Twelve Hundred Ghosts and the Universality of “A Christmas Carol”

Whenever I read anything for a class, I like to poke around on the internet for any interesting tidbits relating to the text. Call me a nerd if you feel like it, but I find it incredibly interesting to hear other people’s takes on the things I’m reading because I feel like it enriches my own understanding of the material. Such was the avenue upon which I discovered what might be the be one of the strangest and most interesting YouTube videos I’ve ever seen.

It’s called “Twelve Hundred Ghosts”, and it was put together by a man called Heath Waterman. It’s about an hour long, but you certainly don’t have to watch the whole thing (although I’d recommend it!) to get what he was going for. Waterman has edited together video clips, sound bites, music, and illustrations from over 400 adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to create a semi-cohesive version of the story.

Yes, you read that right. Four hundred different versions of A Christmas Carol.

Movies, TV episodes, cartoons, comic books, musicals, and even advertisements. From Mickey Mouse to the Muppets, it seems everyone and their mother has taken a shot at adapting the story, and in watching this it’s pretty obvious that some are much better than others. But still, Waterman passes no judgement. This is not a video of criticism, nor of making fun of these derivative works. It’s in total a celebration of the enduring spirit of the classic story.

Think about it. This is a book that was published centuries ago, and we’re still finding new ways to adapt it. Throughout this video we see many traditional Victorian Scrooges… but we also see modern Scrooges, female Scrooges, black Scrooges, gay Scrooges, and even animal Scrooges. I think that really says something about the universality of Dickens’ narrative. The type of story he told doesn’t only apply to the time he lived in, nor to the gender, race, or sexuality of its leads. The story of redemption, of a callous soul learning the error of their ways and striving to become a better person, is ultimately a human story. And although the video does often stray towards the comedic, I think the motivation behind it has real heart.

I’ve always thought the core of Dickens’ story was the idea that no human being is beyond redemption. In creating the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, Dickens crafts a hard-hearted man who cares for no one, and as a consequence the audience is all the more satisfied to watch the character slowly realize the effect his cruelty has had on the other people in his life. The moment where Scrooge realizes that his stinginess when it comes to paying Bob Cratchit may very well lead to the death of Cratchit’s ill son is, to me, one of the most poignant and heartbreaking moments in the entire literary canon.

In creating “Twelve Hundred Ghosts”, Heath Waterman imparts to us the sentiment of redemption being a possibility for all better than any single adaptation of A Christmas Carol ever could. Seeing all these different versions of Scrooge, all of whom exist in different time periods, and who have vastly different lives, realize that their philosophy of uncaring will only hurt those around them, embodies the universality of Dickens’ story. In this way, with this video, we can all see ourselves in at least one version of Scrooge, and understand that no matter when you live, what you look like, or who you love, you always have within you the ability to change.

You can watch “Twelve Hundred Ghosts” below. I would highly recommend checking it out — if you have an hour to spare between studying for finals, that is!

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