This is such a special Christmas commercial. Not because it warms the heart or brings back fond memories. It’s because this commercial is to blame for the rise of entitlement, narcissism, and socialism in our nation.
There are three elements that make this Fruity Pebble commercial a moral tragedy:
1) Rampant Sin. In 30 seconds, Barney breaks two laws: breaking and entering with intent to steal, and identity theft (Santa’s). In California, this is a felony punishable by prison time and a fine. Barney is not punished for either crime, which I’ll get to later. He also does not apologize–not even a half-hearted “sorry Fred.” In fact, by the end of the commercial, the untrained viewer would have forgotten these sins altogether because Santa has manipulated the situation by saying, “tis the season to be sharing” implying that allowing a thief to steal from you is “sharing.”
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. [2 Corinthians 9:7]
2) Corrupt Authority Figures. As I wrote earlier, the untrained viewer will think Santa is the moral authority, there to teach Fred how to properly behave. Santa’s worldview is full of contradictionsSa. Let me explain: Santa shames Fred for having a normal reaction to someone attempting to steal from him. Santa claims to only reward people through good behavior. “He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice… So be good for goodness sake!” This is one of the fundamental characteristics of Santa… or so we’re taught. Who gets rewarded in the commercial? The “naughty” Barney. Do we not see this same trend in our culture today? Covet your neighbor’s money? Let’s raise their taxes! It’s no coincidence that Barney dresses as (maybe even idolizes) this thug in the same way gang members idolize Scarface.
Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.
3) NO JUSTICE. How does the commercial end? Barney gets what he’s after. Santa rewards him! The System (Santa) gives it to him. There’s not even a moment where Santa says, “Hey, you know what, Barney? Maybe you ought to go back home, change into that burlap sack you wear, and knock on the door like a civilized caveman. And maybe apologize to Fred. Could you do that, Barn?” Even that would be something.
So, here’s what we know (or maybe what I just made up): Fred goes to work at that rock place and earns his clamshells. Wilma goes to the market to pick up some Fruity Pebbles to share with Santa because Fred likes to share. There’s no doubt about that. To me, it’s obvious he’s had this whole thing planned out for weeks. I’d be willing to bet money that this is a yearly tradition for him. If you notice, Fred’s in a good mood when the commercial starts. The only reason he gets angry is because Barney breaks into his house and stakes claim on Santa’s bowl of cereal.
Where is Barney’s money going, by the way? He works at the same place as Fred and they seem to have a similar lifestyle. Judging by Barney’s feelings of entitlement, I’m thinking he’s one of those guys that hits up the bar on payday and shouts, “Drinks on me!” Then there’s no money left for rent much less a $3.49 box of Fruity Pebbles. With the right coupons, you could get that down to $2.50 (California dollars).
The worst part is how broken Fred is at the end. He plans this special night for Santa, someone he clearly admires (now that I think about it, that may be Fred’s downfall: admiration for a charlatan like Santa), and Santa snaps at him for being upset with a criminal. Fred just wants to please Santa, so he buddies up to Barney and shares his pebbles. I know Fred is probably thinking, “This just doesn’t feel right.” Good. It shouldn’t. This was your downfall, Fred, putting your faith in Santa.
It eats at Fred, night after night. He tries to confide in Wilma, but she tells him to put it behind him. Then finally, 18 months later, he takes his own life. There are no heroes in this story.
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” [Romans 3:10b-12]