Monday, December 08, 2014

“If Quite Convenient, Sir" | Campfire’s A Christmas Carol (2010)

Index of other entries in The Christmas Carol Project

Scott McCullar and Naresh Kumar's adaptation skips the street scene outside of Scrooge's office except for some carollers. Dickens' solo kid has been joined by four more (singing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," for the record), but this won't be the only version to turn the boy into a group.

I'm not sure why adaptations do that except to make the act of carolling more festive and fun. When a lone, small boy does it, it feels like an act of desperation as he tries to make enough money to maybe eat that night. When it's a group, it's a communal activity that possibly they're doing for the fun of it. So far, the adaptations we've looked at have all kept the kid by himself, heightening the despair that's mingled with the Christmas celebrations. By turning him into a quintet, McCullar and Kumar make a conscious choice that lightens the mood.

It gets dark again quickly when Scrooge gets involved though. I noticed last year that (intentionally by the creators or not) this Scrooge isn't just grumpy and mean; he's actively evil. When he picks up the ruler to chase away the characters, it's not just what he had handy, it's a bona fide weapon. Scrooge's ruler changes size from panel to panel (it's relatively normal-sized in the first panel above), but when he brandishes it against the kids it looks like it's about two feet long and has a sharpened end.

As the kids are still fleeing and Scrooge is still holding the ruler, he says to Cratchit, "And you will want all day off tomorrow, I suppose?" It's like he's challenging Cratchit.

In the background, Cratchit's already putting on his hat. No one's acknowledged that it's quitting time, but Cratchit knows that it is and he's wasting no time. I don't imagine that Cratchit's actually bold enough to leave early, but the effect is that Scrooge sort of threatens him and he's beating feet out of there. His "If it's convenient, sir," sounds like a way of deliberately not answering Scrooge's challenge.

When Scrooge says that it's not convenient, he's got the same mad look in his eye that he had when he talked about boiling people in their own pudding. He gets no sympathy points in this one. He feels like a sociopath looking for an excuse to snap.

Curiously, Cratchit doesn't seem bothered when he says, "It's only once a year, sir." He looks grim-faced and determined. A couple of panels later, Cratchit slips up and almost wishes Scrooge a "Merry Christmas," but catches himself and changes it to "good night." He doesn't look at all worried though. He's more focused on trying to get his coat buttoned.

A possible explanation for all that is something I've just noticed. This Cratchit has a large, square chin that's in direct contrast with Scrooge's smaller, weaker one. Cratchit's not a little guy either, physically. So it's very possible that he wants to avoid a confrontation not because he's afraid of Scrooge, but because he's afraid of what he might have to do to Scrooge if it came to that. And then Cratchit would be out of a job and it's a whole mess...

This is one, crazy Christmas Carol, but I'm digging it.


Wings1295 said...

I don't know. In that last panel above, Cratchit almost seems smug, like he'd just love to give Scrooge a good what-for.

Michael May said...

I like that reading of it too! Either way, this is a way different relationship than I'm used to seeing for these two.


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