It's finally December and you know what that means - despite all your best attempts to remain non-denominational and "Happy Holidays" friendly, you're going to spend a LARGE portion of this month watching Christmas movies. If you own a TV, it's a foregone conclusion that you're going to see A Christmas Story and It's a Wonderful Life, at least, four times each, so - regardless of your race, gender, or creed - you need to prepare yourself for liberal doses of Hollywood-approved X-Mas spirit. However, even though 95% of Christmas movies go on and on about goodwill towards men and joy to the world, there is, in fact, a disturbing undercurrent of questionable morality and re-enforcing bad behavior in even the most revered Christmas classics.
Don't believe us? Check out these ten terrible life lessons you can learn from some of the most famous Christmas movies of all time, and you tell us whether George Bailey and Ralphie are really the great holiday role models that they pretend to be.
Movie: The Polar Express (2004)
Bad Lesson: If You’re a Minor and a Stranger Offers You a Ride, You Should Probably Say “Yes”
Look, we’re all for the magic and wonder of the Christmas season, but has Robert Zemeckis no respect for the golden rule of “Stranger Danger”? We get that having a mystical steam engine pull into your yard is a lot less threatening than a creepy guy in a van circling the grade school, but kids just need to be smarter these days, and The Polar Express ain’t helping.
Secondary Bad Lesson: If you’re ever given a free wish, go ahead and wish for a bell. Yeah, no “wisher’s remorse” with that one.
Movie: The Santa Clause (1994)
Bad Lesson: If You Kill Santa Claus, You Will Become Santa Claus
This doesn’t get talked about a lot in the Santa Clause trilogy, but let’s face facts – Tim Allen murdered Santa Claus. (Maybe not first degree murder, but manslaughter easy.) And, by offing old Saint Nick, he inherited the man’s super powers, army of slave elves, and cash-flush polar kingdom, all of which makes killing Santa sound like a pretty sweet deal. And that’s an INSANE message for kids. We’re surprised that the Clause movies haven’t inspired a generation of youngsters to attempt to trap the jolly old fatman in a hole in their basement and make him put the lotion on his skin or else he’ll get the hose again.
Secondary Bad Lesson: If you find a card in the pocket of a dead man, telling you to put on his clothes, you should do it.
Movie: A Christmas Carol (1951)
Bad Lesson: People Will Like You Instantly If You Give Them Money
The story of Ebenezer Scrooge is a classic tale of Christmas redemption, but it never seemed right to us that everybody that Scrooge had abused for 90% of his entire life instantly changed their opinion of him just because he made with the “Huzzahs” and dropped by with a fat Christmas goose. In the real world, it’d take MONTHS for people to accept that Scrooge wasn’t such a d-bag anymore, and, even then, Scrooge is NEVER going to know who really likes him and who's just using his newfound generosity to make sure their son doesn’t die of polio. Sad, really.
Secondary Bad Lesson: Employees love having their boss over for dinner on Christmas Day.
Movie: Home Alone (1990)
Bad Lesson: People in the Chicago Suburbs Never Call the Police for Any Reason Whatsoever
What does it take for people to call the cops in John Hughes’ Shermer, Illinois? A shady “alleged” policeman who looks like Joe Pesci is asking a lot of suspicious questions and no one thinks to report him? A kid spends 90 minutes torturing two dimwits with cartoonish levels of violence and there’s not a single neighbor who thinks of calling 911 after hearing Daniel Stern scream like a castrated monkey? It was bad enough that, after his parents reported him missing, the local cops only checked to see if Macaulay Culkin was at home ONCE, but, according to Home Alone, there’s a disturbing level of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” going on just outside the Chicago Loop.
Secondary Bad Lesson: Vigilante justice is great fun and a sure source of hilarious slapstick.
Movie: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
Bad Lesson: Sometimes Chevy Chase Makes Good Movies
Every single time we try to tell people that Chevy Chase’s talent died a horrible, protracted death back in 1986, some moron says, “But I really liked Christmas Vacation.” Not that we’re saying that it’s a bad movie, but we just hate ANYTHING that people use to defend Chevy’s post-Three Amigos career choices.
Secondary Bad Lesson: Sometimes National Lampoon makes good movies (post-Animal House, of course).
