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Who Tf Is Santa?

We dare to pose the ultimate question.

In a world filled with so many unique portrayals of Santa Claus, the concept can assume a multiversal ambiguity — altogether challenging the notion of an essentialized being. With so many separate iterations of Santa Claus simultaneously manifesting themselves across culture within a single month, we can find our notion of who Santa is beginning to entirely dissolve. This can be an incredibly disorienting experience, but fear not. Despite the many variations of Santa that we are continually inundated with, a core concept of what it means to be a Santa does still persist. Through a rigorous analysis of popular on-screen Santa Claus portrayals, it is possible to ground ourselves and determine once and for all which Santa Claus is the most Santa. By ranking various versions of Santa according to the below criteria, we will once and for all settle the question: Who is Santa?

Jolliness: This trait describes how cheerful, good-humored, and generally jovial a Santa is.

Altruism: This trait describes how concerned a santa is with the wellbeing of others.

Holiday Spirit: This trait describes a Santa's zest for the holiday season.

Eye-twinkle: This trait describes how magical a Santa seems.

Magicalness: This trait describes how magical a Santa is.

Cookies: A Santa can receive a maximum of 10 cookies and a minimum of one. More cookies indicate more overall Santa-ness.

Jess Harnell, Rick and Morty (2013)

Jess Harnell’s Ruben is an unsuccessful elderly man who agrees to let Rick construct a theme park inside of his body, providing the foundation for the series’s Christmas episode, “Anatomy Park.” This premise may not scream “Santa,” but his choice of costume does. To resolve our confusion, let’s consult the criteria.

Jolliness: 0 cookies

This Santa is not particularly jolly. He is quite unhappy with his life, hence he agrees to become a theme park.

Altruism: 10 cookies

This Santa is incredibly altruistic. Donating your body to a crazed scientist so that your body may become a theme park for others to enjoy is unconventional, but technically quite kind.

Holiday Spirit: 0 cookies

Contrary to what his outfit suggests, this Santa seems largely indifferent towards the season.

Eye-twinkle: 0 cookies

There is no sparkle in this Santa’s eye.

Magicalness: 3 Cookies

This Santa’s role in the episode is pretty passive, but an animatronic version of him that is constructed within the theme park inside of his body suggests that he once had a real zest for life and, as mentioned, his donation was kind.

Total Cookies: 2.6

This Santa has a low Santa-ness score, indicating that he is not a true Santa.

John Call, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

Often considered one of the worst movies of all time, the Santa Claus in this 1964 film is kidnapped by Martians who hope that he will reinvigorate the youth of Mars.

Jolliness: 5 cookies

This Santa is jolly, but in a way that feels like a parody of genuine Santa jolliness.

Altruism: 4 cookies

This Santa is supposed to help Martian youth, but only attempts to do so since he had been abducted. He then changes course and starts battling the Martians.

Holiday Spirit: 4 cookies

This Santa is more focused on battling Martians than preparing for Christmas.

Eye-twinkle: 6 cookies

This Santa does have a twinkle in his eye, but one that glitters in the light of Martian violence.

Magicalness: 4 cookies

This Santa makes toys and is a bit magical, but this magic is undercut by his will to conquer Mars.

Total Cookies: 4.6 cookies

This Santa is a Santa, but in a very un-Santa situation.

Robot Santa, Futurama (1999-2003)

In the future, Santa Claus is a killer robot who is voiced by various actors over the course of Futurama’s run. Is a killer robot Santa still a Santa?

Jolliness: 2 cookies

Armed with a laser gun and very willing to use it, this Santa is not particularly cheerful.

Altruism: 6 cookies

This Santa has an incredibly strong sense of justice. They want people to be nice, but have a very violent and sci-fi themed way of showing it.

Holiday Spirit: 3 cookies

This robot seems more focused on shooting people who are naughty than preparing gifts for those who are nice.

Eye-twinkle: 0 cookies

The only twinkle in this Santa's eye is the metallic shine of polished steel.

Magicalness: 2 cookies

This Santa is technologically advanced but that says more about the magic of engineering that Christmas.

Total Cookies: 2.6 cookies

This portrayal is more robot than Santa.

Billy Bob Thornton, Bad Santa (2003)

In this dark comedy, Willie only acts as Santa Claus as part of an annual con that he and his friend run at a local mall. However, just as it seems like he may be abandoning the little hope that he has left for his life, his friendship with a young kid helps him rediscover his own capacity for joy.

Jolliness: 3 cookies

This Santa is not jolly, but he does acquire some cheer over the course of the story.

Altruism: 2 cookies

Exploiting the Christmas cheer of others for personal gain is very un-Santa, but he does realize the error of his ways.

Holiday Spirit: 1 cookie

This Santa sees Christmas as an opportunity for personal gain more so than anything else.

Eye-twinkle: 4 cookies

This Santa lacks sparkle, but acquires it a bit.

Magicalness: 2 cookies

This Santa is not magical, he’s just a guy figuring things out.

Total Cookies: 2.4 cookies

This Santa lives up to the name.

Jeff Gillen, A Christmas Story (1983)

This mall Santa is a source of fear for many young children.

Jolliness: 0 cookies

This Santa is very grumpy.

Altruism: 0 cookies

This Santa is not invested in his job, which is to spread Christmas cheer.

