On the Couch with ‘The Santa Clause’

Published December 21, 2018

Art by Jack Vhay.

The therapist and the film critic occupy a similar space in the culture. The latter cracks open the fundamental truths of our popular cinema; the former, of ourselves. For our series On the Couch, we ask New York therapists to pick the brains of the characters within their favorite films. 

In the spirit of the season, we asked Dr. Meg Rich to dissect her holiday film of choice: The Santa Clause — a quintessential Christmas cornball comedy, in which a divorced dad, naturally played by Tim Allen, accidentally kills a man in a Santa suit and is subsequently forced to take on the role of the inimitable Mr. Claus.

———

Scott Calvin is just this guy who can’t integrate the part of him that feels things with the part of him that’s trying to avoid feelings — until he becomes Santa Claus. Apparently, trying to win his son’s trust and affection back by playing along when Santa falls off the roof and disappears, begrudgingly delivering toys down chimneys, riding in a reindeer-led sleigh, and wearing an elaborate Santa suit, all open the door to his personal transformation. Despite being bombarded with relentless physical changes and a never-ending to-do list, Scott finds a way to embrace and value his new identity. He eventually turns into this person who listens and empathizes, is honest, hopeful, intuitive, and who can believe in himself even when others don’t. Maybe, the lesson in Scott’s journey is that participating in magical myths full of Christmas spirit lead to increased emotional intelligence and happiness?

Dr. Meg Rich is a clinical psychologist who has specialized in treating complex trauma in private practice for the last five years.