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Grinch (The Grinch 2000)
"The nerve of those Whos. Inviting me down there - on such short notice! Even if I wanted to go my schedule wouldn't allow it. 4:00, wallow in self pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:00, solve world hunger, tell no one; 5:30, jazzercize; 6:30, dinner with me - I can't cancel that again; 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing... I'm booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness. But what would I wear? "-Grinch (The Grinch 2000)
by Samantha Bonito
The Grinch is a furry green creature, and the star in the movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” played by the actor Jim Carrey in the year 2000. The movie is based on the 1966 TV special, which is based on Dr. Seuss’s 1957 book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. With Grinch’s strong resentment towards the townspeople of Whooville, sarcasm, bad temper, cruelness, antisocial behavior, insanity and child-like behavior, it can be questioned if the Grinch has a heart at all, as he was accused for having a heart two sizes too small. (Howard, 2000)
The Grinch’s experience of suffering a painful childhood may be the reason he lashes out irrationally at others and causes terror and disaster. His grudges toward his childhood peers lead the Grinch to an unhealthy obsession with making others lives miserable, and plotting a scheme to steal Christmas. (Howard, 2000)
Born on Christmas Eve, Grinch is referred to as Mr. Grinch, or The Grinch. Grinch lived in the Pontoo Mountain Range in Whooville, a small town located inside of a snowflake during his childhood years. The town is home to the “Whoo” people and is well-known for its Christmas cheer, extravagant decorations, and presents. The people live a chaotic, hyper intensive and optimistic lifestyle. The meaning placed on the holiday, and classmates who tease him for his facial hair, both reinforce Grinch’s pessimistic outlook on life. (Howard, 2000)
Grinch spent his adult years in social isolation in his cave-like factory at the top of Mount Crumpit, a mountain North of Whooville. He lived only with his dog Max. His main drives during his adult years were getting pleasure out of playing pranks on people, scarring children, and scheming. The only person who wants and tries to understand the Grinch is Cindy Loo Hoo, who nominated him for the Holiday Cheermeister award. Grinch’s alternating cycles of good and bad behavior (more bad than good) show his longing for a little love, acceptance, and understanding, to change him into a happy, socially engaged individual. Influenced by Cindy Loo Hoo’s innocent mannerisms, and relentless actions of showing kindness towards him, he changed his outlook on life to a positive one. His epiphany of realizing that he could not stop Christmas from coming led his heart to grow three sizes bigger, return all of the items he stole from the Whoos, and apologize. Upon achieving acceptance from the Whoos, Grinch reprioritized his life and returned to Whooville to live in society. (Howard, 2000)
The Neo-analytic approach to personality psychology emphasizes motivations and social interactions, and is concerned with the individual’s sense of self (ego) as the core of personality. Psychologists Alfred Adler, Karen Horney, and Carl Jung, use neo-analytic ideas to assess the Grinch’s personality in the sense that his personality is determined by unconscious forces (Friedman, 2009, p. 110).
Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology theory of personality places emphasis on an individual’s motivations and a person’s perceived niche in society as the origin of their personality.
(Friedman, 2009, p. 119).
Adler would say that the Grinch was the victim of an inferiority complex, due to his exaggerated feelings of personal incompetence which resulted from a childhood experience that left him powerless
For example, the Grinch had no friends in school, and when he tried to impress a girl that he liked by giving her a homemade gift, he got laughed at by his peers and teacher. They were laughing at bloody cuts on his face that resulted from him trying to shave for the first time
Grinch’s failed attempt to shave to was an intention to eliminate his peers making fun of his excessive facial hair. Later in life, the Grinch’s intelligence is portrayed through his detailed and successful evil schemes in which he torments the Whoo’s. Grinch’s organ inferiority may come from being born with a heart two sizes too small, which may be compensated for with his tallness, and excessive bodily facial hair. Adler would say that Grinch’s inferiority complex is his motivation to overcome his childhood struggles, by fabricating a superiority complex
(Friedman, 2009, p. 119).
At one instance, Grinch yells to his dog Max that he is smarter than him, and sarcastically snickers at him because he chased after a stick that the Grinch only pretended to throw
. This is the Grinch’s way of maintaining a sense of self worth. His bragging about accomplishing scarring children through tactful schemes is an exaggerated opinion about his abilities. When he is informed that he has been nominated for the Holiday Cheermeister award, (an award for the Whoo who deserves a back slap and needs holiday cheer the most) he finds comfort and amusement in the fact that there was a town full of losers and is quite pleased
. An indication of his superiority complex is his need to demonstrate dominance over the Whoos by stealing Christmas from coming.
