Once upon a time, say about 30 years ago, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” skirted the edge of propriety for family movies with its profanity and sexual innuendo, to include Clark Griswold’s bald longing for an extramarital fling.
Common Sense Media says the film, which came out in 1989, presents no positive role models but is OK for teens, despite some “iffy” content and crude humor. Not everything can be “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” nor should be.
But the new crop of holiday shows is unusually raunchy this year, even by Hollywood standards. Even more distressingly, they are being justified in the name of inclusivity.
As The Los Angeles Times reported, MTV Entertainment Group is producing a slate of “naughty or nice” holiday movies with titles like “Let’s Get Merried” and “Adventures in Christmasing.”
“We wanted to break the mold in a loud way,” Nina Diaz, MTV Entertainment Group’s content director said. “Christmas movies usually offer comfort food, which is great. But Christmas films that are disruptive, edgy and more diverse are long overdue. We wanted to have a modern, naughty-or-nice take on the classic genre. We also wanted to open doors to fresh voices and have a more inclusive slate of movies that you haven’t seen before.”
It’s great that America is becoming more inclusive, even to the point of welcoming Black Santas. But the content promised in “The (expletive) Who Stole Christmas,” starring the Emmy-winning drag queen RuPaul, may not be the sort of diversity that much of Black America is seeking, given that Black Americans attend church more regularly and pray more often than Americans overall, according to Pew Research Center.
In fact, true diversity and inclusivity in holiday movies would result in more films that take the incarnation seriously, such as the 1977 series “Jesus of Nazareth” or more recently, “The Chosen.” Even the crudely animated children’s show “The Little Drummer Boy,” released in 1968, gets at the heart of Christmas more than the vacuous and often insulting holiday offerings on your TV and in bookstores. (Christmas romance novels are a thing; they’re normally bland, but occasionally sink to the level of Christmas bodice-ripper.)
And let’s not forget the Christmas horror film, another Hollywood gift.
By this, I don’t mean the mind-bending mental gymnastics by which “Die Hard” became a Christmas movie, but holiday horror films such as “The Gingerdead Man.” As Good Housekeeping’s website recently said in its list of 25 best movies to watch when you want to be both jolly and terrified, “Nothing says the holidays like a killer Santa.”
There are plenty of Christmas movies that, while not overtly religious in theme, still manage to warm hearts, stir wonder and hope, and not actively work to insult people of faith. I confess affection for 2015’s “Love the Coopers,” dismissed as “cloying smarm” on Rotten Tomatoes. And Hallmark holiday movies have become a cottage industry.
But that’s apparently not what’s forthcoming from MTV Entertainment Group’s holiday movies. One producer told the Los Angeles Times that most holiday movies are too often “overly magical or overly staged.” Another said, “We’ve had enough of that regular, boring formula.”
Maybe that’s true, if Christmas for you means nutmeg-scented rom-coms draped in holly, or a murderous gingerbread man coming to life to exact revenge.
But the real Christmas story still has life yet, as “The Chosen” has demonstrated, to the bewilderment of entertainment moguls who don’t go to church and show little respect for people who do. The Atlantic recently deemed the crowd-funded show “Christian America’s Must-See TV.”
Meanwhile, Fox News Media has stepped in, sensing opportunity. The company is offering wholesome Christmas movies on its streaming service, Fox Nation. The list includes “12 Pups of Christmas” and “How Sarah Got Her Wings.”
For the ultimate in family Christmas viewing, though, mark your calendar for Dec. 19. That’s when a “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will air ad-free on PBS and PBS Kids at 5:30 p.m. MST.