Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Questionable Christmas Devotions

This year I got around to watching two very beloved Christmas films for the very first time. I might have caught a scene or two before now, but I had never before seen “Christmas Vacation” or “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Now I am asking myself, why? Not, “Why had I never seen these films before now?” but rather “Why are they so beloved?”

In the case of Rudolf, this dear story is pretty messed up! We all know that Rudolf is rejected for being different. What is so unsettling to today’s first time viewer is that this rejection of the other is never really shown as being wrong. The only way that Rudolf is ever redeemed in his society’s eyes is when they perceive him as someone useful. They exploit his useful difference in desperation. If he had not had a useful defect he would have never been embraced. When you read about the production of the special, you discover that they never intended to do anything for the rest of the misfit toys. They added scenes in after the initial broadcast because so many children wrote in to ask why Rudolf never helped the toys as he had promised too.

“Christmas Vacation” is an easier target, but you still have to ask yourself why this film has been so embraced. It is only marginally funny, and even then in a less than joyful, more at the expense of people, way. Not exactly a Christmas-y comedy. Like most comedies set at Christmas (Home Alone, Santa Clause, Elf, etc.) it tries to convey a message. Only this one leaves the viewer feeling empty. Clark deeply desires to have a special, family Christmas. He feels a deep nostalgia for his childhood Christmas, but that causes him to seek an elusive perfection. As his frustration increases, things get worse and, in the end, we get the message… Don’t be a jerk like Clark’s boss at Christmas time. (You can be a jerk like Clark, because he had good intentions.)

Don’t get me wrong. I chuckled a few times. But there is no way either of these films cracks the top 25 Christmas films. (I think, anyway. I don’t think I have made that list yet…)

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