Adler would apply his concept of an aggressive drive to the Grinch, because the Grinch is driven to lash out on several occasions against his inability to achieve something as a reaction to perceived helplessness (Friedman, 2009, p. 119). During an award ceremony for the Grinch, he has the opportunity to play a potato sack contest against children. He acts like a child by trying so hard to beat them, and when he crosses the finish line he screams “I’m number one! No child can beat the Grinch! Ha-ha! I beat you!
(Howard, 2000). The Grinch’s actions of burning down the town’s Christmas tree, keying cars, and breaking traffic lights, are all examples of his aggressive drives toward leaving the Whoo’s with nothing, to gain vengeance for never being a part of their Christmas celebration
. These drives are defense mechanisms to protect his hurt feelings from being mocked as a child, and constant painful memories he experiences when around others. Adler would say that the Grinch’s attempt to destroy the Whoo’s happiness by stealing Christmas would eliminate his perceived flaws of not sharing the same appreciation for Christmas as them. This perfection striving which is described by Adler as an attempt to reach fictional goals is the only way that the Grinch can fit in to the Whoo society, and not be a social outcast. (Friedman, 2009, p. 120) If he takes away the one important holiday to the Whoo’s culture, they would be on his spirit level with nothing to hold against him. According to Adler, Grinch has a choleric personality type in which he is angry against arbitrary controls of his life, and attains poor interpersonal relations (Friedman, 2009, p. 122). This temperament, which can be characterized by yellow bile and possibly his green pigmented fur, explains his aggressive and domineering behavior towards the Whoos. His domineering personality shows through acts of shouting at the Whoo’s, being condescending towards their lifestyle and avarice for gifts, tying up Cindy Loo Hoo, and being thrilled when others are sad
. He shows resentment towards the Whoos because they act like they are better than him, the only way down from his cave is through a dumpster, and he is constantly being called stinky and mean. Grinch has an avoidant life style in which he stays safe by not facing life’s problem, to avoid possible failure. This is a possible explanation for the Grinch living in social isolation for his adult years on Mount Crumpit, to avoid contact with the Whoos. However, Grinch shows an interest in socializing with the Whoos upon having an epiphany, demonstrated by returning stolen presents, holding hands with the Whoos, carving the Roast Beast, and partaking in singing Christmas songs and festivities
. Adler theorized that humans have innate potential to cooperate with others and to work toward societal goals, and that environmental influences were stronger than biological influences (Friedman, 2009, p.121). The Grinch’s return to society and ultimately his transformation was the result of him realizing he had the potential to interact and cooperate with the Whoos and was capable of living in harmony with them, such that his social interest became activated, and his heart grew threw sizes bigger.
Neo-analyticist Karen Horney discovered that an individual’s helplessness is the ensuing struggle to gain individuality and control which molds the self. (Friedman, 2009, p. 125) Horney would attribute the Grinch living in social isolation to anxiety and loneliness. Although the Grinch chose to live in isolation, this effort of independence is minimized by his constant anxiety towards not living amongst the Whoo’s. Instead of staying inside of his cave and forgetting about the outside world, he is constantly looking down at the town from the top of his mountain talking about how annoying the Whoo’s are, how much he hates them, and how he can plan to terrify and destruct their lives
. This basic anxiety is due to his fear of being alone, which arose from the insecurity of not feeling love and guidance from his parents. Grinch is never willing to admit to these unconscious troubles. Horney would say Grinch’s withdrawn style of living on top of the mountain alone and only socializing with others when dressed in disguise, is a mode of adapting to the world because he is believes it is best not to engage emotionally at all (Friedman, 2009, p.126). The Grinch is capable of overcoming his idea of the despised self, consisting of his shortcomings, and negative evaluations from his child hood peers. The Grinch’s real self perception is shown when he has an epiphany about himself after realizing that stealing from the Whoo’s was a bad thing. He begins to feel, cry, and love, and his full potential for self realization is achieved when he helps Cindy Loo Hoo out of immediate danger, returns stolen items back to the owners, and joins society
. Horney would say that Grinch has an aggressive personality type in which he controls others such making his dog dress up in antlers, forcing him to lead the sleigh, and trying to take the Whoo’s control of Christmas away
. Grinch uses a self protective mechanism of attaining power to ensure that nobody would hurt him in which Horney would say is his strategy as a defense mechanism against anxiety (Friedman, 2009, p.127). Grinch’s scheme to steal Christmas is a neurotic need for power. When the Grinch returns to society and gives back stolen gifts, it is because his basic anxiety had been alleviated. He was provided with feelings of belongingness, acceptance, and safety.
Carl Jung would attribute Grinch’s socially unacceptable behavior to his shadow archetype and collective unconscious. The shadow archetype represents the dark and unacceptable side of personality, and the personal unconscious is the component of the mind that contains thoughts and feelings which are not currently a part of conscious awareness
(Friedman, 2009, p. 112-113).
