Well, it’s that time of year again. Surely, this can’t come as a surprise to you. If you’re anything like me (and if you’re reading this, you probably are) you’ve no doubt been bombarded against your will with the incessant sounds of Christmas music for the better part of two months now. From everywhere to banks, department stores, and just about every popular radio station, the Christmas season has once again weasled its way into my subconscious. It’s inescapable, unless you choose to ride out the holidays in a secluded bomb shelter wearing ear plugs until the new year comes around. To be honest, the whole thing almost makes me want to turn into a Scrooge, cross my arms and say “Bah Humbug!” to the commercialized abomination that used to represent a sacred and holy holiday.
So why is it that my cold, cynical heart is perpetually warmed every year by one particular TV station? A station that has dared to take a risk and not only decided to go with an all-Christmas theme for one day out of the year, but has decided “What the Hell?” and gone with playing the same movie on repeat for 24 hours straight? That station is TNT and the movie, of course, is “A Christmas Story.”
If you’re not familiar with the story, first of all, I already hate you. Sorry – that sounded harsh. But it’s true. This is probably the best televised Christmas movie of all time. And before you start pounding away at your keyboard to tell me that “Miracle on 34th Street” or “It’s A Wonderful Life” are better films, let me just say this: Miracle on 34th Street was about a bratty little girl who never believed in Santa Claus, a lame battle between department stores, a ludicrous court case, and an ending where the brat ends up with a dream house (free of charge, no less). If I want to watch people get a free house they didn’t pay for, I’ll check out Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It’s A Wonderful Life is a fine movie about recognizing the value of your life, even if it didn’t work out quite how you’d hoped. Unfortunately, it has virtually nothing to do with Christmas. Outside of the fact that the story takes place in the winter, this film could have just as easily been shot in the south of France during May and you may have had to change maybe a grand total of 10 lines in the film.
But “A Christmas Story” is special for so many reasons. From the very beginning of the film, there is no doubt that this is a Christmas movie. Come Hell or high water, the climax of this movie will be on Christmas Day. Ralphie is a simple Midwestern kid with one wish – he wants a Red Ryder BB gun, more than anything else in the world. As both a Midwesterner and a former BB-gun owner, this film holds a special place in my heart for those reasons, but I also appreciate a likable character with a simple and tangible goal (which is the basis for just about every good story).
Ralphie does everything he can think of to get his BB gun. He asks his Mom, who casually dismisses the idea as “too dangerous” warning him that he’ll inevitably shoot his eye out. He writes an essay at school, entitled “What I Want For Christmas,” which receives a lukewarm C+ grade from his teacher, who also reiterates his Mother’s warning that he’ll “shoot his eye out.” And even after going to the local department store and asking Santa himself, Ralphie still receives the same response from the big man himself, who seems to have no appreciation at all for the struggles Ralphie has gone through and instead suggest a nice football, instead. “A football? What’s a football?”
Yes, despite the fact that I quickly tire of listening to Jingle Bells on the radio, hearing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on television commercials, and seeing way too many commercials for the Lexus sales event that can only be aimed at the 1%, “A Christmas Story” is the one thing I can’t get enough of during the holidays. I’ve literally sat down and watched this movie three or four times in a row, which probably speaks volumes about my own life (or lack thereof) but also serves as a testament to this film’s staying power. There’s a bit of Ralphie in all of us, and no matter what your “wish” in life, this story will speak to you, too. Kudos to TNT for continuing to show this fine film and to those who haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and sit down and watch it. It’s one of the few repetitive things in this whole season that can’t be repeated enough.