Christmas Movies: The Cynic’s Perspective

Have you ever noticed how annoying Christmas movies can be? They’re wonderfully happy at the best of times, but when you’re not feeling the festive cheer, a dislike for them is kind of inevitable. The Christmas movie, from a cynic’s point of view, is actually their idea of hell.

Christmas cynics

It’s that time of year again. Everywhere frantic parents are dashing round shops, parties are full of revelries, lights are twinkling and Christmas movies are on every other channel. The cynics of the world are grumbling.

And can you blame them? Sometimes life gets in the way of Christmas cheer; relatives pass away, people are made redundant, homes are repossessed, bones are broken, salaries are slashed, families are torn apart by feuds and ignorance. There are so many ways a person’s life can go wrong, and when you’re in the grip of despair, Christmas is an unwelcome and obnoxious ordeal to suffer through.

Christmas movies start to look like an object of torture, mocking you with their happiness and optimism, the magic lost because you’re too focused on the plot holes, cheesiness and clichés to watch them as they are intended. As someone who has had a pretty terrible 2013, I’ve been watching a few Christmas movies to try and gear myself up for the festivities. In a lot of ways I can see, now more than ever, why many people don’t like them.

What do the holiday cynics see?

Why do all the adults NOT believe that Santa exists?

Miracle on 34th StreetI get it that in terms of realism this is an accurate portrayal. There comes a sad point in a child’s life when their parent or guardian will sit them down, and explain that Santa doesn’t exist. The kids are disappointed, the parents are glad to be rid of the stealth routine, and we move on, realising Christmas isn’t all about the presents, it’s about good will to all mankind etc.

In Christmas movies though, Santa does exist. Presents are sent to every house around the globe by a man in a red coat sporting a long white beard. And yet there’s always that one parental figure who acts like a total Scrooge, telling their child to stop spouting nonsense because “Santa isn’t real”.

Where do the adults think the presents come from, if not from Santa? They don’t materialise out of thin air!

Miracle on 34th Street is a perfect example. Both the 1947 original and the 1994 remake revolve around a little girl who’s mother has already told her the “secret” of Santa. No longer believing in him, she’s given the most precious gift of all when the Santa she meets in a department store convinces her that he’s the real deal. Which of course, aggravates the non-believing adult world and results in a court case intended to prove he’s a fraud.

“Santa isn’t real Tiny Tim, now off to bed with you, while I ignore the presents that magically pop up in our lounge tomorrow morning.”

It’s a plot hole, admit it.

It always snows at Christmas time

The GrinchLet’s be honest, how many of us have witnessed a white Christmas every year? As children we’re lead to believe that we’re going to defend ourselves from bumbling crooks in our snowy neighbourhood and meet snowmen who come to life, but the truth is, unless we live far enough north, we’re going to be bitterly disappointed by the reality.

Living in the UK, there’s always potential for the weather to turn icy, but in my lifetime snowfall has never occurred over Christmas. Now if we could just find a way to harness the weather and keep it on a timer, we’d be all set. Come Christmas Eve all we’d have to do is flick a switch and wait for the magic to begin.

For people living in warmer climates, places like Australia and California, it must feel like they’re missing out. They can’t even entertain the hope that it’ll snow. And yet still we watch Elf, Arthur Christmas and The Grinch hoping this will be our year. Snow even fell on Halloween Town in The Nightmare Before Christmas for goodness sake! Is it so much to ask for a white Christmas?

Family comes first

Home AloneChristmas movies and their family values are a staple of Christmas. Let’s take Home Alone for an example. Poor Kevin McCallister is left home alone over the holidays when his parents accidentally leave him behind during a mad rush to the airport. His brief days of solitude teach him to appreciate the family he sometimes detests, and by the time his mother walks through the door on Christmas morning, she’s already been forgiven for ditching him.

Cue happy family times snuggled in front of the TV, a meal around the table, and the warm presence of loved ones while we warm ourselves by the roaring fire and roast some chestnuts.

The warm and fuzzy message of Home Alone doesn’t quite have the same effect for viewers who don’t have a family to visit though. In fact, it’s just depressing. It’s bad enough being alone during the holidays with nothing but mince pies and a monster tub of Quality Street to keep you company. Try rubbing salt into the wound by watching a Hollywood movie that lectures you about the importance of the family you don’t have.

Ho ho ho, indeed.

The moral high ground

The Muppets Christmas CarolHere’s what you can expect from a Christmas movie:

Tim Allen and Vince Vaughn will star in a cash cow festive film that usually results in their dressing up as Santa.

Rudolf will be bullied by the other reindeer until his shiny red nose is the key to avoiding Christmas’s cancellation.

Crooks will be outsmarted by a kid with a house full of household objects that make excellent weapons.

And an adult’s cynicism will be tested during a 90-minute ordeal of Christmas cheer, eventually realising that family, friends and festivities are the way forward after all.

That last one often does nothing but irritate the average cynic. Christmas movies, especially ones produced by Hollywood, basically send the message “cheer up it’s not all bad”, loud and clear to the stratosphere. And it usually has the opposite effect.

Now I’m not criticising those who want others to be as happy as they are. Christmas is the epitome of joy and glad tidings, so seeing someone upset during this holiday makes you want to fix it. In Four Christmases Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn want to take a vacation, but end up stuck with their relatives instead. After having Christmas quite literally rubbed in their faces, the two realise they’ve been selfish going away and ignoring Christmas each year.

In reality, forcing the holidays on an unwilling participant is doomed to failure, the frustration of watching the same scenario occur over and over in Christmas movies, very real. Is it wrong to want a film where the least festive person is allowed to maintain that attitude until the end of the film?

I mean, some people love Christmas. Some people don’t. Being disenchanted with the idea doesn’t make you a bad person, even if Christmas movies like to tell you it is.

In short: Can we please agree to disagree and drop the cinematic festive lectures?

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