With the festive season in full swing, now is the time to fire up Netflix and start bingeing your favourite Christmas movies. The production of Christmas films is a massive industry within itself, one that sustains entire networks such as Lifetime and the Hallmark Channel, as well as being a major cash cow for the big Hollywood studios.
Although new Christmas films are produced at an impressively rapid pace, only a very tiny few ever have a lasting impact on public consciousness and culture. However, that doesn’t mean that the newer stuff isn’t worth your time.
Christmas may be big on tradition, but it is often the newer cultural outputs that can articulate what the festive season can mean to society today, and why the message and spirit of the yuletide is truly timeless. Let’s take a closer look at whether classic or contemporary Christmas films do it better.
Keeping it classic
It would be fair to argue that all of the most popular Christmas films that a re-watched year after year are those that have been popular for decades now. When one thinks of popular Christmas films, very few from the past decade would make the cut. Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, and others from over thirty years ago frequently cut any annual list of the most popular Christmas movies.
One reason for their undying popularity is clear – their cultural impact just seems to keep on growing. Let’s look, for example, at A Christmas Carol, probably the most famous festive tale ever told. Since the original Dickens novel hit the shelves 177 years ago, we’ve had more than a dozen movies, including mega-hits like Bill Murray’s Scrooged and the Muppet’s Christmas Carol.
We’ve also seen the tale recreated in other media too. There’s the official graphic novel series, a Christmas Carol board game, and even a Christmas Carol video puzzle game. Another testament to the staying power of such classic Christmas tales is the series of Scrooge online slots, where people can re-live the tale via an online game and win real cash prizes.
In defense of the contemporary
Of course, that’s not to say that newer films are not worth your time. There are several examples of 21st century Christmas movies that have entered the cultural repertoire (although very few from this decade). To name just a few, we have Elf, Bad Santa, Love Actually, The Holiday, and The Grinch. What makes these films so resonant are how they have taken the original festive messages and updated them for a modern audience.
They can look past the glitter and tinsel to probe what Christmas should mean in modern society, calling into question important themes such as rampant consumerism, heteronormative family pressures, and what it means to call somewhere home during the holidays. Oftentimes, these themes are missing from the more “classic” Christmas films.
So, are you a fan of the classic or the contemporary? Either way, you’ll have plenty to watch this festive season.
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