I triple-dog-dare social justice warriors to sit through the 1983 classic “A Christmas Story” this holiday season. The movie about a kid at Christmas, his 1940s family, and a fragile but sexy leg of lamp is so perfect that Hollywood would not make it today. Hollywood could not make this film today, and it’s only a matter of time before its banished from TV.
First, the film’s subject is politically incorrect. It’s not about “the holidays” or myths of elves or Grinches. It’s not socially conscious. There is no preening and no one is “woke.” Two key songs bookend the story in the film. The first in the opening sequence is “Go Tell it On the Mountain,” the next line of which says “that Jesus Christ is born.” Today, “Jesus Christ” is a movie swear word, or he’s removed from his own birthday all together. The film closes with “Silent Night,” another song explicitly about the meaning of the season. Without irony, “A Christmas Story” is really about Christmas.
Also without irony, the film is about a healthy, intact family. Ralphie Parker, played by Peter Billingsley, and his suburban midwestern family have a pretty good life in the 1940s Rust Belt, which has since been decimated by international trade deals and unchecked immigration.
The Parkers are average working-class folk living on the Indiana side of the Chicago suburbs in postwar America. Ralphie’s parents are happily married, and neither is an idiot, a cheater, or a crook. Having returned from the war, “Old Man” Parker (the father is never named and played impeccably by the great Darren McGavin) has a job, owns a home in a good neighborhood, raises his family, profanely battles the furnace, and is always in search of a way to make life better. Mom loves him and dotes on their boys. The parents are not human helicopters—the Parker kids are free-range boys who walk themselves to school without being tracked by Mom with a smartphone GPS app.
Ralphie is about 9 years old. His fondest Christmas wish is—brace yourself—a gun. Specifically, a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Can you say raging “toxic masculinity”? Someone call the liberal arts department! We need a class to explain why someone would want a BB gun for Christmas.
Wait, it gets worse. “A Christmas Story” isn’t all sunshine and light. It has a dark side, thanks in part to director Bob Clark. He used his success on a very different film, “Porky’s,” to lift “A Christmas Story” to the big screen.
Ralphie is a victim of a big, mean bully. This isn’t some misunderstood kid or anti-hero, he’s a typical nasty neighborhood bully named Scut Farkus and an ever-present menace. He mocks, threatens, and beats up on everybody, even his own lackey sidekick. One day, Ralphie has had enough and gives the bully a serious bloody-nosed beatdown. It’s epic, and handled perfectly in the film. You want that bully to get his due, and when he does, it’s satisfying.
After the battle, amazing things happen. No police are called. No charges are filed. No one is suspended from school. There’s no hate crime investigation. No two week breathless discussion on CNN. In fact, Ralphie’s mom seems proud of him, and when she tells the old man Ralphie was in a fight, he seems to be aware of it and proud of him, too. But not so proud they make a big deal about it. Everybody doesn’t get a trophy, even after a TKO.
This was America before the anti-bullying campaigns that seem to put bullies in control of today’s schools. Dads used to tell their sons to stand up for themselves. Dads even said they would back their boys up if it came to all that. Punching your bully was a rite of passage. That’s the America the ’60s radicals and today’s SJWs hate—the America of the Greatest Generation. It’s gone now, like so much more in the world of “A Christmas Story.” Bullies of the past got handled by a street code, now they just hang out on Twitter.
Seen through the father’s eyes, life on Cleveland Street is near perfect. It’s peaceful. Old Man Parker has time to read the newspaper, provide for his family at the office, and be home at night. He actually knows his children and how to give them good gifts, despite the widespread fear that Ralphie will ‘shoot his eye out’ with the BB gun. He’s a good dad, likes the Chicago Bears, can change a tire, and wants a bowling ball for Christmas.
How terribly bourgeois! In today’s Hollywood, the father would be the first to go. Today’s Hollywood would make him an abusive drunk, or an absentee loser or a dunce, or a racist or . . . you get the picture. Norman Rockwell’s America never existed and must be destroyed! But that’s not the story Jean Shepherd, whose book and radio tales on which the movie is based, wanted to tell. Hollywood would twist his beautifully written story now.
The Old Man Parkers of America undoubtedly turned out for Trump in 2016. Yes, they still exist, quiet and sometimes forgotten, working their asses off to provide for their families.
Seen through Ralphie’s and the audience’s eyes, Christmas is still Christmas. It’s literally the most wonderful time of the year, a time of meaningful songs in the background when a boy hopes to get his hands on his first gun. And he does, thanks to his father. This was once normal in America. An America Hollywood no longer understands, let alone celebrates. It was the Parkers and their neighbors the Bumpuses with their 785 smelly hound dogs that made America great.
So go ahead, SJWs, take a couple hours away from Kwanzaa celebrations this year and watch “A Christmas Story” on your iPad. Twitter awaits your rage. You’ll give the rest of America a good laugh.
Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer