An A Christmas Story Story

don't shoot your eye out with this holiday classic

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Serena Wagner

It’s the very end of November, so have you watched A Christmas Story yet? No? Did you hear that it’s the very end of November? You better get on that. Make some popcorn. Call some friends. Make a ho-ho-holiday night of it.

I’ll pass.

For many who observe the obscure holiday/religious celebration/blowout flat screen TV sale known as “Christmas,” this film easily makes the short list for “Greatest Holiday Movie of All Time Whoo!” And I get it. I do. I appreciate movies injected with a good dose of nostalgia. I like purposely cartoony depictions of life in the 1940s. I love table lamps shaped like sexy legs and tongues stuck to flagpoles and little brothers wearing too much winter clothing.

I can’t go on lying to you. Some of the points I just listed are valid,
but the real reason I don’t like A Christmas Story is this:
Santa kicks the kid in the face.

However, the film has some pretty glaring problems. The pacing is all over the place. The cinematography is kinda dull. The child actors are darn near unwatchable in some scenes. And let’s be honest, the last scene of the movie features a pretty racist depiction of Chinese-Americans. The whole thing’s a veritable schlock fest of trite, uninspired ...

Damn, I can’t do it. I can’t go on lying to you. Some of the points I just listed are valid, but the real reason I don’t like A Christmas Story is this: Santa kicks the kid in the face.

Am I alone here? Is this one scene from a sentimental holiday movie not the cruelest fictional act of inhumanity ever preserved on film? Who wrote the stuff? Apparently, American radio/TV personality, writer, and actor Jean Shepherd did. And he’s a bastard.

Ol’ four-eyed Ralphie spends the entire third act of the film pinning his hopes and dreams – the culmination of his preadolescent desire, an official Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range model air rifle – on Santa Claus. When all the other adults in his life have failed him, he turns to the Big Guy, the one man society has told him is somehow capable of making wishes come true. What could go wrong?

Mike Paulus’s little heart could be crushed into a goopy pile of pain and despair, that’s what.

On that fateful day in the department store, Ralphie waits forever to see Santa Claus. The line is long and filled with idiots of all kinds. When he finally – finally – gets unceremoniously tossed onto Santa’s lap, he freezes. The moment is terrifying. He’s being cradled by a man with godlike powers and there’s a huge crowd of people watching. He can’t speak. He can’t think. I know the feeling!

Santa suggests a football and then the cackling elves rip Ralphie away and throw him down a garbage chute fun holiday slide. All is lost. But wait! Ralphie digs deep. He stops himself mid-slide and bravely scampers back up the slide to triumphantly tell Mr. Claus, No, no! I want an official Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range model air rifle.

He did it! And then Santa kicks him in the face. OK, it’s more of a nudge on the forehead, but Santa’s boot pushes Ralphie back down the slide like a wad of wrapping paper into which you spat a wad of Aunt Bev’s garlic fudge.

When I first saw this as a child, I was horrified. The image of Santa’s boot on Ralphie’s face haunted me for years. As an adult, I can totally enjoy the film. (Let’s be honest, it’s not really a kids’ movie.) But to this day, I can still feel a nugget of dread form in my stomach when it comes on the television.

You know, I don’t even like Ralphie all that much. He’s kind of a wuss. But I’ll be damned if my heart doesn’t leap when he slams his big rubber boots into the sides of that slide as if to say, “You’ve been kickin’ me in my husky-sized pants all year, Life! BUT NOT TODAY!”

And then Santa kicks him. In the face.

For me, this movie is a prime example of why you should never meet your heroes. Sure, Santa seems all cool, hanging out with the reindeer and the talking snowmen, sipping hot chocolate and all that. But it turns out he’s just a sadistic jerk who doesn’t really care about you or your hopes and dreams.

I know it all works out in the end and Ralphie learns a valuable lesson about family and air rifle safety, but wow. That scene did a number on my preteen psyche. I guess that’s just part of the holidays. Don’t even get me started on Rudolph’s dad.

Press and hold the up/down arrows to scroll.