Misanthropy is a general dislike, distrust, or hatred of the human species or a disposition to dislike and/or distrust other people. The term is also applicable to those who self-exile themselves or become loners because of the aforementioned feelings. The word comes from the Greek words μίσος (“hatred”) and άνθρωπος (“man, human being”). A misanthrope or misanthropist is a person who dislikes or distrusts humanity as a general rule.
We just spent an entire day dedicated to expressing gratitude and enjoying family and friends. Thanksgiving ushers in the season when our thoughts turn to peace on earth, good will toward men. Yet, the stories we most associate to this time of year feature some of the world’s best known misanthropes.
A Christmas Carroll is of course the story of a misanthrope redeeming himself from his curmudgeonly ways. Ebenezer Scrooge didn’t start out hating his fellow man, and with the help of the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, he’s able to reclaim his inner child in time to save both Tiny Tim and his own soul.
There is no redemption for It’s A Wonderful Life’s Mr. Potter. His heart is as black at the end of the film as it is when he sends Peter Bailey to an early grave. But there is also no come-uppance for this early icon of the 1%. While we can only hope karma catches up with him, we never get to see him pay for his evil deeds on film.
Fortunately this is not the case for one of my favorite Christmas misanthropes. Polly Holiday’s performance as Mrs. Deagle in Gremlins is both chilling and tender. Even though she forecloses on the downtrodden during the heart of the Christmas season, we almost feel sorry for her when she’s flung to her death from her chair lift into the December night. Almost, but not quite.