Ronnie Gardocki Holiday Humor #1: Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas
The Christmas season means myriad things to people. For some, it’s time to reflect on one’s faith. Others, it’s time spent with loved ones. With me, it means in addition to the usual bullshit I watch I also check out holiday movies and holiday specials of television shows. I’ve missed the window for becoming a properly social member of society, so that’s how I end up buying a bottle of Sertraline and a DVD of Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas at a Target a couple miles away from my house. Hey, it’s a step up from my old order of Sertraline and a 1.5 mL of Yellowtail. Anyway, Curious George is a book series that is basically Marmaduke were he a monkey. George always fucks things up for his owner, a man in a yellow hat, and it’s only the man’s benevolence that the little shit isn’t made into galoshes or a purse or whatever you do with excess monkey corpse. A Very Monkey Christmas is what you think it is, but the title is lacking for me. Wouldn’t any Curious George celebration of Christmas be anywhere from ‘moderately’ to ‘very’ monkey? He is a monkey! I mean, I wouldn’t call my Christmas “a very human Christmas”. Maybe I should. This Curious George enterprise has been going on since 1886 and appears to be successful.
What the fuck do you expect at this point, man
The special first establishes George has no concept of time, as apparently every morning since Thanksgiving he’s bounded into the Man in the Yellow Hat’s room under the assumption it’s Christmas morning. Our first indication of abuse comes when the Man suggests George stop stepping on his spleen. This whole sordid situation raises the question: what the fuck is this guy teaching his monkey? George’s room has an easel for painting, but using a monkey to create forgeries of Jackson Pollock paintings hardly seems worth the effort. Throughout the special he doesn’t understand simple ideas like time, appropriate attire, caution, consequences of his actions…I’m reminded of Bart Simpson mixed with that Culkin kid in The Good Son. It seems as though the Man has a kink or fetish that we rarely encounter. He wants to have a child, but he only wants one who can tear him limb from limb. Hence George. I’ve heard of dudes wanting to be punished for the purposes of sexual stimulation, yet faceripping seems a little final. “Faceripping pig seeks primate dom. No fatties.” No wonder the first film took source material liberties, no one wants to see an origin based on a lurid Craigslist casual encounter.
I don’t want to give you the context.
The crux of A Very Monkey Christmas lies with what the hell does a monkey who already has a jacket and crayons want for Christmas. He first decides on a rhinoceros and then changes it to a one-man marching band outfit. Seemingly he decides between choices that all have the probability of pissing off his master. Can you imagine a fucking monkey trying to make music at all hours of the day? It’d make Smile seem like walk in the park. (Not, uh, John Lennon’s walk in the park.) Fortunately for the Man, George’s scribblings masquerading as a list appear as simple shapes divorced of any context. You can get the fucker a triangle or a rhombus and he won’t be able to complain. The language barrier definitely seems to be the cause of most of their problems. They ought to try sign language. I never hear Koko getting into shenanigans. Meanwhile, George is going to make Man in the Yellow Hat’s present. Odds on him opening a box full of feces come Christmas morn? 3:1.
He’s HOPING that’s all tomato juice.
Some dago chef gives George the “brilliant” idea of creating a snowman out of tomatoes as a gift for the Man. The little guy learns that tomatoes squish easily and the next thing you know the kitchen is a disaster area. Something I noticed: every professional adult seems to have an inappropriate pet. That chef has a voracious cat, the apartment building’s doorman sports a weiner dog, and then you’ve got urban professional Yellow Hat Man and a monkey. What is this world? The weirdness doesn’t stop there. The Man rings up a professor just to help him solve his monkey list comprehension problem, even though she’s charting the path of an asteroid on its way to hit Earth. For fuck’s sake. Maybe Curious George is like that kid from The Twilight Zone. Everybody has to indulge him or else he wishes them to the cornfield. You know, I bet the Man in the Yellow Hat isn’t even the original. In the movie he was voiced by Will Ferrell! Ferrell Man must have drawn a line in the sand and the mendacious monkey switched him out for somebody who knew his fucking place.
