Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas


Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Rating: PG
Run Time: 104 minutes
Released: 2000
Director: Ron Howard

Cultural Rating: pawpaw
Adapted from the 1957 Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, this live-action film offers a commentary on capitalism and bullying.

The Grinch, a green curmudgeon with a small heart, attempts to ruin Christmas in the cheery town of Whoville.


Language:  poo poo poo

  • Threatening language- “I’ll hunt you down and gut you like a fish,” “I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties”
  • Demeaning language- “stinky old Grinch,” “prim perfect little prissy,” “you’re an idiot,” “losers,” “fat boy,” “a little not-to-be-taken-seriously girl
  • “bitchin” (in reference to something being good)

Violence:  poo poo poo poo

  • School children bully the Grinch
  • The Grinch sends Cindy Lou Who through a package sorter
  • The Grinch gives a Who child a saw and tells them to run with it
  • Force-feeding
  • The Grinch drew a picture as a child depicting a rocket hitting Santa’s sleigh
  • Scary/unsettling scenes with the Grinch (yelling, lurking, throws dog)
  • A character uses a light decorating machine that is similar to a turret gun

Sex:  poo poo

  • The Grinch shaves the mayor’s head and kisses the mayor on the cheek without the mayor’s consent.
  • Two characters consensually kiss.

Drugs and Alcohol:  poo

  • The Grinch tries to sedate himself to get through the Whos’ Christmas celebrations
  • The Grinch drinks what is presumed to be alcohol from a jug
  • Visible martini glasses at party


Cultural Analysis



  • Cindy Lou Who, a girl who lives in the town of Whoville, is depicted as inquisitive, non-judgemental, and intelligent. Cindy Lou is one of the few people of the town of Whoville, aside from Martha May Whovier, who sees the Grinch as an equal being instead of as a creature who doesn’t belong in Whoville; Cindy Lou understands the Grinch as a “who” rather than a “what.”


Sexual Orientation:  N/A


  • N/A




  • Martha May Whovier is regularly sexualized throughout the film. For example, certain scenes in the film focus on parts of her body, such as her breasts.


Sexual Orientation:

  • Please see talking point about the Grinch’s parents.


  • N/A


  • The whos of Whoville have bodies that vary slightly from human bodies. However, some bodies are constructed as more attractive than others. For example, Martha May Whovier has a body that adheres to the ideal female body (white, thin, large breasts), and the camera reinforces certain aspects of her body (e.g. at one point in the film, the Grinch’s face accidentally lands in between Martha May’s breasts).
  • Little people are visible in the film; however, it appears that they are used to signify abnormality/to emphasize the difference of the people of Whoville. The notion of little people as an oddity is a recurring stereotype in popular media.
  • Please see talking point on Othering.


Suggested talking points:

  • One of the many ways that the film attempts to “Other,” the Grinch, or to establish the Grinch as different and less than the Whos, is through his physical appearance and actions. All of the Whos have human skin tones while the Grinch has bright green skin and hair, reinforcing his Otherness in relationship to the Whos. Another way the film establishes the Grinch as Other is through his lack of hygiene and body shape. The Grinch is depicted as grotesque with his yellowed termite-ridden teeth, rancid breath, and bloated (usually naked) green body. In addition, the Grinch lives off of and in the Whos’ garbage on a mountain top in near isolation. However, the film attempts to subvert the Who’s depiction of the Grinch by offering a sympathetic backstory and by emphasizing the Grinch’s anti-capitalist position and special qualities and skills. For example, the Grinch is creative (can make useful items from “garbage”), intelligent (builds a functioning sleigh), and has critical thinking skills (can see that the Whos care more about presents than each other).
  • The film provides a backstory about the Grinch’s “delivery” and childhood. Unlike the rest of the Whos who are delivered from the sky to their parents’ doorstep, the Grinch landed in a tree. The tree is on the property of two women who live together whose relationship status is not made explicit. The non-traditional family in which the Grinch was raised adds to the narrative of the Grinch as abnormal. This is problematic because it ties the Grinch’s family situation to the Grinch’s status as different. It is important to remember that families can take many forms (such as two moms, two dads, one parent, a grandparent, a mom and a dad).
  • One of the main points of the film is why people bully and the detrimental effects of bullying. Oftentimes, bullies feel the need to hurt others because they fear those who are different. In order to justify mistreatment of people, Othering occurs.
  • The film attempts to offer a commentary on consumerism that has become intertwined with the holidays. In the beginning of the film, the Whos represent the endless purchasing of gifts during the holidays (blind consumption that obscures what really matters). For example, Martha May displays her wealth to the neighbors by showing off the newest light machine for outdoor decorating (conspicuous consumption). On the other hand, the Grinch represents anti-consumerism and the wastefulness and joy associated with the holidays. The end of the film offers a synthesis of these two extremes in which the Whos learn that gifts are not the most important aspect of the holidays and the Grinch learns to value the love and joy that holidays can bring.




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