NEW COLUMN: A Christmas Story Before Nerf Guns Became a No-No

Christianity,Comedy & Humor,Family,Feminism,Film,Founding Fathers,Kids,Left-Liberalism

NEW COLUMN, “A Christmas Story Before Nerf Guns Became a No-No,” is on American Greatness.

An excerpt:

Described by a critic as “one of those rare movies you can say is perfect in every way,” “A Christmas Story,” directed by Bob Clark, debuted in 1983. Set in the 1940s, the film depicts a series of family vignettes through the eyes of 9-year-old Ralphie Parker, who yearns for that gift of all gifts: The Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.

This was boyhood before the Nerf gun and “bang-bang you’re dead” were banned; family life prior to “One Dad Two Dads Brown Dad Blue Dads,” and Christmas before Saint Nicholas was denounced for his whiteness, and “Merry Christmas” condemned for its exclusiveness.

If children could choose the family into which they were born, most would opt for the kind depicted in “A Christmas Story,” where mom is a happy homemaker, dad a devoted working stiff, and between them, they have zero repertoire of progressive psychobabble to rub together.

Although clearly adored, Ralphie is not encouraged to share his feelings at every turn. Nor is he, in the spirit of gender-neutral parenting, circa 2020, urged to act out like a girl if he’s feeling … girlie.

Instead, Ralphie is taught restraint and self-control. And horrors: The little boy even has his mouth washed out with soap and water for uttering the “F” expletive. “My personal preference was for Lux,” reveals Ralphie, “but I found Palmolive had a nice piquant, after-dinner flavor—heady but with just a touch of mellow smoothness.” Ralphie is, of course, guilt-tripped with stories about starving Biafrans when he refuses to finish his food.

The parenting practiced so successfully by Mr. and Mrs. Parker fails every progressive commandment. By today’s standards, the delightful, un-precocious protagonist of “A Christmas Story” would be doomed to a lifetime on the therapist’s chaise lounge—and certainly to daily doses of Ritalin …

NEW COLUMN, “A Christmas Story Before Nerf Guns Became a No-No,” is on American Greatness.

Merry Christmas.

One thought on “NEW COLUMN: A Christmas Story Before Nerf Guns Became a No-No

  1. Musil Protege

    Delighted to see you write about A Christmas Story, Ilana! I discovered the great Jean Shepherd (movie narrator) via Car & Driver Magazine (where he wrote great travel pieces) as a teen in the 70s and loved his book In God We Trust; All Others Pay Cash, from which all the movie’s set pieces are adapted. He really knew America. The title of the book was actually one of the two signs that hung in the window of the local tavern, frequented by Shepherd’s father (model for the Old Man). The other sign, btw, listed the products on offer at the tavern. “Booze,” it read.

    Your column nailed it. I grew up more or less a decade after Ralph, pretty much in the same sort of family. I lived on a quiet suburban street, in most of the houses of which resided a typical nuclear family. Divorce was unthinkable. The families all stayed intact, as far as I knew, although you could see, as we grew up, that some of the other kids were going to succumb to the worst pathologies of the Sixties, by the time they got to college. Nonetheless, it was all & all a pretty good life. Comfortable enough, but no material surplus. Boys had imaginations just like Ralph. We played army with toy guns, in the woods out back, baseball, sandlot football, signed up for Little League at age 9, and all took the same bus to the nearest public school (aside from the Catholics, who wore uniforms to go to their own parochial schools), which back then only propagandized about 3% of what they do now.

    Dad put on a tie to go to work, and did battle with the furnace, figured out how to fix whatever broke down at home, because we had to stay on a budget. We all went to church on Sunday, and assumed our neighbors, poor things, were all going to hell, if they weren’t going to ours in particular. Backyard cookouts in the summer were more frequent than barbecues at the Wilkes Plantation. All and all, not a bad life. We took it for granted that everyone lived that way, because so many did. Glad I remembered to tell my octogenarian mother recently that I regretted not expressing my gratitude more than I did. To Mom’s credit she took no umbrage for thanking her for something in her opinion, every parent was supposed to do. I can even say that I was denied a BB gun and was actually told I’d shoot my eye out. Lol, I would have. At least I got a pretty badass toy machine gun for Xmas @ age 7…5 weeks after JFK in Dallas.

    Shepherd was a discovery I shared with
    my folks. He used exaggeration, but in a good way, and he really tapped into the normal human’s nostalgia for the days of their youth, especially if it was a youth filled with happy memories. Based upon the the film’s continued success, I’d say that the post war years, until, say, Vietnam, was a Golden Age.

    PBS, when it still provided quality programming, made three other films based on Shepherd’s work, the best of which is probably “The Phantom of the Open Hearth,” 1976, based on Ralph’s teenage years. The late James Broderick (father of Matthew) memorably plays a slightly harder edged Old Man. The only thing lacking in A Christmas Story, regrettably, is any mention of Wanda Hickey, “The Algebra Shark,” a rather nice, if plain girl, who Ralph must settle for taking to the prom (where she is transfigured into a charming young lady, in Phantom). But of course Ralph is only 9 in A Christmas Story, and girls don’t figure into the lives of 9 year old boys—or didn’t back then.

    I’ll just add that I can confirm that we all had some Ovaltine moment, when the little promotional gewgaw we’d waited months to receive turned out to be a shameless piece of junk. I also can recall having martyr fantasies similar to Ralphie becoming blind from having soap in his mouth. Mothers packed their youngest off to school in movement-paralyzing layers, as depicted by the younger brother. Dogs ran free like the Bumpus hounds, and were for the most part friendly, if overly -rambunctious and always ready for any food they came across.

    Several years ago, they showed a live TV performance of the Broadway musical version of the movie. I couldn’t turn it off fast enough. So much smug PC, interracial main family, perfect pitch/perfect enunciation Chinese waiters. I think most of the smarter fans of Bob (Porky’s) Clark’s masterpiece, steered away from that one too.

    Bob, of course, was tragically killed in a traffic accident some years ago, an accident caused by a drunken illegal alien. Seems like a mournful metaphor—a microcosm—for what’s happened to our whole civilization.

    Again, I am glad you appreciate the universal truth that underlies the best American Christmas movie.

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