Christmas Classics: ‘A Christmas Story’



Graphic by Saaraa Sunesara

‘A Christmas Story’ (1983) is a Christmas Classic that takes a more introspective look on the holiday and it’s main character Ralphie.

A Christmas staple for many, A Christmas Story is a movie known for the hilarious shenanigans of a little boy named Ralphie (played by Peter Billingsley and voiced by Jean Shepard). Set in the 1940s, it follows his struggle to get what he wants for Christmas and gives a good look inside the creative mind of a little boy. Also known for the iconic leg lamp, this movie continues to appear on television channels and coax laughs from all more than three decades later.

The film starts on a peaceful note, with various Christmas scenes and Jean Shepard’s deep, soothing voice. Children are shown playing and there are smiles on everyone’s faces. Ralphie, the protagonist, is shown standing at the window of a toy store with other children, awestruck by the beautiful display. Suddenly, his eyes set upon a Red Ryder Air Rifle, the Christmas gift he has been pining after for weeks. The movie follows his journey to convince his parents that it isn’t dangerous as he gets into all sorts of trouble on the way.

The story is interesting because instead of focusing on the true meaning of Christmas, it seems to focus more on how young kids really see it. While a message about the importance of family is learned, the film is mostly humorous, focusing on the antics of Ralphie. A viewer is able to experience the world through his eyes and see his tunnel-visioned desire for the rifle. It’s also very cynical for a Christmas movie, which sets it apart. While most holiday movies are about the real meaning of Christmas, this film pokes fun at the corporate aspect of it and the culture centered around gift giving. This is seen when Ralphie goes to see Santa with his brother Randy. While they are standing in line, watchers can hear the mall santa saying things like ‘not wanting to stay a minute past 9:00’ and grumbling about the children.

One more thing that made the movie stand out was the way everything going on inside Ralphie’s head was narrated. The commentary offered a deeper insight into his relationships with his friends and brother. It showed how far his loyalties truly went when their friend group were being harassed by the local bully and made the sibling relationship seem more genuine. Most siblings really do act like they couldn’t care less, when they truly love each other. The movie shows the way Ralphie dismisses his brother when he falls over, but it also shows how he helps him up, and how his brother cries for him when he thinks their father is going to get mad at Ralphie.

Another aspect that helps me enjoy the movie is the actors who play adults. Since Ralphie has a very vivid imagination, the adults are often portrayed in a very dramatic fashion, with exaggerated emotions and ridiculous costumes. It added to the pure childishness of the movie and acknowledged the craziness of all that was going on.

However, there are a few problematic components of the film. Since it was made in the ‘80s, there are obviously a few things that may not be tolerated today in society, such as beating your kids for saying a bad word or forcing them to put soap in their mouth. The worst part, however, was probably the infamous Chinese restaurant scene. The joke in it is that instead of saying “fa la la la” while singing the Christmas carol Deck the Halls, the restaurant servers say “fa ra ra ra” because of their accents. This is incredibly disrespectful and mocking, but it’s crucial to keep in mind that this movie was made a long time ago. Now the world is a lot more aware of what’s racially insensitive and what’s okay. The important thing is that when we watch this movie, we take the outdated aspects of it with a grain of salt, and try not behave like that today.

Nevertheless, A Christmas Story continues to be filled with laughs and lets everyone take a look at a kid’s imagination. The ending especially struck a chord with me, ending with a shot of the parents sitting together watching the snow fall, the kids sleeping with their presents, and the neighborhood. It’s surprisingly soothing finale for a movie otherwise dramatic and loud, and really takes the watcher back to the beginning, when everything was serene. While this movie may not be the most profound and insightful, it still manages to provide a refreshing point of view on Christmas and be a timeless comedy.