Everyone Loves ‘A Christmas Story’ & I Seriously Don’t Understand Why

Before you ask: No, this piece was not written by a deranged Easter bunny. And no, it’s not an attempt to destroy your favorite holiday classic. But I just revisited A Christmas Story and TBH, I'm just not getting all the hype (sorry, not sorry). Sure, the film has 'Christmas' in the name, but it's just not giving me the stereotypical Christmas movie nonsense I need, people!

I knowwww this isn't a very 2021 way of looking at the world, but can't a woman be allowed to want some damn holiday magic once a year? I want miracles, I want cheesy dialogue, I want flawed people who remind me of myself and who learn how to be better people by the end, because that's what happens in a Christmas movie!

Sure, sure, the movie has its strengths. For instance, it offers a more realistic take on the holiday unlike other classics of the time. Not only does it highlight consumerism and greed, but it also focuses on a family that is messy and deeply flawed, making it feel like an accurate depiction of American culture. So yes, I’ll agree that the movie still stands as authentic and wholly unique. But where is the meaningful or positive message that Hallmark has told me I must have?! I mean, Ralphie doesn’t learn a thing about the true meaning of the holidays.

In case you need a refresher, the comedy follows the misadventures of 9-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) and his family during the Christmas season. It not only spawned two sequels, but it also inspired merch that ranges from pink bunny ears to full-size replicas of the Old Man’s leg lamp. (FYI, his wife totally broke it intentionally.) Countless fans continue to reference the movie's most popular lines, from "Fra-GEE-Lay" to "You'll shoot your eye out!" And like clockwork, millions of families re-watch Ralphie and the gang at least once a year—thanks to the annual 24-hour marathon on TBS (personally I'd prefer an SVU marathon on USA, thank you very much).

But even with A Christmas Story’s impressive afterlife, it still has its fair share of problems.

For one, there are so many problematic scenes that aged poorly. (Don’t even get me started on the Parker family's open racism towards Chinese restaurant workers.) Another issue is that the entire plot is driven by a child who really wants a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle for Christmas. This doesn't feel like classic Christmas movie material...

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect I saw were all the missed opportunities for his character to learn and evolve. For instance, when Ralphie nearly shoots his eye out with his new rifle, he gets away with lying to his mom.

What Ralphie does learn, unfortunately, is the harsh reality of consumerism (drink your Ovaltine!), and he comes to realize that department store Santas can be seriously terrifying. But even so, it’s hard to ignore the fact that he remains a coddled, spoiled and self-centered boy who only cares about shooting random things. He doesn’t learn the value of showing kindness and compassion to others (see the iconic scene where he ditches Flick after his tongue gets stuck to a pole). He doesn’t learn the importance of giving without receiving something in return (remember his giant fruit basket for Miss Shields, when he thought she'd give him an A+?). And he doesn’t learn much about forgiveness (after he beats up the bully, there’s no indication that they make amends).

I know, I know. This is the most fuddy duddy argument to make. But in other successful Christmas movies, there is always at least one grand epiphany, where someone discovers that there’s more to the holidays than blinking lights and presents under the tree. For example, in Miracle on 34th Street, Kris Kringle gives us a lesson on having faith during tough times. In It’s a Wonderful Life, George learns the value of having a community. And in Home Alone, Kevin develops appreciation for his dysfunctional family, forgives his mom for leaving him behind and doesn't even feel the need to take credit for totally owning a pair of grown men who were trying to rob his house.

These movies also explore the why behind the holiday. As a result, we see these characters experience growth as they learn valuable lessons that resonate with viewers—honestly, come at me with a heavy-handed lesson! This is the holiday magic/talking to that I require! But in A Christmas Story, there is no moral lesson. Instead, we see an endearing, bespectacled 9-year-old who avoids accountability and believes that Christmas is all about “getting the stuff you want.”

This isn’t to say that A Christmas Story should’ve bombarded us with moral lessons every five minutes. And no, I’m not saying that Ralphie should’ve morphed into a perfect little angel. But is it too much to ask for a hint of growth in Ralphie, or any sign that he was beginning to understand the core idea of Christmas? Because what if his Old Man didn’t surprise him with that gun? Or what if his parents couldn’t afford to get him a pile of gifts? Would Christmas be awful for Ralphie without material items?

I get Ralphie is only a kid, and I know his experience resonates with plenty of families. But if it’s going to be called a Christmas movie, I need more than this cynical view of the holiday season. Bring on the Christmas spirit. Bring on the stifling morals (that I may or may not ignore in my own life). Bring on the miracles!

Is that too much to ask?

nakeisha campbell bio

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...