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December 19, 2013

Yes, Virginia, "Die Hard" Is A Christmas Movie

There is some question about this. Some people are claiming it's not a Christmas movie, but rather "just a movie set at Christmas."

I say yes it is a "Christmas movie," at least by the standards set by other acknowledged "Christmas movies," but only because I'm bored and I don't feel like writing about Obamacare.

The Naysayers claim that a Christmas movie must be about, you know, Christmas, or mostly about Christmas. Which seems like a reasonable position to take, until they begin listing the movies they call "Christmas movies:" Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, It's a Wonderful Life.

But are these movies really about Christmas?

I'm afraid people playing the Traditionalist Card here have exposed themselves to trump by another Traditionalist Card: a real Christmas movie is about the birth of Jesus, yes? That is, after all, the Reason for the Season.

So why are corporate fantasias like Miracle on 34th Street said to be "Christmas movies"? Santa is -- well, let's put it out there. Santa is a pagan wood spirit who was called "Saint Nick" during Christianization of Northern Europe in order to bring the Germans, Norsemen, and other Odin-worshippers along.

"Santa" is not Christmas. Santa is greeting card bullshit.

A Christmas Story is based on a series of short stories, most of which had nothing at all to do with Christmas, which were written together as a single movie, with "Christmas" serving as unifying device and bookend for the episodic material contained within it.

The movie begins with a trip to Santa at the store, and ends with Christmas. Almost nothing between these Christmas bookends has anything at all to do with Christmas. The opening, the Red Ryder BB gun parts, and ending are all from the same story, which are arranged before, in between, and after the other unrelated episodes to give the film a sense of narrative coherence.

Furthermore, it's, again, about the corporate notion of Christmas-- presents and greedy children.

It also contains strong sexual imagery.

This is your idea of a "Christmas movie"? Those lamps look like special orders for Satan's Bordello.

It's a Wonderful Life is Christmas-themed, but the story, obviously, has little to do with Christmas tradition. The Christmas setting is incidental-- George Bailey obviously could have chosen to commit suicide after January 1st. In fact, we all know now that that's when he would have been more likely to do so.

Christmas does not enter into the story at all, except in terms of background props and imagery. In fact, Christmas imagery is used to create an ironic contrast with Bailey's suicidally-depressive inner state and outward rage. (And yeah, he rages, drunk and ugly.)

These movies are chiefly not "Christmas stories," but other sorts of genre movies which are simply set during Christmas for thematic reasons.

Which is what Die Hard is. What's Die Hard about? Well, it's about a man who travels during the Christmas season to reunite with his family. That is very Christmassy. The dramatic arc is about being a better person for one's family, and the movie ends with a marital reconciliation.

In addition, a black cop redeems himself by shooting a German to death on the street.

The main story in Die Hard, sure, is about opposing a Greedy Thief who's executing a complicated hostile takeover and making the hero's life hell. But then, that's also the story of It's a Wonderful Life.

Sure, the Christmas stuff is mainly background props and music and people occasionally mentioning Christmas.

But how is that any different that the acknowledged "Christmas movies"?

Oh I know, I know: "You can't have a Christmas movie that features so many people being violently killed."

Ben Hur just emailed me to disagree.

Can't say the f-word in a Christmas movie?

Well, Ralphie says it, doesn't he? Yeah I know, he says "Fuuuuudge" but we all know what he really said.

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posted by Ace at 06:58 PM

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