Die Hard IS a Christmas movie
Like the tragic story of Clark W. Griswold’s bonus check, and a sojourn back to the original “Schweddy Balls” SNL skit, Christmas is not Christmas until you’ve gotten into at least a moderately barbaric “conversation” with at least one person over whether or not “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying to defend “Die Hard” as a legitimate entry on the Christmas movie genre master list against the wrong opinions of wrong people who are wrong, then may this column be the catalyst that pits you against your own family members, coworkers, and friends in the “Die Hard” Smackdown Official Annual Christmas Argument this year.
It’s an actual thing.
If you’ve never participated, then raise a glass to new traditions. And gather ’round, kiddies, while Auntie Stacey lays out for you the most solid argument for “Die Hard’s” status in the Christmas genre being graded as solidly legitimate. Consider this a template for all of your future “Die Hard” dialectics.
Now, before we can proceed I need to present a few disclaimers: First, this argument has been raging since December of 2013, when the question was posed on Buzzfeed by Wrong Person Who Is Wrong Patient Zero, Katie Notopoulos. Second, since that fateful day in 2013, this debate has been savagely argued, from both sides, online as well as in actual, y’know, mouth words, really really loudly, over many a Christmas dinner that wouldn’t have ended in familial estrangement had everyone just shut right the heck up as soon as a commercial for “Die Hard” flashed across the television screen. If, for any reason, you have any doubts whatsoever about the strength of the relationship you have with the person alongside whom you’re about to descend into this logical viper’s nest of a conversation, do not proceed. I repeat. Do. Not. Proceed. Your interpersonal relationships are more important than saving the souls of the aggressive “Die Hard” deniers. Just drop it, back away, and assure that wrong person who is wrong that you love them anyway, and that you will continue to pray for them. Third, I have been through no fewer than ten polemics online, since I was compelled on Thursday to craft an authoritative argument by a wrong co-worker who is very, very nice but who is also wrong, defending the contentious Christmas motion picture. I have examined the issue furiously, from every angle, gluttonously ingesting everything from academic discourses considering the issue from a film criticism approach (Google Scholar for the win), to entertaining attempts by random wrong people who are wrong to invalidate the rightful member of the genre in online venues, at various levels of ineptitude with the conventions of the English language.
And while I’ve made every attempt that one can make to craft an original position statement based on the rhetoric of those who have come before me (in the 24 hours allotted, between first draft and polished manifesto, for revision by the fine but demanding art of writing under deadline), any excessive similarities of what I’m about to present to prior work should be considered nothing more than the spooky phenomenon of parallel genius at work.
Woot. Okay. We’re already 16 inches in, you guys.
But it has to be done.
Now. The crux of my argument is that if one considers “Home Alone” a Christmas movie – which everyone who is a right person who is right does – then one necessarily has to concede that “Die Hard” is also a Christmas movie. It’s as fundamental a truth as the fact that Japanese macaques are both wildly intelligent and unapologetic phlegmwads, as evidenced by the fact that they’ve made the hot springs they frequent every winter accessible by invitation only, and then taken it a whole extra step further and created a freaking caste system so that only the cool kids get invitations.
But I digress. All the time, actually. It’s basically my verb.
Look, here is why “Die Hard” is, at its core, a story composed using the very elements that make up the throbbing, nuclear heart of Christmas Spirit itself.
You ready for this? Oh my God, you’re so not ready for this. Okay. Prepare to have your noodles blown, guys. This is gonna be so great…
John McClane is, for all intents and purposes, Kevin McCallister all grown up.
I’ll give you a minute. Just let that sink in for a sec. I’ll wait.
We good? Alright then. Pull yourselves together and let’s carry on.
While I’m given ludicrous amounts of space to accommodate my nutty blathering every Saturday, I simply don’t have the room to go through an entire compare-and-contrast dissertation on the two characters here. If you’re not familiar enough with one or both of the characters to continue, go ahead and get caught up, and come back after you’ve reviewed both films. The connection, I trust you’ll agree, is both explicit and unimpeachable. They’re both clever, sassy, shrewd, divergent-thinking in terms of on-the-spot problem solving, able to read people, and slipperier than, say, a metal disc sled undercoated with, I don’t know, a non-caloric, silicon-based kitchen lubricant.
The key to this argument is not that the characters could easily be one and the same at different points along the timeline of typical human physical and cognitive development. That fact is just, like, the Red Bull you chug after you toot a line of blow.
Equally low on the itemized list of things that make both “Die Hard” and “Home Alone” Christmas movies, when weighted for importance to the overall message of their respective plotlines, is the fact that both movies take part during Christmas. While it’s true – and pay attention, here, boys and girls, because this is where the wily opponent in your effort to re-enfranchise the “Die Hard” franchise will attempt to derail your unstoppable logic train before you pick up too much speed and cream him before he can get off the track – that both movies would remain entirely intact were either temporally set during Easter, or Labor Day, or the freaking Vernal Equinox, that fact does NOT qualify as a reason to say that they are not Christmas movies. This is a red herring, of the most common variety. Do not accept this malarkey. The movies function and derive their most important meaning from their subplots – the drama of the characters completing their arcs. The meaning is not in the explosions, nor is it in the anti-burglary Rube Goldberg machines, which sweeten the pot, but are not the point.
Like the fact that John and Kevin represent the same archetype, acting along a different storyline toward the conclusion of unique character arcs, the fact that Kevin could just as easily have stuck a nail through stupid Marv’s stupid foot in August as in December is, while potentially dubious on the surface, ultimately and utterly irrelevant.
The big ticket item connecting both “Home Alone” and “Die Hard” are the fundamental themes motivating each main character’s behavior. Both Kevin and John are driven, at their core, by issues of interpersonal conflict, a desire for reconciliation, and the discrepancy between material and emotional wealth. For eight-year-old Kevin, the conflict is ambivalence toward his family. On the one hand, Kevin would love nothing more than to wake up and find his family gone. Yet, when he does, he is struck by the fact that not only could he use their help when shady adults with bad oral hygiene and negligible intelligence quotients come sniffing around, but he actually misses them and wants them to return. John, too, is dealing with that very same ambivalence toward his tottering relationship with his wife Holly and their children. Hans Gruber isn’t the antagonist in “Die Hard.” He’s one of the complications, certainly. But John’s central conflict, the chassis upon which his entire story is predicated, is his realization of how much he really does want to reconcile with Holly. His hero’s journey is the same as Kevin’s, just on an adult level.
With set of grown folks’ circumstances.
And a big boy submachine gun.
“Yippee ki-yay,” or “keep the change you filthy animal,” the story is identical.
Okay. I’m doing better than I thought. And I think this is a good place to start wrapping things up.
The point is this: It all depends on how you want to define “Christmas movie,” but I find that the majority of wrong people who are wrong when it comes to “Die Hard” being a Christmas movie (which it is, because it is), want to argue it out of the genre because it doesn’t look like it fits. It’s the “one of these things just doesn’t belong here” conundrum, if you will.
Kind of how the whos chased the Grinch away because he didn’t dig their cognitively numb, unquestioning xerox lifestyles.
Look. Whether you like your Christmas with a side of holly and mistletoe or blow torches and C4 is inconsequential. The fact is that, when you’ve got a powerful lust for a movie about a character learning firsthand the spirit of Christmas – the importance of family, being good to the ones we love, and making up for it when we haven’t been – then the delivery system for getting your character from point A to point B couldn’t possibly matter less, so long as he gets there. Everything else boils down to the splitting of hairs between subgenres and, really, do we want to enter into that kind of petty bickering during this most magical season of the year?
But I will.
If you force me, Mr. Ferry.