokes you can. 

James breezes by his parents, barely stopping for socks, to burst out the door and engage with the infinite possibility presented to him by the virgin turf of a snow covered earth, making it difficult to separate horizon from the limit that is the sky. He takes small steps and giant leaps, stomps it underfoot and shakes it from on high, projecting it through the air, rattling teh adult’s window frames in the process before focussing his frenetic energies on the deliberation of creation. The excitement and imagination that prevents him from sleeping that night are the catalyst for the snowman’s animation. With the physicality of an adult, but the freshness of an open mind, he’s both a mental contemporary and an adult figure that doesn’t sit stolidly toasting bread in front of the fireplace before sending you to bed. The childlike Snowman enters the house and like a British Cat in the Hat, genially and indadvertedly mocks the officiousness of all surrounding ‘adult things’ – the conformity of clothing and gender roles in his parents’ wardrobe, Dad’s mid life crisis motorcycle, extracting maximum joy from the household and its environs before lifting James out of his literal and metaphorical backyard and opening his eyes to the vastness of the wider world. After a fantastical night of making merry with other likeminded snow-folk from all over the globe and a hand-delivered gift from Santa, James is delivered safe and sound to his bed to awake into the promise of the previous night*, only to be greeted by the crumpled heap of the Snowman’s annihilated form.

In addition to this slug in the guts, there’s a kidney kick in the form of the scarf extracted from James’ pocket, the gift given to him by Santa, affirming that the night was not a fantasy bookended by sleep as hinted at in the narrative, but something that actually transpired.

Now, I don’t know if The Snowman teaches us that…

A. Childhood is a temporary period of hallucinatory optimism that will one day be shown up for what it is by the harsh light of one-too-many-mornings.

B. The anticipatory bubble of Christmas with all it’s swirling, surface psychedelia left a void in the author when it popped one Christmas morning upon finding only a hat, scarf, tangerine and/or a couple of lumps of coal in his stocking.

or C. the birth of Christ is a delusion used to mask the terror of the inevitable deaths of our loved ones and eventually ourselves.

…what I do know is that it’s a spirit crushing Christmas bummer that is as beautifully effective today as it was when I was a kid, but that I refused to let get to me, no matter how many harsh facts I gradually found myself in possession of.

You have that scarf – a certificate of authenticity – and one day it’ll snow for you to build again.

On the downside, it might prove difficult for you to get to work.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

* The timeline of Raymond Briggs’ ‘Father Christmas’ attests to ‘The Snowman’ taking place on Christmas Eve/Morning. So this misery plays-out Phoebe-Cates-in-Gremlins style.

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks is a peripheral figure on the fringes of existence. Predominantly bothering the local music scene of his native Manchester, England, he has a very finely attuned Justice-button, and knows how to call a spade a ‘Multi-Purpose Murder/Concealment Device’.

4 Responses to Your Fucked Up Childhood #3: The Snowman
  1. Joe Grez

    Joe Grez Reply

    Thanks for this Chester. Maybe it is a loss of innocence?

  2. Shawn Reply

    I should also point out the soul blow job ceased the day I came out of work in Chicago and it was so cold the handle on the door of my car broke off in my hand when I tried to get in.

  3. Shawn Reply

    I have never used alas to describe CA’d lack of snow.
    Great art

  4. Tommy Reply

    Excellent article Chester. I have vague memories of that book from my childhood…alas we get no snow in Austin.

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