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YMMV / A Christmas Story

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  • Accidental Innuendo: Not helped by the fact that it's Farkus ordering Ralphie around.
    "Listen, jerk! When I tell you to come, you better come."
  • Adaptation Displacement: Jean Shepherd left behind a vast body of other work about his childhood, but only diehard fans are even aware of it, or of his long career as a radio personality.
    • Not to mention, it's almost completely ignored (most notably in the DVD commentary) that A Christmas Story is but the THIRD screen adaptation from the Ralphie Parker stories, following the made-for-TV movies The Phantom of the Open Hearth (1976) and The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters (1982), both of which had elements filtered into this film. Shepherd would bring Ralphie to the screen three more times, in the TV movies The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski (1985) and Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss (1988) and the theatrical It Runs in the Family (1994), although his death mercifully prevented any involvement in the almost completely hated A Christmas Story 2.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Were the mall Santa and his elves too harsh towards Ralphie and the other kids, or were they just really tired and wanted the store to close so their shift can end?
      • He also might be under specific instructions to discourage kids who ask for anything potentially dangerous. Parents might complain otherwise.
    • One interpretation of the Chinese restaurant scene suggests the carolers were slipping into Japanese Ranguage on purpose, either to get a rise out of their boss or to cheer up the Parkers after their Christmas dinner was ruined (when he suggests they pick another song, they switch to the also L-heavy "Jingle Bells").
      • A point in favor of that theory is that they are at a Chinese restaurant, and both of the two native languages spoken by a large majority of Chinese-born immigrants, Mandarin and Cantonese, each in their standard accent have a "la/laa" initial sound similar to the English one, and there is no reason to think they all would accidently mistake it for an "ra" initial. The reverse, mistaking a "r" for an "l" would be more likely since the "r's" are realized quite differently in many regions from English. Of course, they could be speaking a Chinese minority dialect which realizes the "l" sound differently or from a region where the sounds are realized differently.
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    • When Ralphie is finally fed up with Scut Farkus and starts to beat him up, how much of that was truly legit? Did that actually happen or was that what Ralphie wanted to have happen and he was stretching the truth?
  • Americans Hate Tingle: Interestingly, while it's beloved in the US and Canada, it's largely been overlooked in the UK, while other Hollywood Christmas comedies of the last few decades (Elf, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, The Santa Clause, Scrooged) are just as popular there as they are in North America. This might have something to do with a lack of big-name stars, and the British public perhaps not being very familiar with the Norman Rockwell-type of American Christmas that gets parodied here.
  • Award Snub:
    • Didn't get any sniff at all from the Oscars, but since it was filmed largely in Canada and technically was an American-Canadian co-production, it was nominated for a bunch of Genie Awards. Bob Clark won Best Director and the screenplay also won, but it lost in all other categories, including Best Picture, technical awards, and Tedde Moore (Miss Shields) as Supporting Actress.
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    • Getting selected for the National Film Registry in 2012 more than made up for any past snubs.
  • Catharsis Factor: Ralphie beating up Scut Farkus. For anyone who's ever been bullied in school, it can be pretty easy to project yourself onto Ralphie as he dishes out some much-deserved payback onto Scut.
  • Critical Dissonance: Most reviewers in 1983 felt it was So Okay, It's Average, with Roger Ebert being one of the few to give it a rave. He later even added it to his list of Great Movies.
  • Cult Classic: Although now considered a Christmas classic, up until the late-1990s, it was technically considered this, growing an audience due to strong cable exposure and VHS.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: What do you remember and love most about this film? The leg lamp? The bunny suit? The tongue on the flagpole? Nope, you probably remember the delightfully Large Ham that is the Old Man.
    • Jeff Gillen's irascible department-store-Santa also makes a strong impression with just a few minutes of screen time.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: A Christmas Story 2 gets this treatment from virtually everyone. Can qualify as Canon Discontinuity as well, as in spite of the trailer boasting that it's an "official" sequel, the film is in no way based on any of Jean Shepherd's works, and for obvious reasons was made without his input or blessing.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Bob Clark was also the director of the original Black Christmas (1974).
    • The top battling subplot in one of the sequels is oddly reminiscent of Beyblade.
    • The "Soap poisoning" scene is already hilarious, but it's even more so if you're familiar with Modern Warfare.
  • Hype Backlash: Understandably, those who didn't grow up with the film or discover it on their own terms were severely underwhelmed by this low-key, Slice of Life film that it's niche fanbase hyped up as one of the greatest movies ever made. It only got worse once the mainstream caught on and started churning out kitchy tie-in merch, as well as the poorly received sequel and TV remake, respectively, robbing the film of it's original quaint appeal for many of it's original fans.
