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20 Dec 2023

Elf (2003)

Featuring Chris Deacy

In 2003, relative newcomers, Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel, were cast in a film written, produced, and directed by a bunch of inexperienced guys, to star alongside national treasures, Ed Asner and Bob Newhart, and screen icon, James Caan. The film was Elf: a goofy story about a man, raised in the North Pole among Santa's elves, who sets off to New York City to find his long-lost Scrooge-esque father. Inspired by the stop-animation classic, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), infused with references to other Christmas staples such as A Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street (1934), and scored with beloved Christmas music spanning from the traditional (The Nutcracker) to mid-century croons (Baby It's Cold Outside), Elf quickly became classic in it's own right. For many people, this film that is a loving homage to so much Christmas media that came before is now the proto-typical Christmas movie. 

What can Elf tell us about the role movies play in Christmas celebration, and the common lessons they convey? And how should we understand them: As strictly secular content? Or something a little more religious? Join us for this special holiday episode as we chat with Dr Chris Deacy about Christmas movies and home-spun religion.

Episode Credits:

Many thanks to Dr Chris Deacy for his time and expertise. 

Chris is the Director of Studies for the School of Culture and Languages and the Course Lead for Philosophy, Religion and Ethics at the University of Kent. Chris's PhD back in the late 1990s, in the University of Wales, was in the area of redemption and film, and he has written several books over the years in the area of theology and film, with a particular focus on the cinema of Martin Scorsese. Chris hosts a weekly podcast called Nostalgia Interviews With Chris Deacy, and a weekly film programme on KMTV in Kent, where guests discuss their four favourite films. Chris has also presented a six part BFI-funded documentary TV series, called Generation Why, about religion, spirituality and ethics which explores young people’s views around faith and culture in the UK today. Chris’ latest book is, “Christmas as Religion: Rethinking Santa, the Secular, and the Sacred”. You can find Chris @DeacyChris


  • First and foremost, give Chris Deacy's book, Christmas as Religion, a read (especially Chapter 5, on Christmas films). You may also be interested in some of Chris' other publications on the topic:

    • Deacy, Chris. “The ‘religion’ of Christmas.” Journal of Scandinavian Cinema 3.3 (2013): 195-207.

    • Deacy, Chris. “Religion on the Radio: Using Christmas Religious Broadcasting to Reframe the Sacre-secular Interface.” Implicit Religion 21.1 (2018): 1-43.

  • Check out The Movies That Made Us (Netflix), Season 3 Episode 8, for a behind the scenes look at the making of Elf


Coming Soon

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