Rather than link a series of Christmas themed legal news stories, today, we here at Abnormal Use thought we would explore something a bit more cheer inducing and suited to the holiday at hand. So, to celebrate the occasion, we asked three of our contributors to share their thoughts on the movies they cherish most during the holidays. (We tried this once on Halloween, so we thought, why not for Christmas?)
Steve Buckingham: There are two movies that stand out in my mind as perennial feel-good classics: A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. One is the story of a bad man’s redemption; the other is a story of a good man’s redemption. And what could be more inspirational around the holidays than that? It’s a dynamic duo of warm-fuzzies.
But I’m not really a warm-and-fuzzy kind of guy. So why am I drawn to these stories? I think it’s because I see so much of myself in both Ebenezer Scrooge and George Bailey.
Some of you may be thinking, Whatever, Buckingham. Don’t flatter yourself. You’re not interesting enough to be a character. Fair enough. But I have this theory — it’s more of a working hypothesis — that Scrooge and George have a lot in common. So much in common, in fact, that it was the same basic personality trait that led to each of their downfalls: Duty.
You can see it in Scrooge’s early life. As a young man, Scrooge was engaged to a lovely young filly. The relationship eventually fell apart because Scrooge was working all the time. Some may say that Scrooge’s ambition was his downfall. But I think that misses the mark. If we could talk with Scrooge, we would learn that he pushed himself so hard because he felt the weight of being responsible for not only himself but potentially for a wife and kids. Scrooge believed it was his duty to be self-sufficient, and if he had a family, to be a provider for them. But Scrooge was not willing to take on the responsibility of family until he was financially secure. Instead, Scrooge ended up in social isolation.
We can also see duty at work in George Bailey. All his life, George made decisions with others in mind, even if his choice came at great personal sacrifice. George’s duty was to serve his community, and at times, to save his community. This, of course, resulted in George bearing the weight of responsibility for not only his family, but also his friends and neighbors. That weight had been accumulating for years, and then suddenly, it became crushing. To the point where George thought that the world would be better off without him.
Most men, if they’re being honest with themselves, will admit to feeling the very same pressures, sometimes just as strongly. Our identities are hard-wired to the concept of duty, and more importantly, to the belief that we have done our duty, whether to our friends, our families, our jobs, our communities, whatever. It is a wretched thought to think that we have not lived up to those expectations. And so we can look at George and think, Man, I’ve been there. I know exactly what he’s going through. Or we can look at Scrooge and say, I’m not that bad, am I? But with either character, it can be like looking into a mirror. Sometimes you like what you see; sometimes you don’t.
The enduring lesson of A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life is that our fulfillment comes from the relationships we build and the good that we do in the time we have. In the midst of life’s pressure, it’s hard to keep that truth in mind. But what better time than the holidays, when you’re surrounded by folks you love and who love you, to remember why it was we worked so hard this year and why we’ll do the same the next.
Nick Farr: No Christmas is ever complete without a screening of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Aside from its comedy, what makes the film truly special is how it resonates with viewers. While you may have never had a Christmas filled with quite so many shenanigans, you can relate to the Griswalds. We all appreciate the stress of planning the perfect family holiday gathering. We all have that one crazy family member you question how he cross-pollinated with the family tree. We all struggle with putting aside external pressures to enjoy a little family time at home. Above all else, we all know that at the end of the day somehow it all works.
Many Christmas movies have been made depicting the archetypal Norman Rockwell family. Those films fail to show all of the hard work that goes in to making the perfect Christmas. What makes a real family is working through all of the chaos to get to the family photo. Christmas Vacation, while taking the chaos to the extreme, reminds us why we work so hard to try and make everything perfect. Family.
Jim Dedman: Buckingham goes for meaning, Farr goes for laughs. But they’re both wrong. There is only one truly perfect Christmas film. As a matter of law, the best Christmas movie is, quite simply, Die Hard. Summary judgment granted. Happy holidays, everyone!