“Which of these to submit to Fantagraphics…”
Not knowing what George’s wish list consists of really gets to the Man in the Yellow Hat, to the point that this goddamn thing takes a page from Sliders. The Ghost of Time Goes Sideways, an implacable man of Portuguese extraction, whisks the Man from his dream state to see all the parallel universes in which George was owned by somebody else. On Earth-2, in which George is owned by the doorman, he too is a doorman named Monkley. The Man is married to a woman (tellingly, he says “oh no” when confronted with this) allergic to monkeys. The dog has no owner and lives the life of a stray. On Earth-3, Professor Wiseman dubs George Dr. Brainley (doctorates are meaningless, as I’ve always said) and he’s won dozens of awards. Earth-4, Sonny works in a kitchen and sports a little mustache because Italian presentation choices are worthy of mockery. However, the downside in all other Earths is the same: George actually has responsibilities. Living with the Man, George can cause all the havoc he wants without repercussions. That’s the beauty of beating a man down until he has no dignity, self-esteem or confidence.
“Where am I?” “You’re in Hell, obviously.”
In the end, he sees that George’s drawing of shapes corresponds to those in a toy store’s window and intuits that’s what that fleabag meant all along. Meanwhile, George does what all kids who disappoint their parents do and draws his gift to the Man in the Yellow Hat. “It’s the thought that counts” is a double edged sword, dude, so you’re gonna have to pretend to like a monkey’s crappy drawings of shit that occurred over the past hour on the back of a sheet of wrapping paper. Can’t wait for mid-February when the Man wants to throw it out and that incenses George to the point of faceripping. I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to take from this chain of events. If you can’t decipher someone’s gift desires, wait until you dream a guy voiced by Rob Paulsen to show you the way? Monkeys are idiots who love simplistic shapes? Maybe that’s why this mess ends with a reprise of a song.
“Stop calling us about problems with your damn monkey. This is 900 number. God.”
Like most “children’s” “entertainment”, A Very Monkey Christmas showcases a smattering of songs, yet not enough of them for the piece to qualify as a musical. There are pitfalls in featuring songs when the title character cannot actually sing and at best hums. I mean, what’s the goddamn point? Some of them aren’t even sung by characters, instead by some omniscient songwriter whose existence raises numerous questions about the Curious George universe. He’s singing about giving the Man in the Yellow Hat self-dancing pants and I’m at a loss to how anyone expects a damn monkey to invent pants so spectacular they’d break the proficiency color barrier. What’s next, basketball shorts that allow white people to dunk? The standout, “Christmas Monkey”, isn’t even really about anything. It just talks about there not being a Christmas song yet about monkeys, which fucking congratulations. You did it. Monkeys now have a holiday standard they can belt out…oh wait, they can’t actually sing. Well, maybe Jane Goodall can do it for them while they’re killing each other over gift wrapped bananas. Banal rhymes like “a donut’s dunky” and “an elephant’s trunky” suggest the show didn’t get the likes of Lin-Manuel Miranda but instead his oafish, chromosome-challenged cousin. The whole subplot is some garbage about a kid trying to come up with a new Christmas song for a pageant and at the last minute realizing monkeys haven’t saturated the holiday yet. Yeah, well, given the Internet’s propensity for ruining everything, I’m sure there’s a fucking song about a monkey bacon Star Wars kinda Christmas that simultaneously debases and celebrates the Planet of the Apes.
This is actually an homage to a New York Times editorial cartoon about Italian-American cuisine from 1909.
As always, there’s lessons to be gleaned from this piece of children’s entertainment. I mean, beyond the obvious “monkeys are disaster magnets who should not be your life companion, both for your own safety and because goddamnit Judeo-Christian morality still has a place in this society”. The most important thing to come from this is that Christmas is the real holiday in winter. Not Hanukkah, not Kwanzaa, not Solstice. That shit merits not even a mention; if the Man in the Yellow Hat has Jewish friends, he is purposefully avoiding them. (Speaking of which, his circle consists of two children, a professor, a doorman and an Italian stereotype. The only way that makes sense is if he’s their drug dealer.) While George never learns about the wonderful story of a guy not finding a hotel to take in his pregnant girlfriend who claims to have only done mouth stuff with God, all the secular markers of Christmas appear. Bill O’Reilly would be right at home watching this. Secondly and perhaps most controversially, the material suggests owning a monkey, being a “monkey parent”, is superior to being a regular parent. Why, you ask? Well, monkeys have no standard of care. They’ll put up with anything as long as their destructive impulses are satisfied. You wanna know why millennials aren’t having kids, Wall Street Journal? It’s cause monkeys are better.
“Mister Yellow, you could have saved her, I gave you all the clues”
In the end, what matters is whether or not this hour long imbroglio lives up to its title. How monkey is the Christmas? Well, George knocks down a bunch of trees, starts up a snow machine, makes a mess of the kitchen, kills at least three people and inspires a crisis of confidence that may also result in impotence. That to me suggests it’s a monkey Christmas, a VERY monkey Christmas.