'Tis the season to abuse, belittle, and abandon.
It’s no secret that the holiday season produces out trite and sentimental movies each year. Though these films consistently receive terrible reviews, they at least encourage decent values and morals every once in a while. But some Christmas flicks don’t even attempt to include pleasant behavior or examples of non-sociopathic human interaction. We’re not talking about irreverent comedies like Bad Santa that own their flaws, but rather the Christmas movies that frame shallow, greedy, and otherwise unhealthy behavior as acceptable and praiseworthy. As Christmastime nears, don’t use these films as models for your behavior, unless you want to drive everyone to drink even more.
1. Just Friends, 2005
Just Friends is based on every high-school reject’s dream: move across the country, acquire celebrity status, have a glamorous and successful career, and become “Sexiest Man Alive” Ryan Reynolds. Former fat kid Chris is a high-profile Los Angeles record producer whose December flight to Europe is forced to make an emergency landing in his New Jersey hometown. He bumps into childhood his crush, Jamie, the high-school golden girl who “peaked” senior year and lives with her parents at twenty-eight. You see where this is going: Chris still has feelings for Jamie, but she only responds after he’s lost several hundred pounds and become successful — and the movie seems to imply that this is totally respectable on her part. The beauty of adulthood for ex-dorks is creating a totally kick-ass future, not returning to the past via the crush who messed with your head for years and shot you down in front of all your classmates.
2. Love Actually, 2003
Workaholic Sarah has been in love with her supervisor, Karl, for years, but spends much of her free time tending to her mentally-ill brother, Michael. We cheer for Sarah when she finally hooks up with her hot colleague, but just as their encounter intensifies, Michael cock-blocks her with a desperate phone call. Sarah leaves to help her sibling and it’s implied that this decision sparks the conclusion of her very short-lived relationship with Karl. The audience is expected to believe he’s warranted in taking off, demonstrating how Sarah’s dedication to her needy family member holds her back in life, but how hard would it have been for Karl to say, “It’s cool, let’s do a rain-check?” Unless he really, really hates the mentally ill.
3. Christmas with the Kranks, 2004
Christmas with the Kranks stars Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis as the proud parents of a self-involved only child named Blair. When she leaves her Midwestern hometown to serve in the Peace Corps, Arthur and Nora are so broken up that this will be their first Christmas without their little girl that Allen’s character suggests he and his wife go on a cruise. Their overly-festive neighbors turn on them for running away from Christmas, attacking the Kranks as greedy and selfish, then protesting by chanting Christmas carols outside their window. (Weirdly, this is pretty much what the FBI did at Waco.) This movie basically paints Christmas as a set of fetishized rituals that, when ignored, imperil the well-being of your family and neighborhood.
4. The Holiday, 2006
Hollywood producer Cameron Diaz and journalist Kate Winslet abandon friends and family during the holidays in response to their womanizing boyfriends. After being similarly burned by their respective lovers, Diaz and Winslet sign up for a house-swap program that sends them each across the pond. Now, I have no sympathy for cheaters, but I have almost as little for entitled women who decide to shirk all responsibility because of heartbreak. Amanda leaves her co-workers hanging, and Iris abandons her widowed brother. You have every right to be livid at your unfaithful ex, but please don’t pretend that this excuses neglecting those who do matter.
5. The Family Stone, 2005
Sarah Jessica Parker is a rigid businesswoman who visits her boyfriend’s large family for Christmas. Her boyfriend’s sister had already met SJP, and talks the entire family into attacking her relentlessly. It’s nerve-wracking enough to meet a significant other’s entire clan, so the constant harassment is immature and senseless no matter how odd SJP’s character may be. No one is particularly likable here, but it’s hard to side with people who gang up on an inherently fearful lady during Christmas. And that’s just the warm-up: the rest of the movie focuses on a couple-swap that is just bizarre: what better way to spend the holidays than by trading significant others with family members?