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?