Grinch displays these components when he gives a saw to children on the street and tells them to run fast with it. Dressing up as Santa Claus before stealing the Whoo’s gifts is an unconscious attempt to portray himself as the Whoo the Whoo’s want him to be
. They want him to love Christmas and be a part of the traditions. The Grinch does this because he wants to be loved and accepted.
The interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry is Harry Stack Sullivan’s approach to personality focusing on recurring social situations an individual faces
(Friedman, 2009, p. 328).
In order to explain why people’s behaviors vary, Interactionist Kurt Lewin says that behavior is a function of a person and the environment (Huntington, 2011, p. 2). Psychologists Harry Stack Sullivan and Henry Murray use ideas about the power of social situations to assess The Grinch.
Sullivan would say that Grinch’s personality is closely associated with his social situations. Sullivan describes personality as “the relatively enduring pattern of recurrent interpersonal situations” (Friedman, 2009, p. 112-113). The Grinch experiences flashbacks to painful childhood memories which cause him to lash out irrationally. For example, every time the Grinch sees a shaver and hears the buzzing sound of it when turned on, the recurrent memory of his child hood peers mocking him for the cuts he had on his face from shaving haunts him. This experience was so painful that when reminded of it he steals, burns trees, vandalizes property, and terrifies others (Howard, 2000).
Although the Grinch often displays negative aspects of his personality, there are times when he seems to respect society and social norms. Sullivan would say that this is because people become different in different social situations, and that the idea that a person has a single, fixed personality is just an illusion. (Friedman, 2009, p. 329). For instance, despite Grinch’s antisocial and trouble causing behavior, the time when Cindy Loo Hoo was trapped in the sorting machine screaming for help, he safely pulled her out instead of standing by and watching harm come to her. However, when she says thank for saving me, he covers up his kind act by tying her up in a large amount of wrapping paper and tape (Howard, 2000). It seems that he does not want his reputation as a mean creature to be destroyed.
Another instance in which Grinch’s personality changes from aggressive to compassionate is when Cindy Loo Hoo is about to fall off of the top of Mount Crumpit, and he does everything he can to save her and safely bring her down the mountain and back to her parents. At this point he also returns all of the items he stole to the owners, and apologizes for his behavior (Howard, 2000). Sullivan would blame society for most of Grinch’s problems since all of his psychosocial threats to his well-being are loneliness, isolation, and rejections, which are all inherently social (Friedman, 2009, p. 327). Since the Grinch’s peers served as a social mirror for the formation of his identity, all he really knows is that one can gain pleasure from other’s suffering, therefore he puts others down by name-calling, and mocking others as an adult. Sullivan’s idea of chumship is an explanation for Grinch’s behavior because he mirrors his peers’ interpersonal rejection (Friedman, 2009, p. 327).
Henry Murray, who viewed personality as the study of human lives across time, would say that the Grinch’s personality was shaped from a series of experiences encountered throughout his life (Huntington, 2011, p. 3). The Grinch’s unconscious motive to be accepted and loved by the Whoos combined with the environmental pressure of engaging in Christmas spirit explains why the Grinch is such a complex individual. Murray would say that the Grinch was influenced by specific needs in order to respond to his environment. Grinch has a need for affiliation, a need to be near others and communicate with them in an enjoyable manner. Since Grinch has trouble getting along with others because his beliefs about Christmas are so different, he is an outcast and has no social support system. Grinch has a need for sex, and to form an erotic relationship with his childhood crush Martha May. Since he was embarrassed in front of her as a child, he thinks that winning the Holiday Cheermeister award as an adult will impress her and make him more appealing to her. Grinch has a need for exhibition, a need to be seen and heard by others. When the Mayor proposes to Martha May with a huge diamond and brand new car, Grinch interrupts the proposal by making a loud scratching noise by keying a car, and screams a speech at the crowd to take the attention off of the proposal (Howard, 2000). This environmental push of the situation sets the Grinch off into a jealous rage because he had tried giving Martha a beautiful gift as a child, but was rejected because of his differences. Murray would say that Grinch’s thema, a combination of his individual needs and environmental presses explain his impulsive, aggressive, resentful personality (Friedman, 2009, p. 331).
