So yeah, let’s talk about Christmas movies.
For every classic, there are twenty “new” Christmas movies put out every year with the same ideas repackaged to “speak to a new generation.” In other words, it’s the same thing over and over.
Come to think of it, that’s Hollywood’s Modus Operandi for all of the year, but don’t get me off my point. There are many inescapable clichés that have emerged (especially in the TV movie genre) so I thought it might be fun to examine some of them.
Years ago, I found this great list on the subject from a site called uberfluff.com in a section called The Lazy Screenwriter’s Guide to Formulaic Magic. Apparently since then, uberfluff has folded. And I’m still here. Who woulda thunk?
So here you are, 9 Christmas clichés I believe we could probably dial back:
- Fun movies about Santa should always feature nice, middle class families in single-family homes. Little boys and girls who live in the ghetto have an unfortunate tendency to ask Santa for things like food and heat, which test audiences find to be a real downer.
- Poor little boys and girls are permitted to be part of movies where someone needs to learn, “the real meaning of Christmas.” Of course, once the protaganist has learned that Christmas is all about love/giving/family/etc., it is best if the unfortunate child who taught that lesson gets adopted by someone rich, dies, turns out to have been an angel, or otherwise disappears so that the main character can enjoy a nice Christmas dinner without any lingering classist guilt.
- Get a new take on the Santa story by focusing on a member of Santa’s family or someone close to him. Doesn’t really matter who–son, daughter, brother, uncle, cousin, his best friend’s neighbor’s dog. You’re guaranteed something “fresh” and plenty of heartwarming bonding.
- It is impossible to put up Christmas lights without experiencing a hilarious physical injury.
- People who deny the existence of Santa are mean and nasty souls (who usually wear cheap gray suits), and will inevitably get their comeuppance.
- The world can always use a new twist on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The 40,000,000 different versions currently in existence have only scratched the surface of that classic. Hey, what about a Rastafarian Scrooge? Imagine the possibilities with the Marley character.
- Big family gatherings are always full of colorful and eccentric characters who do witty and entertaining things, even when they’re supposed to be “annoying.” Even the arguments are funny. No one has arguments over whether the curtains in grandma’s old house were brown or tan, nor are there any extended conversations about how long it took everyone to drive there.
- In the sad but true category… Unless the movie is the actual story of Jesus, you must avoid mentioning Jesus in a regular Christmas movie, since you don’t want to come off too “religious.” However, you may use angels, unspecified miracles, and Santa to suggest the presence of divine intervention.
- When everything looks like it’s crashing and burning, the snow begins to fall which makes everyone love each other again–somehow–magically. Snow is apparently like nature’s Prozac. Years of counseling couldn’t bring a family together, but by golly, get some white flakes falling and all is forgiven and dandy! This could be very useful if we could just get it to snow in Iran. Nuclear crisis… averted!
How about you? Any Christmas movie clichés you want to give a lump of coal to (i.e., ban for the future)? Or do you like a little cheese with your beef log in regard to your holiday entertainment?
Reworked from a 2009 post