  • It's Popular, Now It Sucks!: TNT and, later, TBS's 24-hour Marathon Running of the movie each Christmas, and its resulting pop-cultural ubiquity, have generated a mixture of this and Hype Backlash for many.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Schwartz. He displays jerkass behavior to Flick over the issue of whether a tongue will stick to a flagpole in the winter and when doing his dares skips the triple dare before the triple dog dare. However, he is the only one to be shown getting physical harm from Scut Farkas, and when Ralphie chickens out regarding whether to tell his mom that he learned the f-word from his father, he chooses to blame Schwartz, who gets an undeserved beating from his mother immediately upon hearing about it.
  • Memetic Molester: Ralphie as of A Christmas Story 2. It doesn't help that the entire plot of the movie involves him chasing after a girl, leading to events like him sniffing her hair and fiddiling with a mall dummy's braziere.
  • Memetic Mutation: "You'll shoot your eye out!", "FRAH-GEE-LEY. Must be Italian.", "Drink More Ovaltine", "I triple dog dare you!", etc.
    • Also notable: "It's a major award!"
    • Saying "fudge" instead of swearing.
    • The "Drink Your Ovaltine" scene is memetic among Alternate Reality Game players, especially for disappointments.
  • Narm Charm: Two words: "Soap poisoning."
  • One-Scene Wonder: Jeff Gillen as the department store Santa Claus. "HOOOO HOOOO HOOOOOOO!"
  • Opinion Myopia: If you didn't grow up with this movie, and even remotely imply you don't like it, expect 1.) the fan's heads to explode at the mere thought of someone not adoring this classic, and 2.) rip you to shreds for it.
  • Sequelitis: The 2012 DTV sequel has been widely panned, even by fans who forget that it released.
  • Slow-Paced Beginning: The film's first few minutes are forgettable and pretty slow, with long gaps in the narration and very long shots of toys and kids pressing their noses against windows.
  • Special Effect Failure: The soap they washed Ralphie's mouth out with was a glossy plastic prop that didn't look anything like soap.
  • Tearjerker: As awesome as it is to see Ralphie finally fight back against Scut Farkus, it is also quite sad seeing the buildup and the aftermath. Ralphie has been bullied by Scut since the start of the movie, possibly longer, and he already had a bad day when Scut showed up. Then Scut finally pushes him over the edge by mocking him, leading to poor Ralphie snapping and attacking him. Not to mention that he wasn’t easing up on his beatings and swearing under his breath. There’s also Randy’s reaction, which seems to be that of genuine concern for his brother. He had never seen Ralphie so angry before and immediately ran to his mother because he was worried about his brother. And when his mother showed up and pulled him off Scut, he was in tears.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously: Braeden Lemasters in A Christmas Story 2 actually puts in a fairly earnest performance as Ralphie. The script doesn't do him any favors, but it's clear he's trying to make the movie work.
  • "Weird Al" Effect: If someone brings up Ovaltine nowadays, it will most likely be because they remembered it from this movie.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • The Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant. Granted, the story takes place in and is being remembered by someone who was a child in the less-culturally-sensitive 1940s, and even the manager (who speaks perfect English) is visibly annoyed at his staff's stereotypical singing and repeatedly tries to correct them. Still, as the world grows more culturally sensitive, even that reason is beginning to feel more and more like an excuse.note 
    • While toy guns have always been controversial (the alleged inspiration for the original story was an encounter with a woman wearing an anti-toy gun pin in the early 1960s), a nine-year-old having a toy gun that is both realistic looking and a functional, if ineffective, weapon would be out of the question in a post-Columbine world.
    • When Ralphie blames Schwartz for a swear word he said, we listen to Schwartz' mother scream at the top of her lungs and begin beating her son over the phone, while he pleadfully yells "What'd I do?!?" Ralphie's mother is at first shocked when she hears it, but simply hangs up the phone and thinks nothing else of it. These days, Ralphie's mother would have immediately called CPA.
    • For that matter, these days, most families wouldn't wash a kid's mouth out with soap for saying a swear word anyway, partially because soap poisoning really is a possibility, depending on the kind of soap. In most families, that would probably get you either a stern talking-to, or, in a more laid-back family, you'd get let off with a warning since Ralphie let the word slip out by mistake when he was frustrated (and some families may not care at all).
    • The real reason that The Mother is so upset by the Leg Lamp: at the time, stay-at-home moms ruled the house and everything about it reflected on her. The Mother's take on the Old Man's Major Award: "A woman's leg in a fishnet stocking? Not in my front window!!"
    • Parents today would NEVER leave kids that age alone in a crowded department store, especially during Christmastime.
  • Values Resonance: The film has such a massive staying power beyond its original baby-boomer audience because of how Jean Shepherd perfectly nailed a child's take on Christmastime. It may be a videogame or some other electronic gizmo they're pining for nowadays, but most any kid watching can put themselves in Ralphie's shoes and knows all about the agony and excitement that he goes through waiting for the big day to arrive.

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