America has a new favorite Christmas movie. For the 11th year in a row, TBS aired its 24-hour Christmas Story movie marathon on December 24 and 25. TBS officials report most movie re-runs fade over time, but Christmas Story has continually risen in the ratings. In a 2006 Harris poll, respondents from 18 to 41 years old named Christmas Story their favorite holiday movie, while their parents and grandparents picked Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street.Time magazine ran a story about Christmas Story in its November 29 issue, referring to it as “one of those little pop-cultural shifts” like football overtaking baseball, or salsa defeating ketchup.I would argue that it’s not just a little pop-cultural shift — it’s a significant social shift being influenced by Generations X and Y. It is yet another example of how younger generations are influencing change in our society and establishing traditions of their own.A Christmas Story (1983) is a tale about Ralphie, a 9-year-old in 1940s Indiana, and his lust for a Red Ryder b-b gun. Ironically, Christmas Story takes place decades before Generations X and Y were born. But we relate to its nostalgia, remembering childhood in terms of less-than-perfect occasions.In the traditional Christmas movies (Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas Carol) the holiday is a community good. It uplifts, renders peace, and embraces the Scrooges and Grinches and turns them into good citizens with loving hearts.A Christmas Story — and Christmas Vacation and other holiday comedies that have followed it — inverts this moral. There’s no revelation about how Christmas isn’t really about presents. The stresses, disappointments, and frustrations of family celebrations are the focus of the story, and this candor is what Xers and Ys appreciate and find especially humorous.Xers and Ys can relate to the dreams and disappointments of A Christmas Story, but perhaps there’s something even more simplistic about why we would prefer to watch that movie instead of Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street. Perhaps we also appreciate seeing our movies in color.
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