A Little Girl Who Did Not Believe in Santa Claus (1907)

Article 4238 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-29-2013
Directed by J. Searle Dawley and Edwin S. Porter
Featuring Gitchner Hartman, Mr. Lehapman, Bessie Schrednecky
Country: USA
What it is: Christmas fantasy

A young boy from a well-to-do family befriends a young girl from a poverty-stricken household, and discovers that the girl does not believe in Santa Claus because the latter has never visited her at Christmas. The boy decides to fix that problem by taking Santa prisoner and forcing him to deliver presents to the young girl.

You know, underneath the fantasy veneer of this silent short, there is a real attempt to generate compassion for the poor and down-trodden, which I find commendable. However, the way this particular short addresses the issue is rather problematic. The fact that a poverty-stricken young girl might have a much bigger problem believing in that generous supernatural entity than a young boy who grows up in prosperous surroundings makes a certain amount of sense, but only if you ground it in the assumption that said supernatural entity indeed does not exist. That is counter to the assumption this short makes that he does exist, and the central question that arises from this assumption – namely, why does Santa ignore the young girl in his annual gift delivery? – is never addressed. Is the girl naughty? If not (and the short gives us no reason to believe that she is naughty), why does he ignore her? The short gives no answer to this question. Yes, I may be over-analyzing the one a bit, but nonetheless, these are the thoughts that popped into my mind while watching it, and they did cloud my enjoyment of the short. Yet I do have to give the short some credit for having enough of a plot to lend itself to this analysis; after all, I’ve seen quite a few silent shorts from the period that offer me far less material for any such consideration.

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