4 Things Hollywood Gets Wrong About the Holidays
I watch a lot of Christmas movies, and I've also had lots of Christmases. I've noticed some discrepancies.
To be clear, I'm not going to use this list as an opportunity to say things like "In Christmas movies, magic is real and, duh, no doy, in real life NO IT ISN'T." Because magic is real, it's everywhere and all around us and I feel bad for anyone who doesn't know how to look for it.
I'm talking about the other stuff.
Family + Christmas + Meal = DISASTER!
As Seen In:
The Family Stone; Home for the Holidays; literally every sitcom where an extended family gets together for Christmas
Going strictly by what Hollywood tells me, I'd say that Christmas was the most dangerous time of the year with more domestic disturbances than any other day. You've seen it in movies and especially TV shows: a family gets together, (usually one with a lot of relatives that don't often see each other), and even though the sweet matriarch just wants "one Christmas dinner that doesn't turn into a huge fight," some kind of disaster will ensue. A horrible family secret will be dramatically revealed, someone's awkward new girlfriend will say something politically incorrect and wildly offensive, someone will crash a car through a dining room wall and the turkey that your mother worked all god damn day on will be ruined.
Or whatever hilarious misunderstanding is happening here, for example.
It's fine, because in the morning, everyone will have made up and learned lessons and grown and "Hey we're not so different you and I, Santa," but first, a flaming pot roast needs to be launched through a kitchen window, right in front of their shocked neighbors.
I'm not trying to brag, but all of my Christmases have been, at best, pleasant and, at worst, slightly awkward, and that only happened when I saw family members that I knew very little about and with whom I had no common ground. And I'm not some fancy, super well-adjusted guy. I am, on my best day, a nervous pile of farts in a sweater, (I said it was my best day).
Oops, can't talk with presents. Right. Up. To your. Face. There we go.
I'm sure some people have very strained relationships with their families, and when those families get together at a big holiday, perhaps a fight breaks out, and for that I'm sorry. But the bottom line is that, for most people, a big, family dinner on Christmas is just a few, low-key hours with people you sort of know and sort of get along with who aren't necessarily your friends, and then there's pie.
You'd Better Have Someone to Kiss at Midnight. You Don't? EVERYONE Does. What Are You, a Pussy? Some Kind of Pussy? Hey, Real Quick; What Sort of Pussy Are You?
As Seen In:
New Year's Eve; that one episode of How I Met Your Mother; that one episode of Friends
It's finally here! New Year's Eve! Time to get drunk, which you normally do at night, but this time there's counting! And when you're done counting, you get to make out with somebody. What's that? You don't have someone to kiss at midnight? You mean to tell me that you didn't bring someone along specifically to kiss when today turns into tomorrow? What were you thinking? How are you supposed to acknowledge the passage of time? What are you going to do when the rest of us-- literally, every single other person you know-- is kissing? Why did you even come to this party you stupid asshole?!
Gotta keep it together. Maybe let's crack open the champagne early.
It's just a holiday, Freak Show. I don't know how many New Year's sitcom episodes I've seen where the entire plot revolved around one of the characters not having someone to kiss at midnight and feeling like shit about it. No one brings up the obvious burn, ("Look on the bright side: You also don't have someone to kiss at midnight tomorrow, or any other time of day."), they just agree that anyone who doesn't get that special midnight kiss will ring in the new year as a total failure.
I'm not against kissing. Why, I did it just the other day, and boy I'll tell you it was just grand. I just think Hollywood's decision to make the midnight kiss the most important New Year's tradition is kind of bizarre. I generally spend New Year's Eve with a large group of friends, and my concerns are less about what I'm going to do for the one minute where the clock strikes midnight and more about what I'm doing before and after that moment. Are all of my friends safe? How can I maximize the amount of fun we're all having? Will there be enough food? Which one of the guys at this party looks like he knows where the weed's at?
Christmas for a Child Revolves Around a Single Toy
As Seen In:
A Christmas Story; Jingle All the Way; The Santa Clause
You've seen it a hundred times. In some movies, a kid desperately wants a toy for Christmas and the plot revolves around the parent or parents going to great lengths to get that present, because if they don't the kid will be for the purposes of this movie, devastated. Or, you'll see a movie about some grouchy adult who doesn't believe in Santa and doesn't buy into the Christmas spirit because he or she didn't get the toy they wanted so badly as a child. In The Santa Clause, Judge Reinhold didn't get the whistle (or whatever) that he wanted as a kid and it may as well have been his own private Kennedy assassination. The message in these movies are simple: if the kid doesn't get one, specific present, say goodbye to his or her innocence. That kid will be a jaded cynic for the rest of her life, (or until a future Christmas movie, when it will be convenient for them to suddenly rediscover their Christmas spirit again).
