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Bill Murray’s SCROOGED Is the Christmas Movie We Need in 2017

Bill Murray’s SCROOGED Is the Christmas Movie We Need in 2017

Charles Dickens has been called “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” not in reference to the holiday itself, but how we celebrate it in the modern world. That lofty moniker is primarily due to his hallowed story A Christmas Carol, because it changed the way people thought about and honored the holiday. That’s why there are roughly nine million movie versions of the story; it is Christmas as we know it, or at least how we think of it–and ourselves–at our best. But at the end of this unhappy year we’ve called 2016, one adaptation of A Christmas Carol stands out as being the one we need the most, the one that reminds us that the world we’ve created today needn’t be the future we live in, and that’s Bill Murray‘s Scrooged.

All Christmas movies are inherently about hope: hope for peace and kindness among mankind, hope that we can and will do better if we remember the selfless spirit of the day, a day of giving to one another. That’s what A Christmas Carol is about, where Ebenezer Scrooge, who has forsaken love in his heart for gold in his pocket, is given a chance to see not only the error of his ways, but what lies ahead for him if he does not change. By the end he isn’t a different man, he’s just the best version of himself, one whose life is measured by what he does for others and not by his bank account.

Scrooged tells the same story, but in a setting that looks very much like our modern world. Far too much like our modern world actually.


Murray plays Frank Cross, the youngest president in television history. His life is defined by ratings and the prestige that comes with it, so much so that he is putting on a live version of A Christmas Carol (in the movie it is called Scrooge–no “d”) on Christmas Eve, even though that means hundreds of people working on it will be pulled away from their families, along with millions who will be watching TV instead of enjoying the night with theirs.

The movie was released in 1988, but it’s world doesn’t feel much different than 2016, where integrity and compassion are worthless compared to Nielsen ratings. Murray’s Cross would have killed it this year, no doubt eager to feed into peoples’ worst fears and instincts. That’s not hyperbole; in the movie he runs a commercial for Scrooge so violent and terrible that it kills an old lady out of actual fear. When he hears the news he celebrates. “You can’t buy publicity like this!” It’s supposed to be an over-the-top ridiculous line, but it sadly rings true today.

Of course we know what happens. He sees past Christmas Eves, and through them his transformation into the greedy, uncaring man he is today. Then he sees the present, with examples of real love in the world, before he sees the dark future that awaits him.

But it’s not just his own dark future that stands out, and in turn makes the movie so relevant this year specifically, it’s the future of the woman he loves. While Scrooged has its own Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim (here filled by Frank’s secretary Grace and her young son who doesn’t speak after he saw his father killed years earlier) this adaptation is anchored by his relationship with the woman he once loved, Claire, played by Karen Allen.

Claire is the opposite of Frank; she is selfless and has dedicated her life to others. He turns to her throughout the movie when he is in trouble, and it is the loss of her love that defines his past. He was happiest with her, but he chose ambition and success instead. The good man he once was disappeared with her.


It looks like he is starting to figure this out after seeing the Ghost of Christmas Present, and he goes to Claire for help, but she just needs a quick moment to deal with something at the homeless shelter she volunteers at. He wants her attention this second, and takes her refusal to ignore others and see to his needs immediately as proof that she is the selfish one, not him. Things fell apart between them because she wasn’t there for him, so he doesn’t need to feel guilt about the choices he made. He tells her to forget everything, and says, “I’m gonna give you a little advice, Claire: scrape ’em off. You wanna save somebody? Save yourself.”

She tells him that’s not exactly the Christmas spirit, and he responds, “Bah humbug.” So much for lessons learned.

He’s acting childish, needy, and of course, selfishly, like he always does, but it’s the way he dismisses everything that is important to her that makes this so horrible. She lives for others, and he tells her her life is worthless because of it. It’s his worst moment in the movie, and it turns out to possibly be the worst thing he has ever done in his life.


Because when he is with the Ghost of Christmas Future the worst vision he is shown is what will happen to Claire. He sees her dressed in a fancy dress at a fancy restaurant wearing way too much makeup, and outside the window some homeless children have come begging for help. Her dinner mates feel badly for them, but she scolds them and explains why these kids mean nothing to her.

“I wasted twenty years of my life on pathetic little creatures like those. Finally, thank god, a friend of mine said to me, Scrape ’em off, Claire. You wanna save someone–save yourself.'”

He says to himself, “I’m sorry, Claire,” as she turns around and whispers a thank you to him as a tear runs down her face.


He is so selfish and heartless that his actions will turn the woman he loves, the woman who is so good, into a monster too. This is will be his legacy, not merely to deprive the world of good, but to rob it of the good it already in it.

And that’s where many people find themselves this Christmas, afraid that Claire’s future could be our own. All of the Ebenezer Scrooges and Frank Crosses of the world can easily turn us into the worst version of ourselves if we let them, because when all seems hopeless it’s easier to “scrape ’em off” instead of trying to do what we know is right. If no one will worry about me, I won’t worry about them. We aren’t in this together, so I’ll be in it for myself.


If anything has defined 2016 it has been a lack of empathy and compassion, and those failings are at the heart of Scrooged. But much like Frank Cross had a chance to make the future better, we too will still determine how 2017 and beyond are defined.

We don’t have to be the Claire that scrapes them off, we can be the Frank Cross who ends the movie by reminding us that Christmas is just a wonderful idea, an idea that doesn’t have to be one we only hold one day a year.

“I get it now! Then if you give, then it can happen, then the miracle can happen to you! It’s not just the poor and the hungry, it’s everybody’s who’s GOT to have this miracle! And it can happen tonight for all of you. If you believe in this spirit thing, the miracle will happen and then you’ll want it to happen again tomorrow. You won’t be one of these bastards who says ‘Christmas is once a year and it’s a fraud’, it’s NOT! It can happen every day, you’ve just got to want that feeling. And if you like it and you want it, you’ll get greedy for it! You’ll want it every day of your life and it can happen to you. I believe in it now! I believe it’s going to happen to me now! I’m ready for it! And it’s great! It’s a good feeling, it’s really better than I’ve felt in a long time. I, I, I’m ready. Have a Merry Christmas, everybody.

Who do we want to be? What do we want the future to look like? Do we want to be the best version of ourselves, or do we want to only look out for ourselves?

Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in 1843 and forever shaped the way we think about the holiday, but Scrooged looks and sounds an awful lot like the world of 2016, and that’s why it’s the reminder we need–at a time we need it the most–to remember that we can all be a force of good.

But also that it can be easy to give up on that idea if we let others tell us we can’t.


Everyone remembers Tiny Tim’s line about god blessing us, everyone, but it’s something Claire says in Scrooged we shouldn’t forger this year, to make sure that everyone is blessed in the years to come.

“That’s the one good thing about regret: it’s never too late. You can always change tomorrow if you want to.”

We can’t change 2016, just like Ebenezer and Frank Cross couldn’t change the mistakes they had made, but we can all make sure we don’t regret who we are in the future. It’s the lesson we need this year.

What do you think of Scrooged? Is there another Christmas movie that would be a better choice this December? Let us know in the comments section below.

Images: Paramount Pictures

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