We’ve spent this year’s Spooptober talking about all those video game characters that wound up being much less frightening than they first appeared. Not everyone fit the idea to a T (cough cough Grunty cough), but we’ve been able to explore a variety of characters all the same. My last choice for the month is Jack Skellington from Kingdom Hearts and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” before that. He might not seem like he belongs here, but I think think he might just be a perfect fit. Why? Because his whole character more or less hinges on the gap between his appearance and his personality!
When Jack Skellington is first introduced in “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” he’s introduced as the “Pumpkin King.” That is, he’s supposed to be the scariest ghoul in an entire world of scary creatures. Well, at least that’s how people are supposed to see him. He’s got all the qualities necessary for this: incredible height, inhuman proportions, a face that can contort into some genuinely frightening expressions and his status as a living skeleton. In any other world, he’d probably be a truly terrifying and dangerous entity. In reality though, he’s just really good at his job.
While he certainly takes pride in his work, Jack is, as we all know, not actually a scary dude. Being spooky is just his job, one he’s grown somewhat disillusioned with by the time the audience meets him in the movie. This yearning for more than mere spooks is what sets the entire movie in motion, actually. See, Jack’s true personality couldn’t be further from his scary exterior. He’s a kind, genuine and gentle soul who’d very much like to make people happy in ways besides scaring them, which is perhaps why he finds the idea of Christmas so terribly fascinating.
We don’t see a whole lot of this in the first Kingdom Hearts, as it seems to take place before the events of the movie. Jack still fully believes in what he’s doing as the leader of Halloween Town, and he’s dead set on using anything and everything he can to make the holiday the best he possibly can. That enthusiasm leads him to the Heartless and is what, once again, kind of creates the crisis Sora has to help him solve.
Kingdom Hearts II shows us a Jack that still hasn’t quite seemed to learn his lesson after what happened in both the movie and in Kingdom Hearts 1. He’s not messing around with the Heartless anymore, but he is trying to help Santa by bringing Christmas to Halloween Town again. He really doesn’t seem to want to accept his role in the world, but the further incidents this causes with the Heartless and Oogie Boogie seem to help him finally understand that he can in fact help spread joy simply by doing what he does best: being scary.
Jack couldn’t see the positives of his role as the Pumpkin King since he thought the only way to help make people happy was to do what Santa does. He didn’t necessarily like that he was scary and sought to change it. Fortunately, he’s finally able to see the bigger picture thanks to Sora, Sally and Santa, and we see him at the end of Kingdom Hearts II planning to make the best Halloween he possibly can. We of course know all along that he’s more than just a scary skeleton, but it’s still interesting to watch Jack finally realize and come to terms with it. That’s why I think he’s the best possible character to end our little celebration on.
Thank you to everyone who’s kept up with us throughout the Spooptober festivities! It really means a lot! So, one last question for you: what do you think of Jack’s journey? Do you think he’s in a good place now? And with that, Happy Spooptober everyone! We hope your holiday is awesome!
Image by The Duck of Indeed.