In his essay “Of Mimicry and Man,” Homi Bhabha argues that the efforts made by colonizing nations to civilize and convert natives results in mimicry, which he defines as “almost the same, but not quite” (86). • Colonial mimicry is defined as: “the desire for a reformed, recognizable Other, as a subject of a difference that is almost the same, but not quite. Which is to say, that the discourse of mimicry is constructed around an ambivalence; in order to be effective, mimicry must continually produce its slippage, its excess, its difference. • “…Mimicry emerges as the representation of a difference that is itself a process of disavowal” (86).
Furthermore, Bhabha states that mimicry “…fixes the colonial subject as a partial presence” (86). Bhabha defines this “partial presence” as “…both incomplete and virtual” (86); thus, the colonial subject is never fully recognized by the colonizers as an equal. • Bhabha gives the example of Charles Grant’s efforts to convert Indians to Christianity. He quickly found himself “caught between the desire for religious reform and the fear that the Indians might become turbulent for liberty…” because of what they were being taught by the Bible about civility and morality. • “Grant paradoxically implies that it is the ‘partial’ diffusion of Christianity, and the ‘partial’ influence of moral improvements which will construct a particularly appropriate form of colonial subjectivity. Inadvertently, Grant produces a knowledge of Christianity as a form of social control” (87).
The Nightmare Before Christmas • Jack’s role in the film is very reminiscent of the section in Bhabha’s essay that quotes Macaulay. Bhabha says, “Macaulay can conceive of nothing other than ‘a class of interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern- a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect” (87). While the people of Halloween Town are not being colonized by the people of Christmas Town, Jack acts as an interpreter of the customs and beliefs of Christmas Town.
Link to Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP5hVGA3WAg
• When Jack sings about his confusion concerning the customs and traditions of Christmas he says that he’s read the books about Christmas and still can’t seem to grasp it. He can’t reproduce the feelings he felt while in Christmas Town; thus he chooses to mimic them.
Link to Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7RYZvHpImM
• In the scene where the creatures of Halloween Town begin to “make Christmas,” it is apparent that their understanding is only a partial one. Furthermore, it calls to mind Bhabha’s concern about the effect of mimicry on the real thing, what he refers to as the “authority”. He says that mimicry can produce “…another knowledge of its norms” (86). In other words, by mimicking the customs of Christmas Town (rather poorly), the creatures of Halloween Town threaten the normal understandings of Christmas and what it entails.
Link to Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKAxikZmY-0