Ah, Christmas. A time for reconnecting with the family, drinking and eating in excess, and (except for those working in retail) a chance to begin reflecting on what we have experienced this year (remember we had a Winter Olympics?).
Now, Christmas is a time of tradition. Mariah Carey and Michael Bublé will likely re-enter pop charts around the world. Supermarkets will decorate their stores green and red and offer discounts on anything from hams to coloured pencils. Mall Santas will begin to take their place among hordes of children of all ages, begging for whatever new electronic trend is in fashion. In all honesty, it’s – and I’m not sure how to express this any better – getting a little fucking exhausting.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love so much about this time of year. But after going through the same happenings year after year, I yearn for something different. Something to get my blood pumping again, but still be in touch with the values of Christmas. A sort of re-imagining of a Christmas story, fit with nativity, celebration and reconnection. Is that too much to ask?
Home Alone – a great film, if a little cheesy – doesn’t do it for me.
The Grinch – a little too Christmas-y for my liking.
The Santa Claus – a classic, easy-to-watch film.
But Die Hard, though. A controversial film in the Christmas-lovers community. ‘It’s not a kid’s movie!’ they scream. Since when do Christmas films have to be kid’s movies?
‘It’s excessively violent!’ they cry. Honestly, in 2018, we’ve seen worse.
‘Just because it’s set during Christmas time doesn’t make it a Christmas movie!’ they howl. This time, I totally agree. But the film is more than just set during Christmas. In many ways, it exemplifies the very best of the holiday season. And just like the franchise has five films, here are five decisive reasons why this is the case:
1. It’s full of Christmas cheer.
John McClane (Bruce Willis) walks around LAX with a huge stuffed bear for his wife, with whom he is having marriage difficulties. He asks his limo driver, Argyle, to play Christmas music. Bad guy Hans Gruber hums Christmas carols as he goes about his terrorist work, telling his henchmen to ‘have faith’ and wait for a Christmas miracle. Therefore, even the most moral and most immoral character believe in the spirit of Christmas, imparting it in the people around them. If none of that screams Christmas, I don’t know what does.
2. It celebrates unity and diversity.
Christmas, much like modern politics, is a time for coming together, not seeing race, age or gender. Female lead Holly Generro (Bonnie Bedella) rises to the top of the corporate ladder (albeit due to the murder of her boss), acting with authority not only as a woman, but as a leader. Al Powell, Theo, and Argyle are all characters of colour, treated equally and with respect by their fellow Caucasian or Asian workers. Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his men are German by heritage; not a single racist quip is heard throughout the film. In a socio-political context as divided as ours, Christmas is all about uniting together for a common goal; and that’s what we see here (in more ways than one).
3. Its script has the most under-appreciated quotes highly applicable to the Christmas season.
Say you receive an underwhelming set of glassware from that relative you rarely see. Vent your frustrations with McClane’s classic ‘Glass! Who gives a shit about glass!’
Or perhaps you’re last-minute Christmas shopping (which, come on, is more than likely) and the assistant is asking you if you’re sure about the purchase for a third time (like they know anything about your second cousin once removed). Whip out another classic McClane ‘No fucking shit lady, does it sound like I’m ordering a pizza?’
Finally, if the kids are getting restless on Christmas Eve, give them the Hans Gruber: ‘I’m going to count to three. There will not be a four’.
Three of many solid gold one-liners, disguising your frustration with the guise of a reference to this classic Christmas film.
4. It’s not too Christmas-y.
The most important reason Die Hard towers above other Christmas films is its deviation from tradition. Yes, there is some green and red – but the red is mostly blood. Yes, there is Christmas music – but it’s hummed by terrorists. What defines a classic is its ability to reinvent stereotypes, not stick to them, in a way that other films or genres have yet to realize. For that reason, Die Hard endures.
5. It’s technically watchable at any time in the year.
A good Christmas film is a watchable Christmas film. Unfortunately, Christmas spirit largely only lasts between 1-25 December (at most). That’s not a lot of watching. Die Hard, by contrast, takes on a certain timelessness, at once a Christmas film and not. Consider it a Schrodinger’s Cat scenario. However, it undeniably has Christmas themes. Therefore, at any point of the year, it will force one to think either to Christmas or back to Christmas. That is its one true power; not just representing the Christmas season, but the very concept of Christmas itself.
For those reasons (and many more), Die Hard is not just a Christmas film, but the Christmas film. And you won’t change my mind.