How Hollywood and the U.S. Postal Service stole Christmas

A few months ago, as millions of Americans scribbled addresses on Christmas card envelopes, few had any idea that their holiday correspondences would soon become traveling advertisements for a Hollywood moneymaker—How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The real Grinch, however, turns out to be the U.S. Postal Service, which struck a big deal with Universal Pictures and stamped every piece of U.S. mail, including all those Christmas cards and presents, with the near hypnotic slogan “Happy Who-lidays” as a postmark. Though seemingly a playful reference to Jim Carrey’s new blockbuster, this reveals something far darker about the marketing haze in which we live.

The U.S. Postal Service abused the immense power it has as the nation’s mail delivery system by repeatedly shoving the slogan into our mailboxes, our homes and our thoughts. That the government uses mail delivery to sell movies for Hollywood is outrageously unethical. In order for individuality to prevail over corporate culture, we must face this behavior with indignation.

In true corporate reciprocity, the post office uses images of the Grinch to sell its wares as well, under the guise of “Whoville spirit.”

Here is how the USPS explains the action on its Web site:

“Universal Studios and the United States Postal Service team up! USPS is partnering with Universal Studios’ production of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and more specifically the Whoville Post Office, as the theme for the Holiday 2000 Advertising and Promotion Campaign. Also, USPS is selling Whoville Post Office mail-related merchandise for children.”

Perhaps we allow this because we’re intimately familiar with the way the commercial media blitzes us into a frenzy with pop music, fast food and big budget movies. We know nothing is sacred and we’ve stopped expecting it to be so. The postmark campaign, however, is a new low even for our consumer culture.

While the mainstream media covered stories such as “Post Office Ready for Christmas 2000,” the real news is that the United States Government and Hollywood sweet-talked the public into a Whoville trance. And considering that despite awful reviews, Grinch was still the second biggest opener of the year, making over $55 million on its debut weekend. It seems a whole lot of folks fell for it.