I used to enjoy Christmas.
Then one movie ruined it.
In December 2006, I was enjoying a holiday lunch with my friends at the research center. We were sitting around a beautifully decorated table covered with delicious items. Everyone was happy. We talked about our holiday plans. Toward the end of the meal, we talked about movies.
Someone asked me to name my favorite Christmas movie. I said Scrooge, the musical featuring Albert Finney and Alec Guinness. Everyone agreed this was a fine film. We then went around the table, each person naming his favorite movie. To my surprise, everyone's favorite was A Christmas Story, a movie I had not seen. When I mentioned that I hadn't seen it, my colleagues were surprised. A nurse said, "I'm sure you've seen the movie. Maybe you've just forgotten." I explained that I rarely see movies. The dietician said, "You probably don't recognize the title. It's about a young boy who wants a BB Gun for Christmas." I replied that, sadly, I had not seen the movie. The physical therapist said, "But Dr. Blevins, it's a Christmas classic!"
Torrents of sympathy moved in my direction. My colleagues pitied me. The receptionist offered to lend me the DVD. Then the social worker had an idea: One of the cable stations would be having a 24-hour movie marathon on Christmas Eve. A Christmas Story would be showing all day. I could watch it then. "That's great," I said. "I promise I'll watch it." Everyone was delighted, and I looked forward to an enjoyable evening.
Two weeks passed and Christmas Eve arrived. I opened the TV Guide. Sure enough, one of the cable stations was having back-to-back showings. I stretched out on the couch and watched the movie.
It was the worst movie I'd ever laid eyes on.
Here's a synopsis.
Ralphie is a nine-year old boy who lives in northern Indiana. He wants a BB Gun for Christmas. His father is an asshole; his mother is a loser. He lives in a town populated by horrible children, horrible teachers, a horrible Santa Claus, and horrible elves. At the end of the movie, he gets the BB Gun.
I was dumbstruck. How could my colleagues be so deluded? How could they have plunged me into this cinematic inferno? I was nauseated and angry. I didn't mind wasting two hours on a bad movie, but I did mind wasting those hours on Christmas Eve. Before watching the movie, I had been enjoying a lovely holiday. Now I was filled with revulsion.
Inexplicably, many of the movie's images have become iconic. In one scene, Ralphie's father is infatuated with a lamp shaped like a lady's leg. Today you can buy that lamp on ebay.
Another scene shows a young boy with his tongue stuck to an icy pole. This passes for Christmas humor!
The movie is considered an American classic -- and it is a classic, in the hemorrhoidal sense of the word. It abounds in cruelty and abuse. So why do people like it? Because instead of giving Christmas a glossy finish, it depicts the world "realistically." That's right, folks: peace and joy are no longer realistic; they are the products of a senile mind. Evil, by contrast, titillates the post-modern cortex, seducing us into the nihilistic horror of our dismal world.
Well, I say "two thumbs down." I don't care if this movie fondled Roger Ebert's nut sack. It's a piece of crap and a desecration of Christmas. Sickened by the movie, I decided to do something I had never done before: write a review on amazon.com.
I turned on my computer and went to amazon. To my surprise, 300 reviews had already been written -- and all were glowing! I wrote a scathing review, not expecting anyone to find it, but that didn't matter: I wanted to vent by anger. After publishing it, I turned off my computer and went to bed.
On Christmas Day, I got up and went to church. After Mass, I went home and turned on my computer to check on my review. To my astonishment, twenty people had already commented on it -- and all wanted to kill me. One wanted to drive a knife through my liver. Another wanted to drown me. A third wanted to pour acid down my throat. In twenty-four hours I had become the most hated man on amazon.com.
Never before had I been treated so insolently. I couldn't let these attacks go unanswered, so I inveighed against my tormentors. I attacked them ferociously, even threatening their pets. This led to a counter-insurgency. By the time Christmas was over, I was a certified cyber-felon. Since that day, Christmas has been a living hell: I wake up, go to church, come home, and spew bile on my enemies. This is not what Christmas was meant to be.
Well, today I'm throwing in the towel. That's right: I'm giving up. I'm tired of fighting. I'm tired of wasting my time online. Above all, I'm tired of behaving like a monster. I used to be warm and loving. I want to go back to being nice again.
So here are my final words on A Christmas Story. Henceforth I shall remain silent on the subject.
If you like A Christmas Story and are tolerant of those who don't, thank you. I'm glad you like the movie. I want you to be happy. Just because I didn't like it doesn't mean you shouldn't. Maybe I'm wrong about the movie. In any case, I'm glad it has brought joy to millions.
If you'd like to discuss the movie with me, I welcome the opportunity. Let's have an honest and civil debate. To paraphrase President Obama, we can disagree without being disagreeable.
But ... if you want to hang, quarter, and disembowel me for not liking this movie, I hope that one night -- while dreams of sugar-plum fairies are dancing in your head -- an evil elf will break into your room, wrap your tongue around an icy pole, and shove a loaded BB Gun up your ass, just long enough for Jesus Christ to crack your freakin' skull open with a leg lamp -- because that's exactly how I felt as I watched this godforsaken movie.
As for my real friends at Open Salon, may this Holy Season bring the Blessings of Peace, Love, and Joy to you and your family, today, tomorrow, and all the years to come.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!