The Nightmare Before Christmas: Hidden Theories Edition

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Slather fake blood onto your lips and get in “The Little Vampire” mood. Transform yourself with makeup and became a ravenous zombie. Wear your finest clown costume and spiked teeth and become everyone’s new nightmare. There are many ways to spook your way into Halloween, but before you go startling drunk college students with your costumes, take a moment to pay respects to the king of Halloween, Jack Skellington. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is a film unlike any other not only because of its creative art style, but the story itself, originally written as a poem and imbedded an array of hidden themes. Much like Jack Skellington, this movie desires to be viewed as more than just a spooky Disney movie. Here’s some hidden theories and themes that you might not have noticed.


Specifically, occupational depression, which is defined as the loss of pleasure with daily activities and behavior due to the conditions of one’s workplace; the entire plot of the story started out with Jack lamenting over the same boring job he had been doing for years. Jack Skellington had no interest in the successful Halloween even though the town praised him for it. It was best depicted in Jack’s famous monologue at the graveyards that showed how depression disconnects us from society. Jack’s feelings resonate with those of us who come to a point where we lose interest for most activities. Whether our symptoms came from the job we work for or from the continuous flow of daily life, depression can lead us to believe that we are alone in the world for how differently we feel.

Cultural Relativism

This may sound like a bit of a stretch, but hear me out. The theme of cultural relativism was used as a cry for understanding the fine line between the blending of cultures and its misuse. Cultural relativism is the understanding of another’s culture based on the perspective of that culture rather than one’s own culture.  As Jack attempted to create his own Christmas, he and the townspeople threw in their own experiences with Halloween into the production of Christmas toys and traditions, displaying a lack of relativism. The result was a complete failure. Jack’s assumption that his traditions were still superior played to his downfall. Although Jack crossed the line for essentially attempting a Christmas takeover, Santa sharing his Christmas traditions somehow worked instead.

Disney vs. Tim Burton

It’s safe to say that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is the literal equivalent of that one cousin that is rarely invited to family events. Co-producer Tim Burton is known for his Gothic art style that usually clashed with the Disney theme. Although Burton is known to stick with his theme, Christmas Town had a very light and friendly design that fit into the theme of the traditional Disney style. As a tale of two clashing worlds it seemed safe to say that the story heavily paralleled Tim Burton’s perspective of his imaginative relationship with Disney.

A definite Halloween classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” should never be forgotten, especially to all those ‘90s kids out there. The next time you decide to dust this movie off your shelves and watch it with your friends and family, be sure to keep an eye out for any theories that you might have missed.

Ngai Lum (Ben) Neoh is a senior double majoring in psychology and kinesiology pursuing a career in sport psychology. However, he is a firm advocate on finding multiple passions, especially those that are expressive. If he’s not running around MSU’s campus, you can find him sneakily obsessing over pictures of pugs.

Tags: halloween, nightmare before christmas, theories, tim burton