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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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  • 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: Possible, given the film's status as a beloved Christmas film and the focus it tends to get during the holidays. For those who haven't seen it before, it's very possible to watch the film and get a 'this is it?' feel, thanks to the film's Slice of Life nature, and generally slow-paced structure.
  • It's Popular, Now It Sucks!: TNT's 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.
  • 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:
    • Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant... let's just say this scene hasn't exactly aged well. It might help to remember that the story does take place in the 40's, and even the manager (who speaks perfect English) is visibly annoyed at his staff's stereotypical singing and repeatedly tries to correct them, but the scene might feel even more uncomfortable as time goes on.
      • The scene is parodied in the musical version, where the staff sings "Deck the Halls" rather non-stereotypically. Then, Ralphie's father comments that he wasn't expecting them to sing so well. The manager indignantly asks "What were you expecting?" The father embarrassingly reacts with "I don't know..."
    • A nine-year-old having a toy gun that is both realistic looking and a functional (if ineffective) weapon is practically unheard of in an age of school shootings, although toy guns have been controversial for decades. The alleged inspiration for the original story was an encounter with a woman wearing an anti-toy gun pin in the early 1960s.
    • 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?!?" Even Ralphie's mother looks horrified listening to it, but she simply hangs up the phone. If something like that happened today Ralphie's mother would have called the cops straightaway.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • The Woobie: Poor Flick.

Example of: