screen gems

Is the Grinch secretly a gay man?

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.

The Essential: How The Grinch Stole Christmas

No, not the 2000 Ron Howard-directed live-action remake with Jim Carrey. We’re talking about the pinnacle of all holiday movies, the star atop the great Christmas tree of cinema: director Chuck Jones’ triumphant adaptation of the Dr. Suess classic. How The Grinch Stole Christmas might just be the greatest Christmas movie ever made.

Watching it almost 60 years after it first aired on CBS, the mix of humor, vibrant animation and unforgettable music still enchant us with holiday vibes. A wonderful, awful, Grinchy idea also strikes us: is the Grinch a metaphor for a gay man?

Consider: the title character, voiced by Boris Karloff at the apex of his creepiness, lives alone as a middle-aged, hairy, single man with his dog his only companion. He has nothing but contempt for the families of Whoville as they celebrate their holiday festivities–parties to which the Grinch didn’t get an invitation. He has a predilection to dramatics, and can whip up a Santa outfit in no time flat. Even the best queens of Drag Race and the designers of Projcet Runway would have trouble pulling off such a feat.

We’ve also definitely seen an older man with a lascivious grimace oogling us from across a bar on several occasions.

In all seriousness, we don’t think for a moment that Dr. Suess, Jones, composer Albert Hague, Karloff or singer Thurl Ravenscroft (who provides vocals for “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”) ever seriously considered the Grinch a comment on the queer community. Nor, for that matter, are we even sure that the Grinch has sexuality or gender identity in the traditional sense. Still, we know many a cranky, lonesome, middle-aged queer that lives alone with his dog, grousing about anyone and everyone else having a good time, and who has a Singer sewing machine on standby. We also know more than a few homophobes who would wince at the idea of a gathering of gays at the apartment down the hall. Substitute the Grinch’s sour feelings about Christmas for a Pride party, and we have a feeling you do too, dear reader.

Why does this tale of Grinchmas still endure after all these years? Why does it speak to so many groups–even some that don’t celebrate Christmas–with such power and clarity? We’ve puzzled and puzzed until our puzzler was sore…

It helps that Suess, Jones, Hague, et. al. knew how to draw their best creative instincts out of one another. But our mind drifts toward another possibility: Christmas, like Pride, is a celebration of community. It’s a moment to pause from the daily grind to spend time with loved ones, neighbors and just about everyone else and be nice to one another–to share a meal, exchange a gift and party. These holidays present an opportunity and a reminder to say to one another we’re here together. I’m glad you’re with me. Damn the commercialism, the real thrill of Christmas (like Pride) comes from being together.

So no, the Grinch may not literally be a gay man, or even an unintentional metaphor. Still, those of us in Queerville should recognize–and empathize–with his grouchy mood. Keep that in mind this holiday season when gathering around the tree for a sing-along, to share some roast beast, or to rewatch this holiday masterpiece.

Streams on Amazon, Hulu, YouTube, Freeform & VUDU.