Holiday Spirit: 3 cookies

He might not be into it, but he is there. He says “ho ho ho.” He gets some credit for growing through the motions.

Eye-twinkle: 4 cookies

He does have zest. It’s just not holiday zest.

Magicalness: 0 cookies

This Santa is also just a guy.

Total Cookies: 1.4 cookies

This is very much not a true Santa.

Barry Bostwick, Santa Girl (2019)

This charming Christmas movie features Harper from Wizards of Waverly Place (Jennifer Stone) as Cassie Claus, Santa’s only daughter. At odds with her father’s plan for her to marry Jack Frost’s son and take over the family business, she heads to University where she finds true love and independence.

Jolliness: 6 cookies

Domineering approach to parenting aside, this Santa is pretty upbeat.

Altruism: 7 cookies

He cares about his family and his work, but he also overestimates his ability to decide what is best for others. Though this Santa makes many attempts to help people, they often end up feeling more like attempts to control people.

Holiday Spirit: 9 cookies

This Santa is passionate about what he does and it shows!

Eye-twinkle: 5 cookies

This Santa doesn’t lack twinkle but he doesn’t have it either. He has the average amount of twinkle for a Santa.

Magicalness: 5 cookies

This Santa is passionate about what he does but he is not necessarily magical. Take him out of the Santa outfit and he really just seems like your average controlling father.

Total Cookies: 6.4 cookies

This Santa has an average amount of Santa-ness

Santa Paws, Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws (2009)

Technically Santa Paws is Santa Claus’s dog, but to the Air Buddies he might as well be the real deal.

Jolliness: 6 cookies

This responsible Santa is a bit more regal than jolly.

Altruism: 6 cookies

This Santa is very caring, but not always extremely understanding.

Holiday Spirit: 10 cookies

This movie is all about saving the magical Christmas Icicle, which is rapidly melting due to a lack of holiday spirit. This Santa fully understands the importance of getting into the season.

Eye-twinkle: 7 cookies

This Santa has more of a shimmer vibe than a twinkle vibe.

Magicalness: 10.5 cookies

This Santa is a talking dog who wears a Santa suit and gains power through a magical Christmas icicle. That is pretty darn magical.

Total Cookies: 7.9 cookies

This Santa has a pretty solid amount of Santa-ness, proving that the claim to Santa-ness is not species dependent. With that in mind, even as a dog Santa is still white and male though. Huh.

Stan Francis, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

This claymation Santa Claus and his cliquey, hive-minded reindeer crew eventually recognize Rudolph’s value after tormenting him for years when a brutal winter storm renders his shiny nose useful.

Jolliness: 5 cookies

This Santa is very jolly…when he needs you.

Altruism: 6 cookies

This Santa cares about delivering gifts to children and is genuinely invested in what he does. That said, as organization leader he really should be more attuned to the brutal social dynamics that have formed on his team and could do more to create an environment where reindeer aren’t ostracized for their appearances.

Holiday Spirit: 10 cookies

This Santa really does care about making sure that Christmas happens and will brave severe weather to ensure that it does.

Eye-twinkle: 9 cookies

Claymation Santa looks like whimsy personified.

Magicalness: 9 cookies

This Santa is dedicated to his craft and goes the extra mile to make Christmas happen.

Total Cookies: 8 cookies

This Santa has flaws but is very much a true and successful Santa.

Richard Attenborough in Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

This classic Santa Claus has his Santa-ness put on trial and subjected to very harsh and public scrutiny.

Jolliness: 10 cookies

This Santa is an eternal optimist and it rubs on everyone around him.

Altruism: 10 cookies

This Santa brings a department store to life and teaches a little girl – as well as many adults – the power of believing in magic!

Holiday Spirit: 10 cookies

Whether he’s scolding a drunken imposter at the Thanksgiving Day parade or bringing magic to the children of holiday shoppers, this Santa is passionate about keeping holiday spirit alive.

Eye-twinkle: 10 cookies

These are some of the most twinkly eyes to ever air.

Magicalness: 10 cookies

Even posing as a regular person, this Santa manages to bring an atmosphere of magic. That is how magical this Santa is.

Total Cookies: 8 cookies

This is the epitome of Santa.

Tim Allen in The Santa Clause (1994)

This Santa begins his journey as a workaholic absentee father with a struggling marriage, but eventually becomes one of the merriest Santas of all!

Jolliness: 9 cookies

Though he starts out as a cynic who desperately needs to reset his priorities, he more than compensates for this after embracing his new role as Santa Claus.

Altruism: 5 cookies

He really is not there for his family at the start, but he generally does care very much for others and after becoming Santa he does his best to keep everyone’s wellbeing in mind. He also did kind of kill the previous Santa Claus. Sure, that’s just how the Santa Clause works, but it does knock some points off. He put on the coat of a man that he knocked off of a roof.

Holiday Spirit: 10 cookies

This Santa gets very, very into the season after becoming Santa.

Eye-twinkle: 9 cookies

This Santa has a very magical energy,

Magicalness: 10 cookies

This magical energy is warranted. He became Santa by accident and is able to wish on an enchanted snow globe.

Total Cookies: 8.6 cookies

This Santa is pretty close to peak Santa-ness, but his early lore holds him back.


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