Painful Truth: The soothing strangeness of Christmas movies

I’m sometimes a little grumpy around Christmas.

I think this is understandable, even if no one wants to talk about it.

Fortunately, I am rescued by the truly bizarre entertainments of the holiday season.

I like most of the classics – if It’s a Wonderful Life or White Christmas come on TV and I don’t have to get up, I’ll generally watch them for the 50th time.

But I take what you might call a broad view of Christmas entertainment.

Other movies that I consider classic Christmas films: Bad Santa, Love Actually, Die Hard, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, the He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special and Road House, starring Patrick Swayze. Don’t ask me what that last one has to do with Christmas, I just feel like movies with spin kicks and monster trucks are sort of seasonal.

Then there are all those Rankin Bass holiday specials. Every year, they re-run Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, which reminds us that holiday entertainment for children can be utterly odd.

Ask yourself: why is there a flying lion ruling over an icy kingdom of animated misfit toys? Where did the lion come from? How did he become king? What dark wizardry gave life to toys that could know only misery and loneliness, then abandoned them?

It raises some unusual theological questions for a movie about a reindeer whose nose is packed with bioluminescent cells, is all.

Some of the other Rankin Bass movies are even weirder, in a way that suggest the writers were on drugs.

The Santa origin story special in which he’s raised by Ak, the immortal Master Woodsman of the World, and a lioness, only gets odder from there. Santa fights demons, eventually. I am not making a word of this up.

Then there are the new made-for-TV Christmas movies, which a couple of channels are running six to 12 hours a day right now. Every year, more and more of them are cranked out, and added to the endless rotation. About half of them seem to have been filmed right around here, so you can play a pretty good eggnog-based drinking game just by identifying Langley landmarks.

These movies range from tolerable to enjoyably awful. We watch the latter end.

Most of them seem to be based on the same three or four plot elements, reshuffled as needed. Someone needs to learn about the magic of the season, maybe some kids need a new home, throw in a romance, and you’re done.

They’re a bastion of gender stereotypes that have been outdated since at least the 1980s, despite the fact that most of them are pretty recent productions. If you want to watch a movie where men can’t cook or care for children, while women just need a man so they can quit their day jobs, check out a made-for-TV Christmas movie.

I find the weirdness of the seasonal movies strangely comforting. It’s almost unacknowledged in our society that Christmas movies are often as surreal in terms of plot and character as anything Salvador Dali could come up with.

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