Pop Culture

A Mash-Up Review: “A Christmas Story”

Photo credit: flickr/tim putala
What in the heck is this movie really about?
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It’s that time of year when “A Christmas Story” is on repeat on pretty much every television channel in America. People will be giggling over the leg lamp, debating whether or not your tongue would really get stuck on a flagpole, and rooting for Ralphie to get that B.B. gun. This is Christmas! This is culture! But for some newer Americans, this classic American Christmas film is just … weird. We asked our Russian-American Mash-Up Alisa Givental, and her Cuban-American husband, Michel Banda Dieguez, to watch this piece of time-honored American pop culture and write their thoughts. We call this soft power, kids.

Three of us watched “A Christmas Story” on Amy’s request. In addition to me, born in Russia but living in the U.S. since I was ten, and Emile, my 16-year-old American-born brother, we have Michel, my Cuban-American husband who immigrated here a decade ago from Havana. Though our friendship with Amy survives the experience, our opinion of her judgment has plummeted. In response to our (averaged) review of 2.83 out of ten, Amy said to us: “Welcome to America.”

Apparently this film is THE Christmas movie in this country. Michel is in disbelief. When told that he need only turn on AMC around Christmas to see it on repeat, Michel responded that in that case, the Castro was right to criticize American television. (I assume he means American TV from back in the 80s, cause the man loves “Breaking Bad.”)

But maybe we can learn to understand this American phenomenon if someone can answer a few questions for us.

1. What is this movie about?

We get that Ralphie wanted a B.B. gun, though we don’t get why the bratty kid got it in the end (more on that in a minute). Why couldn’t he have wanted something more wholesome, like a bicycle? What are all the other scenes for? They don’t contribute to the story, unless, and this relates to our second question, the point of the movie is that notwithstanding the gun being dangerous and Ralphie not being deserving of it, spoiled American kids get whatever they want for Christmas.

2. What is the moral of the story?

Is it that mothers will protect you even if you beat another kid to a bloody pulp (isn’t it odd that the mom left the bloody victim lying in the snow without concern)? Is it that Santa doesn’t really know whether you’ve been bad so don’t worry about swearing or lying about it or leaving your friends dishonorably in the dust, because you’re still going to get exactly what you want for Christmas? That Santas hate children? That guns really are dangerous? That you should manipulate your parents? We could not find a reasonable theory.

3. Did Ralphie really just say that the radio show was the “one thing that could tear [him] away from the electric sex gleaming in the window”?

He did, didn’t he. What’s the point of the whole lamp thing anyway?

4. Is it an 80s thing in American movies that being blind means you must be a homeless beggar?

5. Can this really be a movie played every Christmas as THE American classic when the penultimate scene openly makes fun of Chinese people singing the jingles?

We’re pretty sure this is racist. [Editor’s note: Excellent question. Wish we could answer, but we have blotted this scene out of our memory.]

6. It’s not accidental, is it, that Santa’s nose is Rudolph-red?

Isn’t that a characteristic of a drunk?

7. What is Ovaltine?

8. Why does Ralphie’s mom have Randy eat like a pig out of a trough?

Does it have to do anything with the fact his mom’s cooking is so unappetizing that we are glad we weren’t living in the US when this movie was made? Communist kasha — which actually seems to make an appearance in one scene —  is no worse than what y’all were eating.

Note: The one edible looking meal in the movie was eaten by dogs.

9. We did not understand the whole dog swarming thing?

And why the odd detail about one of their ears being caught in the door?

10. Do people really sound like that?

The noises throughout the movie — Mom’s high pitched squeals, Ralphie’s cackles, Dad’s grunts — are not really human, are they?

Please explain to us what we’re missing out on. We’d love to retroactively gain appreciation for this odd and disturbing American classic. Merry Christmas!

Posted by Alisa Givental
Born in Kishinev (Moldova), Alisa spent the first 10 years of her life mostly in Moscow. In 1990 her family immigrated to California as Jewish refugees. She lives in the East Bay with her Cuban immigrant artist husband and their revolutionary dog and cat, Camilo and Che. They host weekly Cuban domino and Texas poker nights, go Russian glamping every year at Mt. Shasta, and and make American Manchego from scratch.

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