"When you gaze into the abyss, you'll notice there are no toys there."
You know what I wished for every Christmas? Yes, of course you do: Spider powers. After chasing down a number of dead ends, (I played with radiation, I ate spiders, I went to parks and fought vultures, and so on), I decided that the only way to get the spider powers that I wanted and-- let's all be real for a second-- clearly deserved, I was going to have to turn to Santa, or someone else with magic on their side. So I asked for spider powers every year and never got them, even when I turned 17 and was really good that year. You know what happened every year when I didn't get spider powers? I got the hell over it.
Even if I didn't get a non-spider-power-related gift that I'd wanted, I still got over it. I really wanted the Power Ranger Megazord one year and didn't get it, but I was fine, because I was mature and reasonable and could find mature and reasonable solace in the pile of other toys.
I know there's some merit to movies like Jingle All the Way, where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad, (Hahaha. The nineties.), spend the entire film trying to track down a Turbo Man Doll, only to find it sold out almost everywhere. I've heard horror stories about the time when Tickle Me Elmo dolls were so in demand that folks were physically beating one another in stores to make sure they got one. Parents want their kids to have everything, I get it. Clearly, Jingle All the Way isn't totally out of left field.
Except for its use of jetpack technology.
But these movies that treat not getting the perfect toy like the most traumatic thing a child can live through are just insane. So many Christmas movies have some stern businessman who hates Christmas, and his backstory almost always involves the year he didn't get the one toy he wanted more than anything else. Like, "From that moment forward I knew: I was destined to be an asshole. Anyway Christmas is cancelled!"
Get over it, guy.
Christmas Makes People Change Drastically/Confess Love
As Seen In:
Love, Actually; Elf; A Christmas Carol
Something like ninety percent of the characters in Love, Actually confess their love to someone and the justification for the abrupt burst of honesty is "if you can't say it on Christmas, when can you say it?"
If people aren't using Christmas as an excuse to declare love, they're making Christmas-inspired major life changes. Scrooge is overcome by the holiday spirit so he changes himself entirely and totally adjusts his money-collecting business, (which incidentally I'm sure would have a drastic negative socioeconomic impact on the town, but I guess they're saving that for the sequel).
But who cares about that? Who cares about any of that? Aw heck, it's Christmas, and we're all going to live forever!
Look, I'm not a scrooge. I mentioned just last week that I spend every minute between Thanksgiving and Christmas listening to Christmas music. I wreck house on some Candy Canes even though they're objectively the most awkward and, if you wear them down enough, sharpest things one can eat. I hang a Christmas stocking for my dog and fill it with special treats even though he's made it clear that he'd just as soon eat some strange poop if given the opportunity. I know I'm complaining about it in this very entry, but I watch Love, Actually every single time Christmas rolls around, (also Die Hard). I lose my shit over a dope Christmas tree.
No one gets more into the Christmas Spirit than this guy right here. Nobody. I am Mr. god damned Christmas, you got me?
"Mr. Christmas." Copyright Price Stern Sloan, respectively. -Editorial
Still, as much as I love Christmas, it has never moved me to rethink absolutely every decision I've ever made in my life, and it's never driven me to convince my love for someone. Do the people who profess love strictly because "it's Christmas" know that, eventually, it won't be? The reason I never change who I am or proclaim undying love on Christmas is because I know that, sooner or later, it'll be the day after Christmas, and I know I'll like to go back to my normal life of not changing who I am completely and not loving anything that isn't my dog.
Hollywood does this because they want people to believe that magic is real, (no need to convince me, guys), but it's dangerous, because it convinces people that Christmas exists in a weird bubble where you can go crazy and make sweeping declarations and expect no consequences on the other side. If you change completely and declare your love for someone "because it's Christmas," what happens when Christmas is over, and you realize that you actually like being a Scrooge, and that the town, whether they want to admit it or not, relies on your business to keep the economy going? What happens when the woman you declared your Christmas love for abandons you because you lose that Christmas High that made you seem so exciting and energized? She'll leave you, and THEN who are you going to kiss on New Year's Eve?
You DO have someone to kiss, right? Oh, you poor bastard.
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked's Senior Writer (ladies), and believes that love actually is all Die Hard (with a vengeance).