You know it’s Halloween when a flood of pumpkin spice memes and “problematic” costumes hit the news cycle.
Christmas, by comparison, arrives as soon as the first “Die Hard” Tweet crosses our smart phone screens. More specifically, “is the 1988 action classic a Christmas movie?” The very question is as seasonal as eggnog and mistletoe, and inspires fiery debate even among friends, and both sides refuse to back down.
“Die Hard” superstar Bruce Willis himself gave his answer at his 2018 roast, declaring that “Die Hard” isn’t a Christmas movie. Given the tone of the event, he could have been trolling the movie’s gargantuan fan base. Even if he wasn’t, the question is now far bigger than him or his opinion.
It’s not Christmas in 21st century America without a “Die Hard” mention. It’s as much a holiday staple as liberals finding new carols to cancel. Watch out, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” you may be next.
The holiday season is all about traditions — the gaudy stocking you can’t throw away, the family Rottweiler knocking down the Christmas tree, and whining about how early stores put up their twinkly decorations.
The “Die Hard/Christmas” debate is now firmly entrenched in our culture. You can’t imagine a holiday season without the question coming up. Blame social media if you must, it’s still undeniable. Game. Set. Match. The “Die Hard” debate is now a seasonal staple and, by extension, a Christmas movie.
The answer goes far beyond that, though.
The story itself brims with good cheer – in between the machine gun fire and Hans Gruber’s monologues. Songs like “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow” and “Christmas In Hollis” decorate the soundtrack.
The action begins on Christmas eve, and Nakatomi Plaza is festooned with wreathes and other seasonal fare.
The book that inspired the movie, 1979’s “Nothing Lasts Forever,” offers even more Christmas trappings than the big screen adaptation. That spirit snuck its way into the finished film, one originally dangled before both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Both superstars declined the role that would allow Willis to leave TV behind for decades.
Alamo Drafthouse, the movie chain with a playful sense of pop culture essentials, offers “Die Hard” screenings – when else? – in December (at least they did in the pre-COVID era).
Willis’ John McClane character adds to the merriment by dropping a Santa Claus hat on one of the expired villains. It’s ho-ho hilarious in a black comedy sort of way.
The “Die Hard”/Christmas debate matters more to conservative Americans. The film captures the essential ‘80s spirit, from President Ronald Reagan’s “Peace Through Strength” mantra to storytelling free of political correctness.
Need proof of the latter? A modern review of the film by Common Sense Media warned that some viewers will find the film’s stereotypes “dated and offensive.”
Action heroes like Willis, Stallone and Schwarzenegger didn’t clutch pearls while dispatching the baddies. They got the job done. Period. It’s one of many reasons our culture clings to the ‘80s as an oasis of normalcy in our woke age.
The heroic John McClane epitomizes that tone better than any character in modern times. He’s as red-blooded as the Duke wolfing down slabs of bloody prime rib. Willis’ hero cracked wise while taking out the Eurotrash. He never lost his sense of humor, nor his hunger to reunite with his family.
Isn’t that what the holidays are all about … family? John McClane may be as tough as they come, but he’s a softie when it comes to his estranged wife and children.
The ultimate test of a Christmas movie is something harder to quantify. It’s how it makes the viewer feel. Even the darkest of yuletide stories, like the gazillion “Christmas Carol” variations, end on an uplifting note. (“Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” is a personal favorite).
“Bad Santa,” the ultimate anti-holiday film, delivered a crush of cruelty before an ending that flirted with good cheer.
That’s certainly true of “Die Hard,” even if it takes a nail biter of an ending (two, actually) to set things in motion.
“Die Hard” caps with Hans Gruber decorating a sidewalk, the McClanes reunited in time for Christmas, and Officer Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) redeemed as the hero we all knew lay within him.
Some viewers will prefer Hallmark’s cavalcade of Christmas treats to Willis’ unorthodox holiday sampler. Others know it just isn’t the holidays unless their favorite cop christens the season with a Yippie Ki Yay salute.
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