The 1966 Christmas special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is a beloved holiday classic that endures in spite of the remakes, some of which were great, and others, abysmal. In the cartoon version, narrated by Boris Karloff, there’s a song about the Grinch that is meant to serve as explanation for his thwarted attempt at stealing Christmas from the Whos of Whoville. The Grinch’s entire vibe is that he hates Christmas, but I don’t think that he ever specifies why. My operating theory is that, like me, the Grinch detests saccharine sincerity of the sort that is common around the holiday season, and also he wants to (mostly) be left alone.
While the Grinch’s issues are his alone to handle, I think it’s important to draw attention to the song in question, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Though this is not the song I think of most frequently when thinking of the Grinch (it’s “Welcome Christmas”), a tweet by writer Hanif Abdurraqib raised an interesting point: the song, sung by a man whose government name is Thurl Ravensford, is a relentless dirge that drags that green ass for what feels like an eternity for no real reason other than he sort of doesn’t like the holidays.
Though I never really thought about the lyrics of this song until this past week, a close read reveals that they are unnecessarily brutal and quite rude to this biped, who simply wants to live in his cabin on that big mountain with his dog, alone with his own complicated feelings on perpetual bachelorhood and a life lived in chosen solitude.
Let’s take a gander:
You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch
You really are a heel
You’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch
You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel!
Already, the first verse feels like overkill. Some people don’t like hugs, but that doesn’t mean that they’re rotten bananas. Perhaps his love language is acts of service. We’ll never know. What’s upsetting about this lyric is that it’s just the opening; the five verses that follow prod the Grinch’s personality further, clearly pushing this man to the brink.
The second verse suggests that the Grinch’s brain is “full of spiders,” which isn’t quite a drag, but probably just a matter of fact. Who among us is doing well? The third and the fourth employ a lot of creative insults, including the one where they call his ass a “nasty-wasty skunk.” Again, I have yet to see what the Grinch has done to deserve this treatment, but my agita ratchets up when we get to the kicker of this roast, which are unconscionably rude:
You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch
You’re the king of sinful sots
Your heart’s a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots, Mr. Grinch
Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful
Assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots!
You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch
With a nauseous super “naus”!
You’re a crooked dirty jockey and you drive a crooked hoss, Mr. Grinch
You’re a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!
My god! Though there’s not much out there about the Grinch’s interior life, we do know that at one point, he was a baby, and that presumably, some incidents in childhood might have led him to be the shit-stirring little grump that he is today. However, I don’t think that this relentless roast of a man who inevitably takes action against the town of apple-cheeked villagers who haven’t taken the time to know him is deserved. Right now, life sort of sucks! In the spirit of the holiday season, let’s be kind to the gals and pals around us, even if it feels disingenuous or otherwise out of character. God forbid I spew earnestness on the internet in any genuine fashion, but the Grinch doesn’t deserve this smoke.