Fanatic Cinematic: ‘Tis the season for a reason

Movie columnist Alex Leininger on appreciating a beautifully dysfunctional family over holiday break

Did everyone have a nice Thanksgiving break? Yeah?

I only gained 16 and a half pounds and permanently tarnished my relationship with multiple family members, so I’d say my break was an overwhelmingly positive one.

This time of year — my absolute favorite time of year — is when I tend to get really giddy. When will the first snowfall be? I can’t wait to see the Christmas lights! Will grandma beat her racist rant record? I sure hope so!

I’m only kidding, of course, but the point remains the same. The holiday season, in all its turkey-stuffed, red-wrapped and green-garnished glory, is a beautifully dysfunctional time of year. And we like it that way.

I love my family. Like, I genuinely really like my family. I’m not just saying that with my college tuition in mind, as my mom sternly glares in my direction and my dad threatens to “cut me off.” Nope, all five of my immediate family members — and even the other ones — are delightful people with my best interests at heart.

But, dare I say it, not all families are the picture-perfect image of happiness. Heck, even my own family slips out of the mold of perfection every once in a while. At the heart of every fantastic holiday season is a harried mother, hopeful father, eye-rolling teenager and quirky grandparent. Welcome to the modern-day Christmas tale.

In classic Christmas films, the holiday season evokes images of a snow-white utopia, where families sing carols in perfect harmony while angels dance to the beat of love. Take that image, erase the angels and half of the love, and replace the carols with bickering about whose turn it is to microwave the hot chocolate, and you’ve got the truthful substitute.

Classic Christmas movies are just that — classic. And they’re wonderful. But if you’re going to take them literally and create expectations for your own family, you’re better off with the more modern take. You’re better off with “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Meet the Griswolds. Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, you ought to know who I’m talking about. The Griswolds are you and me. We are all the Griswolds. And when you’ve finally come to accept it, you’ll realize that there’s something special about a holiday spent in complete chaos.

After surviving your relatives the first time around, here are some post-Thanksgiving tips on how to appreciate your family for who they are over winter break.

The Fathers: When dealing with the Clark Griswolds, it’s best to keep your expectations at a comfortable low. Looking forward to the tallest tree and best-decorated house? Forget about it. Your dad isn’t Iron Man! Appreciate the small things. Go up to your dad and say, “Gee, those Christmas lights look even better tangled up on the floor and unlit! Who wants to stare at incredible light displays while driving anyway?”

The Mothers: You’ve got to understand right off the bat that your mother’s “uptight” attitude is entirely warranted. Decorating the entire house, shopping for presents and cooking 10 meals worth of food is enough pressure to make anyone tear off a tacky sweater and dive into a snow pit of despair and agony. Tell your mother that the house looks great and that the turkey tastes delicious, even though it’s dry and rotting.

The Aunts and Uncles: This one’s simple. Y’all need to stop labeling your aunts/uncles as deadbeats. It’s rude! Some people live their lives differently than others. You may play video games or play with dolls, and others may enjoy sitting down with a good book. Who’s to say someone shouldn’t be allowed to drive around in an RV siphoning toilet fluids into the sewer? Learn to be more open-minded.

The Grandparents: Don’t be sassy with your elders when they ask you why you’ve gained so much weight or why you’re single for yet another holiday. Answer with dignity. “Well, grandma, I’ve gained weight from eating Oreos and all my hopes and dreams, and I’m single because I suffer from parasitic personality disorder. How observant of you!” If possible, entertain your grandparents by telling them stories of everything you’ve done wrong and what you should have done instead.

I hope you take my advice and realize that dysfunctional families are all the rage. I also hope you realize that my advice was based on “Christmas Vacation” and that your family won’t necessarily fit into these specific roles.

I’d like to give a shout out to everyone that doesn’t celebrate Christmas for putting up with my Christmas-normative column and to everyone for putting up with me in general this entire semester.

Enjoy your terrific holiday break!

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