Although the Grinch’s personality seems to predict his aggressive behavior, the situations he is exposed to are so powerful that psychologists may not be able to accurately assess Grinch’s personality. For instance, the Grinch did not like Christmas as a young boy, acknowledged the fact that he looked physically different from everyone, yet still tried to get into the spirit of Christmas by making a Christmas gift for a classmate he liked (Howard, 2000). When placed in the classroom situation of giving a gift for a holiday he didn’t care for, combined with the laughter and jeering of his gift and appearance from teachers, and peers, the power of the situation caused Grinch to have a mental breakdown. He had been rejected on so many levels which led him running away from the situation and never returning to avoid the hurt. Perhaps this one situation was so powerful enough to keep him from ever trying to be like anyone else again, and therefore remained independent, and had to deal with emotions alone in isolation. According to Amy Huntington’s lecture on the person-situation interactionist approach, “We seek situations and feedback that reinforce our self-conception” (Huntington, 2011, p.9) Since the Grinch is referred to from the Whoos as a “Mean, stinky old Grinch”, he seeks to play pranks on them to re-enforce his reputation. All he ever wanted was to be accepted by the Whoo’s. When they talk about how terrifying he is without even knowing them, he wants to live up to the idea of being terrible, because it is an internal motive to be accepted by the Whoo’s, even though it is in a negative perspective. This is why Grinch sends blackmail, jury duty, eviction notices in their mail, and has an answering machine outgoing message saying, “If you utter so much as one syllable I’ll hunt you down and cut you like a fish, if you’d like to fax me press the star key” (Howard, 2000) From this quote, one can see how he is trying to play the role of a terrifying maniac, yet at the same time is basically saying in the second part of the message with an inviting voice, hey, disregard what I just say, and leave me a fax! Grinch’s personality is mind-boggling to say the least.
Although Jung said that people have one archetype that fits their personality best, it can be argues that the Grinch may have more. I believe the Grinch fits best under the shadow archetype, however, the demon archetype would explain another side of the Grinch’s personality. The demon archetype is one that embodies cruelty and evil, which is seen when Grinch puts his stealing Christmas plan into place (Friedman, 2009, p. 112-113). It can be argued that the Grinch may also have more than one of Adler’s described bodily humors. Grinch shows sad and depressive moods of a Melancholic, and apathetic and conforming on the outside but tense and distraught on the inside, signs of a Phlegmatic. Grinch would be Phlegmatic in the sense that he is portrayed by the Whoos as a menace to society; therefore he conforms to their perceptions and plays the role of a horrible creature. Yet there are times where he can care less about the hurting the Whoo’s feelings, his disgusting hygiene, and disregard for structure and organization in society and in his home.
I find that the Neo-analytic approach is the most pertinent theory to assess the Grinch’s personality because of the heavy emphasis placed on an individual’s sense of self and motivations. Grinch’s perceived niche in society really shaped his perceptions, thoughts, and motivations which in a way justify his bi-polar behavior. Perfection striving is the behavior that best describes him because his need to be loved and accepted by the Whoo’s initiated his motivation to do whatever it takes to fit into society.
I think it is really interesting to see how the Grinch tries to fit into society with two opposing personality types. For instance, this quote represents Grinch’s mentality as a whole and sums up his personality problems, "
The nerve of those Whoos. Inviting me down there - on such short notice! Even if I wanted to go my schedule wouldn't allow it. 4:00, wallow in self pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:00, solve world hunger, tell no one; 5:30, jazzercize; 6:30, dinner with me - I can't cancel that again; 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing... I'm booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness. But what would I wear?" (Howard 2000)
He says this after he has been nominated for the Holiday Cheermeister award by the Whoo’s, and must accept it at one of their celebrations. The fact that he’s been living alone for so long, his contemplation and consideration of attending shows his need for affiliation, and his interest in being accepted by the Whoo’s. His indecisiveness about going only if he can find something nice to wear shows his interest in wanting to impress the Whoo’s, and conform to their social norms. He makes excuses about why he can’t go although they aren’t substantial, only plans with himself. When he says that solving world hunger is on his to-do list but to tell nobody he found the solution, this is another example of living up to his bad reputation. He truly does have a kind heart and potential to be a loving, caring Whoo, he just does not want anyone to see that side of him for the fear of being rejected again.
erson-Situation Interactionist Approach accurately captures
The Person-Situation Interactionist Approach accurately captures
the Grinch’s personality, attributing certain aspect to experiencing different social situations. Grinch does not have a fixed personality by any means. Grinch’s personality in which he is malicious, impulsive, and wicked, he performs immoral actions to live up to what the Whoo’s portray him to be. The personality in which he is caring, and sympathetic, and acknowledging of his wrong doings, he is transforming into the Whoo in which the Whoo’s actually want him to be. Ultimately, fluctuations in Grinch’s personality result from different powers of different situations, and a need to be socially accepted.
Friedman, H. S. & Schustack, M. W. (2009). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Grazer, B (Producer), & Howard, R (Director). (2000). Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas [Motion Picture]. United States: Universal Studios and Image Entertainment.
Huntington, A. (2011) Chapter 10:
Person-Situation Interactionist Aspetcts of Personality.
[Powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from
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