Movie: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Bad Lesson: If People Were Mean to You as a Kid, That Excuses ANY Malicious Criminal Behavior You Might Commit When You’re an Adult
Jim Carrey’s scenery-chewing aside, our least favorite part of Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas was the sympathetic back-story they introduced for the slimy no-goodnik with a heart two sizes too small, particularly since it seemed like the filmmakers were trying to use the Grinch’s hard upbringing to excuse his antisocial behavior. We feel bad the guy got teased, but does that excuse multiple home invasions, theft, and destruction of private property? We don’t think so. Save the sob stories for your shrink, Grinch, because the Whoville Special Victims Unit doesn’t want to hear it.
Secondary Bad Lesson: If you rob someone – or a town full of someones – but give it all back, they’re generally pretty cool about it.
Movie: It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Bad Lesson: If You’re in Need of a Moment of Clarity – Why Not Give Suicide a Try?
Frank Capra’s It's a Wonderful Life is both one of our favorite Christmas movies AND one of our favorite movies about suicide, which is a very odd accomplishment. Perhaps the oddest part is how wonderfully George Bailey’s suicide attempt works out for everyone in Bedford Falls. If George hadn’t crashed his car in a drunken stupor and contemplated ending his own life, would he have realized how lucky he was and how much the town needed him? Hard to say. Sure, the arrival of Clarence made sure he never went through with it, but would he even have attracted the attention of a guardian angel if he wasn’t about to kill himself? Couldn’t Clarence have stepped in back at the bank with Uncle Billy? How many other failing small business owners have perched themselves on a snowy bridge and waited for divine intervention thanks to this movie? Definitely a weird Christmas lesson for the clinically depressed.
Secondary Bad Lesson: If you run a struggling savings and loan and your uncle is an alcoholic simpleton, by all means, let him make large bank deposits unsupervised.
Movie: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Bad Lesson: If Enough People Say Something Is True, Eventually, It Becomes True
After watching Miracle on 34th Street, a truly amazing X-Mas flick, one gets the impression that reality is totally subjective, which is both a good and a bad thing. Sure, we all want to believe in Kris Kringle, but there’s something a little scary about setting the precedent that if enough people say something is true, then that opinion can eventually become a fact. It’s cute when it’s about Santa, but what does it lead to? Creationism in public schools? 2 plus 2 = 5? The belief that The Hills is a really, really good TV show? Kringle’s Miracle opens some VERY scary doors for the future, which might be a high price to pay just to deem one old man the coolest department store Santa ever.
Secondary Bad Lesson: If the U.S. Post Office delivers you a letter addressed to someone other than yourself, you BECOME that person in the eyes of the law.
Movie: A Christmas Story (1983)
Bad Lesson: Toy Safety Warnings are Pointless and Should Be Disregarded Immediately
We’ll admit - A Christmas Story is probably the most re-watchable X-Mas movie EVER, but there’s one small detail that fans of the movie almost never discuss – Ralphie almost DID shoot his eye out with his Red Ryder BB Gun. Fine, he didn’t get a BB in the cornea, but the ricochet did give him a shiner and that was just on the first shot. Who knows what damage will happen to Ralphie the next time he unsheathes his air-powered death-dealer? And the sad thing is – he was warned. He was warned by his parents, his teacher, Santa, but did he listen? Did he ever deal with the consequences of his actions? NO. He ignored their advice, covered his injuries in lies, and lived to blind himself another day. Nice lesson for kids opening their lawn darts and chemistry sets this Christmas morn.
Secondary Bad Lesson: If you're on the phone with the parents of one of your son's friends and said parents start beating the holy hell out of their son, you should probably just hang up politely and not call the police.
Movie: White Christmas (1954)
Bad Lesson: Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" is One of the Most Innocent and Uplifting Christmas Carols of All Time.
We're not saying that "White Christmas" isn't a great song, but it's a lot less innocent than one might think. The 1954 X-Mas classic White Christmas was actually the SECOND movie to use Berlin's most famous tune. The first movie to use it was 1942's Holiday Inn, another Bing Crosby movie with a much darker pedigree. How dark? Well, the movie features mental breakdowns, lies, public drunkenness, and a minstrel show musical number that features Bing in black-face. Don't get us wrong. We're not saying that Holiday Inn should have a NC-17 or anything, but did you ever think that "Dreaming of a White Christmas," that most virginal of holiday tunes, would have anything to do with insane asylums and Stepin Fetchit? (It doesn't help that the song specifically requests that all your Christmases be "white," eh?) Goes to show you never can tell.
Secondary Bad Lesson: Exaggerating a physical injury is a good way to manipulate people into doing what you want.
What do you think? Did we miss any other examples of bad life lessons in Christmas movies? Why does Nightmare Before Christmas try to convince us that goths love the holidays? Why did Home Alone 2 assume that people wanted to see more Home Alone movies?