A Christmas Story Story
please don’t shoot your eye out with this holiday classic
We’re about halfway through November, so have you watched A Christmas Story yet? No? Did you hear that we’re about halfway through November? You better get on that right quick. Make some popcorn. Call some friends. Make a ho-ho-holiday night of it.
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 flag poles and little brothers wearing too much winter clothing.
However, the film has some pretty glaring problems. The pacing is all over the place. The cinematography is often 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. 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 act of humanity ever preserved on film? Who wrote this stuff?
Am I alone here? Is this one scene from a sentimental holiday movie not the cruelest act of humanity ever preserved on film? Who wrote this 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 promised 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 faithful 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 (and some very smug elves). 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 heros. 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 gun 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.
P.S. If you’d like to see the Halloween version of A Christmas Story, check out 1988’s Lady in White (the Altoona Public Library has it). It’s got all the nostalgia, some of the laughs, and a very similar, almost copycat aesthetic.But the main kid sees ghosts, solves a decades old murder mystery, and almost gets killed a bunch of times.