Due to some scheduling snafus on my part, I'm stuck in New York on Christmas Day instead of being miserable with my family in St. Louis. Oh, woe is me! With absolutely nothing to do, I had assumed, like any normal human being, that I'd turn to booze to keep me company. Instead, I find myself absolutely transfixed by the 'A Christmas Story' marathon currently airing on TBS. As I type this, I'm starting my fifth viewing. No matter how much I try, I cannot turn it off! It's not even so much that I'm enjoying watching this movie -- I'm just so fascinated and perplexed. So much so that, to pass the time, I'm creating a list of the ten things that confuse me about 'A Christmas Story.' (Also: Please help me.)
1.) If we're going by the actors' ages, Ralphie's dad is 17 years older than Ralphie's mom. How is this never explained? Not even in a throwaway, "When I met your father, he was teaching a course while I was a student," type line. I would watch a prequel based on the mother and father and the story of how they met. My only hope is that it's not creepy. Also, when the parents were being cast, how was this not a concern? "Oh, whatever, no one will notice." Well, after watching this movie five times today, I did notice.
2.) Who is that strange goggle-wearing kid waiting in line with Ralphie and his brother to see Santa? What a loon. Also, he's my favorite character in this movie. I mean, he's got this look on his face like he's about to stab someone, then utters nonsense like, "I like 'The Wizard of Oz.'" According to IMDb, the actor's name is David Svoboda, and he only has two other credits: the most notable being the writer of a short called 'The Last Blow Job.' (Also, just in case David Svoboda happens to have a Google alert set up for himself: Hi, David.)
3.) Scotty Schwartz plays a character named Flick. (As an aside, Flick also wears goggles, but never over his eyes. The goggles remain permanently attached to his headwear. Was this a thing in the 1940s? I can only assume since two halfway prominent characters are wearing pilot-type goggles, it must be.) Is Flick his real name? Or is this a nickname? I've never met anyone in my life with the name Flick. According to something called babynamespedia.com, Flick is a very unpopular girl's name. When I was in high school, I started referring to my friend Dennis as "Flick," just to see if it would take off as a viable nickname. Not surprisingly, this did not last.
4.) Is this a good movie? I used to think that it was, but now I'm not so sure. I've probably seen 'A Christmas Story' 50 times in my life, though, without the sense of nostalgia associated with 'A Christmas Story,' would I honestly ever watch it? And where is this sense of nostalgia coming from? 'A Christmas Story' is set in the early 1940s, the majority of people who enjoy this movie have never celebrated a Christmas in the early 1940s. Is this '80s nostalgia? Is it just the sense that it reminds me of my younger self watching a movie set in the 1940s?
5.) In what child's fantasy does a cowboy wear glitter? Ralphie wants a BB Gun. Before Ralphie gets his BB gun, he dreams of a scenario in which he saves his family from bandits by using his BB gun. Of course, in this scenario, Ralphie's cowboy is wearing glitter. I only bring this up because later in the film, Ralphie is mortified when he's forced to wear a pink bunny outfit -- which makes no sense because the glitter cowboy outfit appears to be much more embarrassing.
6.) OK, speaking of BB guns: Am I the only one who agrees with every reasonable character in this movie that purchasing a BB gun for a 9-year-old child is just a bad idea? No good can come out of anyone owning a BB gun. It's certainly not an effective enough weapon to reasonably defend oneself from true danger, or to scare up some game -- if you're into those sorts of things. When I was 10, my dad bought me a BB gun. I remember taking it outside, aiming at a bird in a tree, killing the bird, and then running into the house crying because I just killed a bird. I never touched that BB gun again. Moral of the story: BB guns are evil.
7.) When Ralphie's father receives a bowling ball as a gift from his wife, he emits a high-pitched, "thanks a lot," after the weight of the ball is dropped in his lap. Is this Ralphie's father's attempt at humor? If so, it's so unlike the character during the duration of the rest of the film. Was it Darren McGavin's attempt at some sort of improvisational humor? Or was Ralphie's father actually seriously injured from the weight of the bowling ball, causing a drastic change in his vocal patterns? I keep rewinding this scene and, honestly, I can't tell.
8.) The voiceover has always driven me a bit nuts. I mean, yes, Jean Shepherd has an affable enough voice. Calming, even. But I don't at all buy that in the future Ralphie will sound like Jean Shepherd. (In the future, Ralphie will sound a lot like Peter Billingsley and will direct a not great movie called 'Couples Retreat.') So, let's assume 'A Christmas Story' takes place in 1940. That means that the 9-year-old Ralphie is 52 when he's narrating this story for us in 1983 -- or just a couple of years older than Tom Cruise is right now. I understand puberty can have a drastic effect on a male human's voice, but not to this extent. At the very least, Ralphie grew up to be a heavy smoker.
9.) How did every single student receive a pair of fake teeth for the prank that was pulled in Miss Shields' class? This seems like a very elaborate and slightly expensive prank for a group of nine-year-olds. And what was supposed to be accomplished by this? Was there a specific person who was being targeted by the prank for having bad teeth? If so, this seems needlessly mean, too.
10.) Ralphie's father seems to be a bit of a prick. I guess that's the point, but when Ralphie accidentally says "fuck" while helping his father change a tire, the old man's true dickishness really comes out. Look, this could have been a really nice father-son moment between Ralphie and his father. You know, "Heh, we've all said it, son." Nope! Instead, Ralphie's father wastes absolutely zero time ratting him out to Ralphie's mother, with an end result of a bar of soap shoved into Ralphie's mouth. Seriously, what a prick.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter
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