After yet another viewing of Elf, starring Will Ferrell, I looked past the endless laughs and quotable scenes and found that there is much to be learned from Buddy the Elf.
For those who have not seen Elf, it is a comedy directed by Jon Favreau that focuses on Buddy the Elf’s search for a purpose as a human, opposed to his adopted life as a Christmas elf. Elf uses a comedic Christmas backdrop to show a search for purpose in a closed-minded society that is quick to reject. The opening scene of Elf shows Buddy crawling into Santa’s bag when he visits Buddy’s orphanage. When Buddy winds up at the North Pole, he is adopted by Papa Elf. Well into his adult life, Buddy comes to face the inevitable fact that he is indeed a human and not an elf. Santa and Papa Elf both do what they can to prepare Buddy for his journey to New York to find his father. After some advice from a snowman followed by Mr. Narwhal’s iconic farewell, Buddy begins his journey.
Buddy wants to be loved and accepted, and what better place to find love and acceptance than his father? Buddy knows that he is a human, and he wants to embrace his identity while applying the lessons he learned at the North Pole in the human world. Amidst constant rejection and shame, Buddy relentlessly pursues love and faces rejection with a happy heart. However, there is a severe blow to Buddy’s spirit late in the film. Buddy crashes one of his father’s important meetings to proclaim that he is in love. Buddy’s father, Walter, explodes in anger. Buddy leaves a heartbroken note and runs away. His half-brother Michael finds the note and crashes the same meeting to alert his father. Walter’s heart is softened, and love prevails. Walter and Michael find Buddy, and in an exciting string of events, Christmas is saved.
Buddy’s endless joy is astounding. He embraces the Christmas spirit as if every waking moment is Christmas morning until he is dealt a great deal of sorrow. He is seemingly disowned and told to forget that he has a father. The human spirit can only take so much, especially one that has come such a long way just to find love and purpose.
We are not that different from Buddy. Take a minute to analyze what you spend your time doing. Is not everything you do, in one way or another, driven by love? How would you handle being disowned by your driving force? Whether that be a person, a cause or an idea, a lost love is destructive.
Despite Buddy’s joy and elf-like perseverance, he is reminded that he is human when he faces disappointment.
We are all subject to disappointment, but in our disappointment, we should not give up. In the midst of darkness, we may find a purpose that brings us back to the light. Buddy finds himself mindlessly wandering through New York City when he sees Santa’s sleigh fall from the sky. Upon finding Santa in Central Park, Buddy is told by Santa that he is “more of an elf than anyone I’ve ever met.” In this instance, Santa is the human symbol of Buddy’s joy telling him to embrace what he is. Buddy embraces his personality and joy and saves Christmas, bringing joy to others in the process. He finds his purpose in the very same city that he lost it.
What else can we learn from Buddy the elf? What knowledge can be taken from a grown man who spreads Christmas cheer like a courageous eight-year-old? Buddy is joyful and fearless; he seeks to accomplish his goal, not knowing what lies ahead.
In the end, he is a hero, despite leaving severe pain and rejection behind him. If nothing else, we can learn that the road ahead is long, winding, and narrow; there are multiple opportunities to succumb and be what the world wants you to be.
However, in the presence of the right people, our passions are celebrated and understood. If we open ourselves up to those we trust, love will guide us to the finish line, and we might just save Christmas in the process.