Continuing our month-long celebration of Halloween, Buck Off Magazine is excited to the Character Of The Month: Jack Skellington. As the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington is the protagonist of the cult classic The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).
Age: immortal spirit of Halloween
Job: Chief Scarer on Halloween night. Community leader.
Summary: The most famous, most loved member of Halloween Town, Jack is seen as a role model for all the young monsters.
RELEVANCE TO PLOT
Jack is the main character of The Nightmare Before Christmas, central to the plot and the catalyst to the story. Because of his fame, power and how the residents are completely dedicated to him, Jack’s every decision is seen as correct. Jack’s action are what move the story forward. When he tells the citizens that they should celebrate Christmas, they follow his command without question. And when things inevitably go wrong, he is the one to lead the sleigh and deliver the presents. There is no The Nightmare Before Christmas without Jack Skellington.
Jack starts the film lamenting his existence. While he may be adored by all, he is unsatisfied with the repetitive nature of his life. When he stumbles into Christmas Town, he doesn’t see it for what it is (a place of joy) but as something different from his life. He makes Christmas Town about him – a trait he carries through 85 percent of the movie. When Sally tries to confront him regarding her fears, he interprets them as her fears on creating his Santa costume. When the military fires on his sleigh, Jack sees it as a celebration of his achievements. Hell, even when Jack is shot out of the air he doesn’t see how his actions are impacting people. He congratulates himself on trying something new!
Jack is myopic and a little conceited but he does have an epiphany of sorts. He realizes that his strengths are primarily at celebrating Halloween and that he is a valued member of Halloween Town. Jack ends the story by sharing a piece of his Christmas dream with all the residents of Halloween Town.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is about learning to appreciate life, both the mundane and the extraordinary. It’s a story about stopping to smell the rose. It just takes Jack almost destroying a holiday to understand that lesson.
WHY HE NEEDS TO BE CELEBRATED
Jack should be celebrated because he’s a simple character. Jack doesn’t create convoluted plans. He sets his eyes on a goal and goes forward. As writers, it’s easy to want the main character to be the master of the world, the person who can solve any problem and stop every mistake from happening. But that’s boring. Jack is a fun, easily comprehensible character that doesn’t force viewers to dissect his every move to find hidden motives. Jack is just Jack. And in a time when every story is an allegory for a philosophy lecture, having a character just be is refreshing.
AS A WRITER, WHAT CAN YOU LEARN
Make your characters flawed. Jack has the best of intentions – he truly wants to celebrate Christmas – but because he is so short-sighted and so willing to overlook anything that could disrupt his plans, he doesn’t see the disaster he’s building.
When characters are perfect, they have perfect lives, perfect stories and are perfectly ignored by the masses. Conflict drives a story forward. Jack faces his nature and changes because he needs to grow. It takes him time and his growth is a little rushed, but at least Jack is interesting.
As a writer, you need to make your characters interesting. If your audience isn’t invested in the characters, it doesn’t matter what happens; people won’t stay to read or watch the story. A flawed main character trying their best is always more compelling than someone who doesn’t change due to the story.