by Claire Brennan
Does life imitate art? Or, is it the other way around? We want everything to work out, to go through life’s trials and tribulations, while also gaining the happy ending we desire. In other words, we want a life that’s movie-worthy. It makes sense, then, that many of the films we watch and love follow a specific formula that can get us through our own stories.
The formula movie, a skeleton for a story line that is reused over and over, is nothing new. For example, there’s the family of rambunctious/lovable/parentless children who end up being taken care of by an unlikely figure and form a special bond (see: The Pacifier, Uncle Buck, The Game Plan, Daddy Day Care, Kindergarten Cop, Nanny McPhee.)
Although it may seem banal to reuse the same formula over and over when it comes to Christmas, maybe it’s not so bad. After all, the holiday season is an emotional endurance race: You can hear your mother groaning over the tired Christmas CD on a never-ending loop because she’s completely butchering the entire meal while Aunt Maurine gives you the dirty details of her colonoscopy and everyone and their mother wants to know where you’re going to college even though you haven’t even heard back from all of them. Not to mention you know your dad doesn’t really want another spatula, but you couldn’t think of anything better to get him.
The hysteria caused by Christmas and the holiday season is only remedied by the thought of a holiday so perfectly quirky and heartwarming, only Hollywood could be responsible.
For every inter-family discord over the election and every pair of socks received, there is a movie in which a character who hates Christmas finds love and solace in the true meaning of the holiday (see: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol, The Santa Clause, Elf, Snowglobe, Fred Claus).
If a holiday fomula movie can set the mood and keep me optimistic about having my own quirky, heartwarming Christmas, then I’m in. If all else fails, I can sleep at night knowing that George’s Christmas dreams in It’s a Wonderful Life came true.