Strange Things You Never Noticed About Christmas Movies

I wait all year long to watch classic Christmas movies. And I mean classic. None of that bullshit inside Hallmark jargon. Sorry, I was way forcing that quote and I didn’t pull it off very well. I just can’t help myself, I am THAT in love with real classic Christmas movies that teach us morals about love and togetherness and what really matters. Over and over I watch them to feel the spirit of glorious trees with dazzling lights and turkey and puzzles and wine and family and shopping and wrappings. Something funny happens, though, when you’ve watched them over and over and over, year after year for decades. Weird patterns emerge. And you notice things. Little things that a casual viewer would never catch. Have you noticed any of these before?

Christmas Movies Do Not Include Christmas Day

I’ve come to discover that this is mostly due to an American obsession with the lead-up to Christmas. Most of us get so amped up through December, that by the time December 26 rolls around, we’re spent and ready to hibernate for the winter. A lot of European countries, on the other hand, don’t understand this. Yes, there’s a build-up to Christmas, but Eve and Day are merely a kick-off to Twelve Days of Christmas, which include various festivals and traditions.

So I suppose it’s the enormous Yule frenzy that Americans (including myself) adore that has caused a strange pattern in our most beloved movies: Almost none of them include Christmas Day. I suppose the idea is that by the time we get to the proper holiday, we’ve sorted all of our conflicts and obstacles. We’ve confessed our love. I guess. Still, it’s a little weird when you think on it. Still, a few films do treasure the proper holiday. After all, none of the takes on A Christmas Carol would work without Scrooge on Christmas morning. A Christmas Story and Home Alone also buck the trend.

  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Love Actually
  • Die Hard
  • Scrooged
  • The Ref
  • Bad Santa
  • Elf

Christmas Movies Feature a Character Watching It’s a Wonderful Life

My mom once explained to me that IAWL is such a Christmas classic because the rights to it were cheap or free or something in the 70s or 80s. I don’t know. She could’ve been making it up. Or drunk. Just kidding. Kind of. But the point was that the broadcast of this movie was so ubiquitous in the days before streaming and downloading, that it was almost inescapable at holiday time. The networks just hammered people with its saccharine message of faith and community. Hence, if you watch for it, so many of our beloved movies since that time have referenced Jimmy Stewart and Bedford Falls by directly showing us scenes. Movies within movies.

  • The Ref (the police officers watch it and accidentally record over some VHS evidence with a broadcast of it)
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  • Home Alone (the family watches a French dubbed version in Paris)
  • Gremlins

Christmas is For Getting Punched in the Face

This one is hard to explain. I guess holiday stress leads to a lot of violent confrontations. And there’s drinking. And family. Actually, the more I think on it, the more it makes sense.

  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Todd)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (George Bailey)
  • The Ref (Santa)
  • A Christmas Story (Scutt Farcus)
  • Gremlins (The Gremlins at the bar punch each other)
  • Die Hard (everybody)
  • Scrooged (Frank Cross)
  • Elf (Buddy is attacked by a children’s author)
  • Bad Santa (Santa)
  • Home Alone (if you count a shovel or paint can to the face)

Christmas Movies Involve Gunplay

This is even stranger than the “punched in the face” phenomenon. Granted, in two of the movies below, the guns in question are BB guns. And just because there are guns doesn’t mean there’s bloodshed. Except Die Hard. Lots and lots of guns and blood. I guess that, except for Ralphie’s exploits, all of the other holly jolly heroes have to contend with or commit a crime in order to save Christmas. That’s kind of weird, guys. We have strange taste in holiday adventures.

  • Home Alone (BB gun)
  • A Christmas Story (BB gun)
  • Bad Santa (police)
  • Scrooged (Elliott holding everyone hostage; the promo for The Night the Reindeer Died)
  • Die Hard (all the guns)
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (SWAT team has them)
  • Gremlins (who gave the Gremlins handguns?)

Christmas Movies Have a Lot of Power Outages

The power goes out during key scenes in a lot of Christmas movies. I’m sure this is a metaphor for powerlessness in the face of winter’s cruel wrath and the passing of years marked by the empty seats at the tinseled table before us. Just kidding. It’s mostly a cheap plot device to laugh at how patriarchs can be boobies. Or in other cases, a warning that you don’t have enough FBI guys.

