The Surprisingly Racist Origin of 'Christmas Vacation'
It's just not the holidays without National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, the iconic comedy starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, and Randy Quaid in his final screen performance before he was lost at sea in shark-infested waters never to be heard from again.
A lot of people may not realize that the Vacation franchise is based on a series of short stories by John Hughes himself. The first movie was inspired by the story "Vacation '58," which, unlike the movie, ends with Clark getting arrested for attempted murder after shooting Walt Disney in the leg. Seriously.
Christmas Vacation was similarly based on a Hughes story, "Christmas '59," which first appeared in the pages of National Lampoon magazine. And unfortunately, it's very racist. Like "makes Mickey Rooney's grotesque Asian caricature in Breakfast at Tiffany's seem subtle by comparison" levels of racist.
It's hard to imagine that the movie would be considered a yuletide classic today if they had decided to keep the character of Xgung Wo, a Thai college student who seems to be some kind of servant to the grandparents. They decide to bring Xgung Wo along for Christmas because they don't want him to be lonely and "sad about World War II." And it just gets worse from there; not only does Xgung Wo speak in a cartoonishly offensive accent, but the story also describes him as having "huge beaver teeth" and wearing backward clothing. Did we mention that this was written by the same guy who created Long Duk Dong?
While a lot of elements from the story did make it into the movie (including accidental pet electrocution), the climax sadly involves the discovery that (sigh) this Asian stranger is a thief. He steals a car but doesn't get very far, immediately crashing into an ambulance because "Orient guys don't look over their shoulders when they back up." In the end, they shoot him with a BB gun and rough him up a little. Thankfully, Hughes scrapped this storyline entirely when writing the screenplay -- presumably to the disappointment of Chevy Chase.
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Top Image: Warner Bros.