This may be hard for you to believe, but until this Christmas break, I had never seen A Christmas Story. It is more shocking than you may expect—for the movie is frequently quoted in my family. It has something of canonical status, referred to like Holy Writ, Seinfeld, or The Adventures of Pete and Pete. So, I decided at Thanksgiving that I would watch it with my father upon my return to Cincinnati.
It was a bit of a struggle to obtain a DVD of the movie. The neighborhood library’s copies were checked out in perpetuity. So, we had to trek all the way to the next library—seven minutes farther away! I know folks from the West who drive five hours just to buy socks. I know boys in Alaska who take plane trips to play high school basketball. Yet, in Cincinnati, a ten minute drive is excessive for some. However, my dad was feeling plucky, and off we went into the remote regions of the West Side.
At the library, I felt somewhat embarrassed to go in for a DVD—like a Mormon boy in a porn shop. I knew that the old mare librarian would look condescendingly upon peasants who enter her hallowed hall of learning just to get a movie—and it’s not even a foreign flick, a filmed stage production, or a P.B.S. documentary. I suspect that, when the rabble isn’t around, she commiserates with her colleagues about the fall of American culture: “Hollywood’s pedestrian filth has invaded even our dear library. No one reads anymore. We must prostitute ourselves out like some common Blockbuster whores! The insanity of it all!”
Actually, the lady smiled and reminded us that we could renew our four day DVD over the phone—but secretly, in that sanctimonious abyss that exists in every librarian’s soul, she snarled with malice, daring us to break her prejudice by walking over to the literature section and checking out Middlemarch, or at least something by Wolfe . . . she would even eat crow if we took Crichton. But no—we fit the mold that she has come to loathe . . . for the love of heaven, we did not even glance at a comic book.
Well, once we safely made it back home, away from the projected jeers and derision of my fevered imagination, we watched A Christmas Story. I expected to enjoy it—I am easily pleased with movies—but I thought that it would be more of a ritualistic enjoyment, like the kick that we get out of watching traditional make believe fare, like the claymation Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer or the annual State of the Union address. However, I found the movie quite funny. I especially liked the Santa scene, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid. Merry Christmas!” I have loved running gags since The Muppet Movie (“Have you tried Hare Krishna?”). There are many gems in the film that highlight some of the absurdities of childhood; I remember being parka-ed like an Eskimo by my mom so that I could not even move, I remember ghoulish bullies with weird facial features, and I remember those dangerous dare wars.
The nostalgic narration reminded me of The Wonder Years and The Adventures of Pete and Pete. A Christmas Story must have inspired them, or at least The Wonder Years, given the similarities in style. Well, here is the trailer:
I recommend the film, and now I can happily follow the references to it in my family’s language community.