  • Home Alone (power outage causes their alarm clocks to fail)
  • Scrooged (the lights on set are cut when Frank meets the Ghost of Christmas Present)
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (it’s more that the power fails when Clark tries to illuminate his yard)
  • Die Hard (FBI cuts the power to Nakatomi)
  • A Christmas Story (Dad blows a fuse lighting up the Christmas tree)

And as one final bonus, I’ll share with you a secret. The most bizarre thing you will ever notice in a Christmas movie. Next time you watch A Christmas Story, during the scene where Ralphie is waiting to see Santa, turn on the closed captioning–especially when the Wicked Witch is speaking. It’s terrifying.

Merry Christmas to all! Ho-ho-ho!

Bah, Humbug! Ebenezer Scrooge, American Politics, and the Republican Party

Or “The Political Dichotomy of Ebenezer Scrooge as Depicted by SJW Charles Dickens”

Welcome to the holly jolly time of year when we all smile a little brighter, we all drink a little more eggnog, and we all (oh so briefly) smile at the sight of snowflakes. And while we drape our tinsel and wrap our gifts, most of us will watch some form of the Charles Dickens masterpiece, A Christmas Carol. My personal favorite being the Married With Children television episode entitled “It’s a Bundyful Life” which featured guest-star Sam Kinison as a screaming angel. Scrooged, starring Bill Murray, is also at the top of the list.

What you may not have ever considered is that Dickens offers us a curiously apt allegory for modern American political views. Actually, they were designed quite deliberately as a moral tale for the mid-19th century, when Dickens experienced and witnessed terrible poverty and suffering. It is no secret that he was a social activist who advocated education reform, labor changes, and support for women and children.

But a lot of that is rightfully swept aside when we watch A Christmas Carol, or Scrooged, or Mickey’s Christmas Carol, or The Muppets Christmas Carol, or even Ebbie. Instead all of us, no matter our political stripe, focus on the sweet and sad story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation and yuletide magic. 

This is a jolly reminder, though, that the story is about more than Carol Kane hitting Bill Murray with a toaster, and is also very fun to use for taunting my Conservative friends with on social media every single December. May the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future help you ponder your political stance this holiday season.

Are You the “Before-Scrooge”?

Ask yourself that question in a very thoughtful way. What about the leaders you vote for? Which are they? Quite notably and deliberately, the priorities and values of Ebenezer Scrooge, our crusty miser, at the beginning of each tale mirror the views of many right-wing Conservatives:

  • Money and business are the highest priorities, and holiday cheer is manufactured for profit. As long as the economy is strong, then all is right in the world.
  • Charities do not deserve donations, for the poor should better themselves and stop mooching off of successful businessmen, such as Scrooge.
  • There is always someone with hands held out wanting a free lunch, and Scrooge isn’t buying.
  • Love and care are distractions from the bottom line. Think of Scrooge’s Belle as our planet and its wildlife, trees, oceans, and rolling hills. Just like Belle, the planet is just done with us, because we prioritize profit and treat her like crap.
  • Ebenezer’s protege, Bob Cratchit, doesn’t deserve more coal or pay because he does not have a desirable skill set to have an inherently higher value in the workforce.
  • Tiny Tim’s health care is hardly Scrooge’s problem, and the idea of others contributing toward the little lad’s well-being is  another way for the poor to mooch off of greater society.

It takes a hardened heart who sees dollar signs in the face of suffering.

Or the “After-Scrooge”?

After the three ghosts scare the bejeezus out of Ebenezer, he starts to adopt a new outlook on priorities and helping others. The Cratchit family gets a big Christmas goose, though they have done nothing in particular to deserve one (and for all Scrooge knows, they might end up selling some of the leftovers for god knows what). The charity fellows get a sizable donation, and Tiny Tim is promised top-notch healthcare that his family can afford. Ma Cratchit might even go get some birth control pills. 

Truly though, Scrooge’s transformation seems to appeal universally to people around the world. I know of none of my Conservative pals who watch the Dickensian tale and cry out that Scrooge lost his way by the end.

Yet, when the tinsel is packed away and the leftovers are all gone, they go back to their lives and their social media posts and their political stances like they wish they could elect “Before-Scrooge” to lead them. Nothing is free; you have to work hard and earn it. If you had value, you’d be winning. Tax breaks. Banks will save us. If it’s worthy, capitalism will fix it. The party of misers. The party of Jacob Marley.

We can’t hope for three ghosts to visit each Conservative household and reveal glimpses of our racial and misogynistic past, people starving and going without healthcare in the present, and a burning planet in the future. So our only hope is that the little child in our hearts who loves Christmas and always quietly cheered, “God bless us, everyone” will keep the spirit alive all year long. We can all be the “After-Scrooge” if we keep the Christmas flame burning.

Merry Christmas to all.

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