Christmas is the season where we set aside political arguments and serious discussions, and come together as a country to have other stupid discussions. True, we do this all year, but the latest one is about whether or not a movie really qualifies as a Christmas movie.
The movie that caused all this debate is the Christmas classic Die Hard. It’s a tiresome joke, according to Buzzfeed:
There’s a certain smugness of sneaking by on a technicality: well, technically the movie takes place on Christmas Eve, so it counts as a Christmas movie. Most prized among people of this opinion is not a lifetime membership to the Alan Rickman fan club, but the transgressive act of selecting a violent action movie over Home Alone or more classic fare.
I’ve seen this article debated to hell and back across social media over the last few days, and the basic premise comes down to what makes a movie a Christmas movie. Which is ridiculous.
If a movie has Christmas as central to the plot, it probably blows. There’s no reason that It’s A Wonderful Life, Home Alone, or even the suddenly weirdly beloved Love Actually couldn’t take place during National Rectal Cancer Awareness Day; Christmas isn’t central to their plots, it’s mostly just window dressing, and the same is true of Die Hard. A Christmas Story could easily be A Birthday Story with no real material change to the plot.
Some movies manage to dodge this: Miracle on 34th Street was so good, it was a hit despite the studio putting it out in July, and Bad Santa plays heavily off of the schmaltz of the season. Still, most Christmas movies use Christmas not as a setting but as a free pass or a crutch: You can’t tell me, with a straight face, that A Christmas Puppy, or a movie named after a Christmas carol, or one of the dozens of miserable knock-offs of A Christmas Carol farted out by cable networks over the years, are quality cinema.
Really, what makes a Christmas movie is a family coming together to watch it over the holiday. My family’s preferred Christmas movie tends to be a BBC adaptation of The Blue Carbuncle starring Peter Cushing from the ’70s. What makes a movie a Christmas movie is that it’s part of your Christmas tradition. So, do everyone a favor, and make it a movie that doesn’t suck.