More than anything else about the holidays, holiday films are what make my days merry and bright. Even those that are tragically bad (I’m looking at you, Christmas with the Kranks) seem to find their way onto my screen when the calendar turns to December. In honour of those holiday treats, here are five Holiday Heroines who bring joy to my world.
Sally, The Nightmare Before Christmas
This dark Christmas fable chronicles the existential crisis and revitalization of Pumpkin King Jack Skellington. Bent on making Christmas, Jack turns the holiday world topsy turvy for his own somewhat selfish purposes. The only voice of reason, as Sandy Claws points out at the film’s conclusion, is Franken-doll Sally. Voiced with a surprising sweetness by Catherine O’Hara, Sally has the vision that foretells the disaster to come. When not making cunning escapes from her creator, she serves as Jack’s support system, even when she knows he is making a giant mistake. Pity he is too consumed by hubris to realize she’s right and that she loves him. Thankfully, he figures out by the end what the audience has felt along: he loves her too.
Cindy Lou Who, How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Conceived in the pages of Dr. Seuss as a little tot wanting a glass of water, the character received a storyline upgrade for the live action version. A precocious Taylor Momsen portrays the inquisitive young Who on a journey to learn about the Grinch, Christmas, and herself. Skeptical of the meaning of Christmas, Cindy Lou manages to conduct a series of apparently hard-hitting interviews, scales the mountain, and tries reconnect her community with its most famous outcast. Probably most inspiring about Cindy Lou is that she isn’t sucked into the superficial nature of the holiday (although the movie is), instead wanting to discover the meaning behind it all.
Claire Phillips, Scrooged
Unlike in the original tale, where Scrooge’s beloved Belle is just a memory of the past, Frank Cross’ (Bill Murray) lost love Claire (Karen Allen) returns in the present when a frightened ‘Lumpy’ (her pet name for Frank) leaves her a freaked out message after a visit from his dead boss. A true humanitarian, Claire runs to his side, even though we see through the Ghost of Christmas Past how bitterly their romance ended (he left her for Frisby the dog). Claire is a heroine in that she truly is a good person while not being a pushover. She doesn’t leave her job at the shelter just because Frank is having a crisis–she knows who she is and where she is needed. Her early years gift to Frank of The Kama Sutra shows she’s certainly no saint, but her heart and willingness to stick to her values demonstrate how strong she really is. Only when he publicly proves his changed heart does she return to him, hopeful that he’s ready to be the partner she deserves.
In many ways, Gimbel’s employee Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) represents the audience in this Will Ferrell modern classic as she is both intrigued by and skeptical of Buddy the Elf. Their romance has a beguiling innocence that is helped by Jovie’s willingness to embrace his oddness–she will drink his crappy cup of coffee, rolling her eyes, but still be charmed, despite herself. Like Sally, she is a Helping Heroine. Buddy may save Santa’s sleigh, but Jovie spreads the Christmas cheer by singing out for all to hear. No cheer = no magic = no Christmas. Thanks for saving Christmas, Jovie.
Holly (Gennaro) McClane, Die Hard I and II
Even though her name is a bit too on the nose for a Christmas movie, Bonnie Bedelia’s Holly is a pretty badass chick. No, she doesn’t tunnel through the Nakatomi building, barefoot and bloody, but she manages to keep calm in front of her underlings after their boss is executed. If Alan Rickman’s dapperly evil Hans Gruber scares her, she gives nothing away when she informs him he put her in charge “when [he] shot [her] boss.” If John is the everyman who thinks his way out of a crisis, Holly is the solid, even headed woman who keeps it together whether trapped in a building or an airplane. Amen to that.