Who hasn't seen these movies? Over the years, countless Christmas movie enthusiasts have been able to enjoy this story of humorous gags, heartwarming moments, and subversive political maneuvering.
Not many realize the deeper, darker story of The Santa Clause trilogy. If you look past the comedic antics of a blundering father and his journey to obesity and annual home invasion, you will find the story of a cold and calculating elf and his rise to power.
I am, of course, talking about none other than Head Elf, Bernard.
Whenever I watched these movies, there were some nagging questions that I couldn't quite solve. Why was the North Pole so heavily militarized? Why was Head Elf Bernard such a shadowy and mysterious figure? And, most perplexing of all, why weren't the elves upset by the death of the original Santa?
As I dove deep into the complexities of this franchise, I began to realize that the central character was not Scott Calvin, but rather the mysterious Bernard. Once I examined the story from his perspective, everything fell into place. So, without further ado, here is the true story of The Santa Clause:
In the beginning of the first movie, we see elves peering in store windows. Since the job of an elf should be to make toys at the North Pole, we are left to wonder, why are they there? Why would they appear on Christmas Eve before Santa even arrived? The reason is simple: reconnaissance. Although the elves' true purpose is not explicitly shown, events which occur later would suggest they may be part of an assassination attempt conceived by Bernard. Though we are not given all of the details, it is easy to see that the original Santa Claus, at one time the undisputed ruler of the North Pole, at some point lost some of his power over the rather simple-minded elves. This can be seen in Bernard's defiance to authority, which occurs throughout the whole of the franchise. In order to regain control, original Santa became a despot, lording his power over his vertically challenged minions. The evidence of this totalitarian rule can be seen in the elves' reaction to Scott Calvin's arrival at the North Pole. Keep in mind, as far as the elves know, this is the man that killed their ruler. Yet how is Scott greeted? With the biggest round of elvish smiles you've ever seen.
Bernard's plans to do away with Santa and claim power are simplified due to the strange twist of fate in which Scott Calvin, an innocent bystander, causes Santa's demise. Bernard, thinking fast, recognizes this as a prime opportunity to set up a puppet government, making liberal use of the elves' dependence on a monarchical figurehead. In order for Bernard to make this work, however, he will need a way to control Scott Calvin. Enter Scott's son Charlie. Bernard's befriending of Charlie ensures that he will always have a hold over the puppet king of the North Pole. Bernard's efforts to maintain this control even go so far as aiding in the kidnapping of Charlie towards the end of the first film.
It is interesting to note the changes that take place under the new Santa. Great technological advances occur, leading one to believe that the original, despotic Santa squelched such efforts. As the movie reaches its conclusion, we see the lengths that Bernard goes to preserve the puppet monarchy, even breaking Scott out of prison with a team of commandos who are obviously firmly under his control, ensuring his ability to overthrow Santa should he ever become aware of Bernard's influence.
In an ironic twist, Bernard is ultimately undone by his own success. The technological advances which Bernard's new government allow leads to the introduction of Curtis, a rival, who forces him to split his energies. Puppet Santa eventually becomes more independent once Charlie is no longer around for Bernard to manipulate. Bernard soon finds himself unable to deal with the fast rising Curtis, who stages a clever coup for power using a robotic Santa, manipulating the elves to lose their faith both in Santa and Bernard when Bernard is rendered powerless to stop toy Santa. By the third movie, Bernard is gone, replaced by the technologically savvy Curtis. It is unclear whether Bernard has been done away with, or simply banished. Either way, his overthrow serves as a cautionary tale of the shifting politics of the Pole.
At this point, you may be wondering: where did the original Santa, the despot who falls of off Scott Calvin's roof, come from? How was he able to maintain his iron fisted rule of the Pole before Bernard came along? The answer to that can be found in the soon-to-be-released Part II of this theory. Until then, here's a hint: a red-nosed rebel plays a significant part...