Unlike many who have stuck around with A Christmas Story as its popularity had only continued to grow through repeat airings on television during the holiday season, I didn’t end up seeing the film until my late teens. I didn’t end up seeing it for whatever reason and the moment I finally got myself around to watching A Christmas Story for the first time I thought it was only far too fitting that I had punished myself over the years for being too lazy to actually get around to watching the film when I was much younger. I know I’d have loved it when I was a kid because it just brings back the memory of what we all liked to remember as “the most wonderful time of the year.”
It’s the 1940’s, and all that little Ralphie Parker wanted for Christmas was nothing other than a Red Ryder BB gun. But everywhere he goes, he is constantly told by his peers “you’ll shoot your eye out.” Through a series of misadventures amidst his dysfunctional family, an adult Ralphie Parker (Jean Shepherd, whose original story had provided the basis of the film) narrates this story about the clashing ideals of celebrating the holidays and trying to find a way of retaining the belief that it truly is as said, a time of cheerfulness as people come together. If any film had perfectly captured the importance that the holiday season may have left behind in our lives through a memory of any sort, then it would be easy to point right at A Christmas Story.
There’s no way around the fact that A Christmas Story is a product of its own time, because certain aspects haven’t aged well (the Chinese restaurant at the ending can be quite off-putting for some). At the time of its release, it’s easy to see why the film wouldn’t have resonated the way it has with its devoted fanbase nowadays, but it still carries its own charm just from the feeling of being old-fashioned. It just reminds us all about how Christmas is being celebrated in many ways, without hiding away from how overly commercialized the holiday is (although ironically, this movie had become overly commercialized in itself) yet never defending it either. It just shows Christmas the way it has been for many perspectives, without ever feeling the need to sugarcoat it with any false sentimentality.
But everything plays out perfectly fine because it’s all shown to us as a memory. The narration from Jean Shepherd comes by in the most humorous manner but in a sense it is also reaffirming the everlasting impact that A Christmas Story has left behind. We only see so much of Ralphie from these memories of him as a kid, and to think about where he has gone afterwards – perhaps only a good sense of nostalgia is what helps fuel the days. And it was only fitting enough that Christmastime is the chosen occasion to reflect back on, because of how people have come to recognize the season over the years. It isn’t merely about the joys of Christmastime from one’s own childhood, but it also happens to be a film that celebrates the nostalgia of being a child and it also turns more touching from there.
A Christmas Story isn’t always going to work in a traditional sense, but as a staple of the holiday season it is the perfect embodiment of everything that we love about the occasion. But I’d only wonder what has happened to Ralphie Parker beyond the events we look back upon in here, because Jean Shepherd’s cynical narration may have perfectly reflected why the film an work even on a cold heart. Sometimes, just remembering a time of being happy is the key to finding more happiness at a distressful period. It’s so over-the-top and absurd, but when we were younger, that’s how we like to remember where all our happiness was found. And as a staple of the Christmas season, this film couldn’t be any more fitting.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Warner Bros.
Directed by Bob Clark
Screenplay by Bob Clark, Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, from the story In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Shepherd
Produced by Bob Clark, Rene Dupont
Starring Melinda Dillon, Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin
Release Year: 1983