December 20, 2022


The Santa Clause: Magical Christmas Classic, or a Violation of Contract Law?

By: Brittany Hunter

It’s that time of year again, when we turn on our favorite childhood Christmas movies to rekindle the holiday spirit we felt as kids. 

One of the most beloved Christmas movies, in my humble opinion, is the Tim Allen classic, The Santa Clause

In a nutshell, the plot tells the story of a subpar father, Scott Calvin, who accidentally contributes to Santa’s untimely death and upon putting on the Santa suit at the behest of his young son, enters into a binding contract that forces him to assume the role of Santa Claus until he dies or is no longer allowed to fulfill the tasks this job requires. 

As a child I loved the silliness of watching Tim Allen forcibly turn into Santa against his will, gaining a ton of weight and growing a long white beard. But as an adult who works with lawyers, the plot is legally problematic. 

So allow me to ruin this beloved Christmas classic to appease my inner legal nerd. 

The Santa Clause

When the real Santa is lying on the roof unconscious (rather dark now that I think about it) Scott Calvin checks the suit pocket for identification. Instead, he finds a business card that reads:

 “If something should happen to me, put on my suit. The reindeer will know what to do.”

Trying to appease his son, who is not a huge fan of spending time with his work-obsessed father, Calvin puts on the suit and Santa’s body disappears, as to where it goes, we never find out. 

But unbeknownst to Calvin, there was more on that card than just a simple sentence. 

After arriving at the North Pole the head elf informs him that he is now the new Santa and there is nothing he can do about it because of the “Santa Clause.” 

Calvin is confused, so the head elf pulls out a very large magnifying glass to read the absurdly small print on the back of the card, which reads:

“In putting on the suit and entering the sleigh, the wearer waives any and all rights to any previous identity, real or implied, and fully accepts the duties and responsibilities of Santa Claus in perpetuity until such time that wearer becomes unable to do so by either accident or design.”

For the rest of the movie it is just assumed that this was a legally binding contract that locks Calvin into a life as Santa Claus.

But is the contract actually legal?

A Little Thing Called Consent

Contract law hinges on one very important premise: consent. All parties of a contract must agree to the terms and conditions before a contract is deemed legal. Without consent, a contract is invalid. 

Calvin makes it very clear that he does not want to be Santa. And he didn’t even know that any such clause existed that would bind him to this role. 

Forget that this is shady, to say the least, on the North Pole’s part, but there is also no way Calvin could have agreed to terms he wasn’t didn’t even know existed. 

Not only is this contract void due to the lack of consent, it’s also not enforceable for several reasons. 

Let’s say that this case made it to a U.S. court, it would be thrown out immediately because you cannot have a contract that involves an illegal act. 

The Santa Clause is a clear violation of the 13th Amendment, which made indentured servitude illegal. Forcing Calvin to take on a job against his will, which as far as we know offers no compensation, is clearly unconstitutional. 

There is also the matter of jurisdiction. 

The North Pole and the United States are under two entirely different legal systems. And while I’d love to see a dramatic sequel to the film featuring the landmark case, Calvin v. North Pole, a trial would never happen because there would be no court that could even hear the case. 

The Right to Not Grow A Beard

Now on to my last point: bodily autonomy. 

The Santa Clause allowed the North Pole to take complete control over Calvin’s body. Over the course of the movie he experiences unwanted and uncontrollable weight gain along with the appearance of long white hair and a beard.

In a free society, bodily autonomy is a fundamental right, this is what makes the drug war so egregious. An individual should decide what happens to their body. And yet, the Santa Clause has stripped Calvin of this right. 

The Magic of Ignorance

In summation, the Santa Clause is, at best, unenforceable and at worst, an unconstitutional affront to individual liberty. 

Of course, one of the wonders of childhood magic is the ability to disregard these unrealistic plotlines. For example, as a child I never once wondered why the very same parents who don’t believe in Santa never question where all the presents under the tree come from on Christmas morning. 

Plot holes aside, Christmas is about unleashing childhood joy, no matter how unrealistic it may be. So while the Santa Clause may make no legal sense, I still make an effort to suspend reality for 90 minutes and enjoy a film that brings so much joy to the young and old.