Movies reflect the changing roles of men in the 21st century. Here is what our community says about a classic Christmas film.
This post is part of our “Movies and Manhood” series that gives some of our regular writers an opportunity to share their views on how movies have impacted their thinking about men’s roles today. Our objective is to find the intersection between these films and the themes and topics we address here at The Good Men Project. Be sure to check out our other posts here.
1983’s A Christmas Story has become a perennial favorite of all ages. The story of Ralphie’s quest for a Red Ryder BB gun, along with his run-ins with the local bully Scut Farkus, has made audiences laugh and reflect for over thirty years.
But A Christmas Story is more than just about laughs—it’s about the memories of an older man who reflects honestly on what seemed to be a simpler time in America. Do we connect with it because we connect with Ralphie’s story, perhaps longing for our lost youth? Does it also bring us bad memories from our childhood? Maybe run-ins with bullies or other disappointments?
Whatever the case, it’s clear that this film has connected with viewers for many years. Let’s see what a few of our GMP writers have to say about this classic Christmas film. You can check out their comments after the clip.
Here are the GMP Perspectives:
We can look at Ralphie’s bully as a personification of struggles at any level. Whether you’re a child or an adult, there are always going to be things that get in your way of just simply existing. Ralphie was younger and therefore perceived as weaker. Bullies often try to implant seeds of negativity within you.
When your bully is a situation, it comes up to make you doubt yourself and question if you’re good enough to just be who you are. Ralphie finally giving his bully his fists of fury is one of my favorite scenes in the movie because it re-affirms that it’s okay to stand up for yourself. You have a right to happily go on about your life. You are your best protector.
James Woodruff, The Good Men Project Author
I saw this in the theater with my parents in 1983. Besides the battle of the lamp, the hubcap spilling, the “Oh fudge” moment, and Flick’s tongue sticking to the pole, Ralphie’s love of the Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle was something I attached myself. I definitely related to his mission of wanting that one special thing. It had reminded me of my own need to have the original Star Wars Death Star playset.
Yes indeed, if Ralphie could shoot his eye out, I could get lost in the four levels of
Stormtrooper and Jedi-filled action. From the elevator going through all floors, to the large planet-destroying cannon, and to the best part, a pit filled with garbage and an alien creature that would drag my Luke Skywalker action figure under water. Of course, I didn’t get the same resistance to getting that one special toy, but still this was a big purchase considering the frugal times my parents were facing.
I too campaigned, I would do chores around the house, anything to be good and get that one special thing. That Christmas morning, when I awoke and saw the pile of presents, nothing resembled that large action filled adventure. Yet as the presents were cleared, there in the back was a gift wrapped package, the size of my hearts desire. I ripped it open and found it was indeed Darth Vader’s soon-to-be expensive mistake. (Come on, it probably took 16 trillion star credits to build this thing together and a single shot from a X-wing will bring it down.) Glad I had the plastic counterpart.
Everything else was dismissed that morning, unless it could visit the Death Star. Thanks to Ralphie, I remembered that cherished moment, the want and desire to have that one special thing.
May your holidays be filled with Chinese restaurant Christmas carols.
Sean Ackerman, The Good Men Project Author
One of the fascinating features of A Christmas Story is that, unlike most Christmas movies, it isn’t particularly idealized or infused with “magic.” As the pervasive fantasy sequences serve to remind us, the actual narrative is pretty standard, down-to-earth fare. What makes this even more remarkable is that from the outset, the narrator sets up the story as a favorite recollection of a man reflecting on Christmas past. Yet the story is, on the whole, about as full of pain, disappointment, and childhood angst as it is more typical celebration and seasonal merriment.
What has made the story so enduring is that it is simply relatable: the people, relationships, events, and emotions aren’t whitewashed, they are just recollections of an older man. The roles and relationship of his mother and father may not be progressive, but he doesn’t defend them. His father is equal parts Man of the House and Oaf, a self-serious goof out to assert himself as breadwinner, yet clearly as fallible and unreliable as anyone.
The characters skate through archetypes just as we do in real life, at times defying convention, and at other times dissolving into it. Ralphie may be reflecting fondly, but by all appearances, he is also reflecting honestly, and that is sometimes flattering but more often not, to those whom he remembers in the story. This movie isn’t a commentary on anything: just the memories of your average Baby Boomer.
Edgar Wilson, The Good Men Project Author
This is an iconic visual of helicopter parenting while Ralphie is left to navigate the school world for himself. His brother Randy is another story. After his mother bundles him in a closet full of winter clothing, Randy can’t use his hands, walk quickly enough to keep pace with his brother, and most significantly, he cannot outrun the bullies that were a threat his mother never knew about. His mother protected him from the cold but left him vulnerable to something much more menacing: the bully Scut Farkus.
Anna Rosenblum Palmer, The Good Men Project Author
I was a child in the 1950’s. This movie has so many elements that capture life in that era in a warm comical way that it’s hard to pick a favorite. Perhaps the most relevant for GMP is the bully, Scut Farkus. Like Ralphie, I really did plot my routes away from places where I would encounter the nemesis of our neighborhood. Like the character Scut Farkus, he would jump out from anywhere. Then it was an accepted part of life. No one did anything. Although painted with humor and ultimately revenge in the movie, he was a terror. We know now what serious damage it causes.
Spencer Dryden, The Good Men Project Author
Photo: Warner Bros.
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