ToM’s Cultural Christmas Hits


Well, it’s that time of year again. If you’re Protestant or Catholic, you struggle with the stresses of finding presents and slogging time with that uncle/aunt that stalks your nightmares. “Please God, don’t let me have to discuss geopolitical politics with Uncle Lew.” For those of you outside the Christian faith, you get to endure endless commercialized ritual-as-holiday, hoping your kids don’t demand the latest version of Guitar Hero or the Star Wars BladeBuilders Jedi Master Lightsaber in emulation of their gentile peers. Conversely, you also get to listen to some folks blather on about the “War on Christmas,” the most unlikely of figurative or literal conflicts known to Westerndom.

No matter your faith or lack thereof, Christmas plays a role in your life: stress-inducing fever dream, slightly annoying distraction, or perhaps pleasant commercial secular holiday (we can dream, can’t we?). Whatever the case may be, at some point you’ll plunk yourself down in front of the television and witness Hollywood’s take on the subject. ToM’s got takes on slew of modern-era classics should you be interested (and honestly even if you’re not, we’re not picky).

Scrooged: It’s beginning to look a lot like yuppie Christmas: Bill Murray would come to define winter existential crisis with Groundhog Day, but this 1988 retelling of A Christmas Carol preceded his rebirth as aging hipster, comic guru. Here Murray’s harried and unscrupulous tv exec gets put through the paces by ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

Frank Constanza and the War on Christmas: Anyone who watches Seinfeld reruns will soon be enjoying one of its most famous episodes: “The Strike” in which George Constanza’s father celebrates Festivus, a holiday invented by none other than Papa Canstanza. Recalling a violent encounter over a last minute present years ago Frank remembers “I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way!” With that a new holiday was born. “It’s a Festivus for the rest of us,” he declares at one point, releasing a new day of festivity and all its harshness (remember the ritualistic “Airing of Grievances”?) on the world.

Dreaming of a NonWhite Christmas: Themes of Diversity in “Rudolph” and “Community”: ToM wouldn’t be ToM if we didn’t spend a ridiculous amount of time breaking down stop-motion sixties Christmas specials and comparing them with modern day equivalents.

The Discreet Charm of the Gizmosie and Gizmo: The Model Minority: Believe it or not, Gremlins was a Christmas movie; granted a twisted one, but a Christmas movie nonetheless. The story begins in 1984 Chinatown where Mr. Pelzter hopes to buy a unique Christmas gift for his son Billy and purchases the adorable “Gizmo”. I think you know what ensues. ASC breaks down the film’s odd mix of Americanism, racial politics, and the mysterious “Other” in two of our perennially most read pieces.

Is that the End?: The Holiday Marathon as Medium: At this point, you’ve probably seen the Gen X classic A Christmas Story looped endlessly on TBS. ASC looks at what it means to replay a classic, over, and over, and over.

Related but hardly essential:

Christmas in Cambodia: Ever spent the holiday season abroad? RR spent Christmas in Southeast a couple years back and did a brief dive into the history of US-Vietnam-Cambodia relations.

Generational Narcissism?: Less than Zero, Generation X, and Why Millenials Really Aren’t All that Bad: Another unlikely Christmas story, Less than Zero (the book not the movie) happens to have turned 30 this year. Bret Easton Ellis’ first novel attempts to capture the lives of feckless Los Angeles Generations Xers during Christmas in 1985. RR on what it says about conceptions regarding generations and how Ellis successfully/unsuccessfully taps into classic writers like Joan Didion and F. Scott Fitzgerald.