I listened to a story on NPR about the 25th anniversary of the movie A Christmas Story, which has summarily displaced It’s a Wonderful Life as America’s favorite holiday movie (you can catch it somewhere on cable TV at every hour of every day the week of Christmas, no exaggeration).
During part of the story, NPR replayed an interview with the writer of A Christmas Story, famed radio personality Jean Shepherd, who also narrated the film. He said something that struck me as peculiar, but oddly comforting. Paraphrasing from the interview:
“A Christmas Story is all about obsession. It’s about a boy’s obsession with an air rifle, but it’s really all about obsession in general. I’ve always thought obsession is just about the funniest thing of all time.”
Obsession, funny? That’s not a typical point-of-view, but the more I thought about the movie’s storyline, the more I could see Shepherd’s ironic perspective coming through. It’s not just Ralphie who’s obsessed with an air rifle, but his father is obsessed with being respected as someone important, his mother is obsessed with maintaining a respectable air in the community, his friends are obsessed with not being victimized by bullies, and everyone throughout the movie is obsessed with warning Ralphie that if he ever gets an air rifle, “it’ll put your eye out kid!” It’s a virtual holiday obsession fest.
And it works. The late great Mr. Shepherd had it right – obsession can indeed be very funny. Whether it is by nature funny, as he implied in the interview, is another story.
And now (as if it isn’t on TV enough), the flag pole scene…