Debate: Bah, Humbug, “Die Hard” Ain’t No Christmas Movie

Ed. Note: Who doesn’t fight with loved ones at some point during the holidays? Fault Lines alumni Mario Machado and Chris Seaton seem to love arguing with each other, so they put a debate topic on Twitter, and with over sixty percent of the vote, SJ readers chose “Resolved: Die Hard is a Christmas Movie” as the SJ Holiday Debate topic. Chris will argue the affirmative, Mario the negative. Below is Mario’s argument.

Eight minutes into the Die Hard celluloid and inside a limo, John McClane asks his driver why he’s not playing “Christmas music.” McClane is on to something very early, if only by accident, because this movie isn’t about Christmas. This movie is about an overzealous NY cop, played by Bruce Willis, who managed to fool enough people to demand – and pay for – a series of potboilers that would make Baby Jesus hide his face and weep.

Before I go forth, I’ll tell you folks which ones are truly Christmas movies, most of which my beautiful and patient GF has enlightened me about, since I’ve always been a scrooge when it comes to pop culture:

  1. Home Alone.
  2. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
  4. Bad Santa.

The last one is mostly my choice, since it is dark, disturbed, and it makes a mockery of that thing people call Christmas. After the first 22 minutes of Die Hard, during which you see a Christmas tree for the first time (See? that’s it! It’s a Christmas movie!) something finally happens, in which some Steven-Seagal-looking goons break out some Radio-Shack inspired machine guns and start to shoot up the building. I can hear the Yuletide carols already, my brothers and sisters.

Thirty-five minutes into the movie, and still no signs of Santa, Christmas trees, Salvation Army volunteers, or any other signs of the winter solstice holidays. This is a marathon: me still looking for any of the typical symbols of the compulsory infliction of joy that involves this time of year, but I shall endure.

Well after the halfway point, you see a few miniature Christmas trees here and there, but that is it. No gifts exchanged, no Disney-like appreciation for the holiday. To use a phrase I stole and have used time and time again from a civil litigation pleading years ago, so far there is a “glaring dearth of evidence” of Die Hard being anything close to a Christmas movie. That infamous intolerant Protestant, Oliver Cromwell, famous for banning Christmas celebrations, would be happy as a clam with my position in this debate so far.

Die Hard climaxes with a ton of 90’s movies cliché gunfights, only to end with the “good guy” coming out unscathed, as usual. He gets the girl, the cops win, and there is a cool clip of McClane’s squeeze socking a reporter in the mouth for asking him something untoward. But we yet remain where we started: no references to a birth that supposedly occurred in Bethlehem, no gifts given, no occupancy of the public square by Church-minded folks, not even a Dickensian “compliments of the season” being exchanged by the protagonists. I’m starting to feel that my dear friend Chris just picked the wrong movie for the wrong time to argue about. We could’ve sparred over another movie featuring another robotic actor, like maybe Jingle All the Way, and that would’ve given Chris a fighting chance.

Die Hard also has a major temporal defect when it comes to being considered a Christmas movie; it was released in July of 1988, a long ways away from December 24. Yes, there are those who begin to look forward to Christmas right after Thanksgiving (an unfailing sign of a disordered person, by the way), but July? That’s pushing the envelope, to say the very least…

My writing brother and partner in crime, CLS, picked the wrong battle this time. Again. He asked a living and breathing Ebenezer to point out how a third-rate flick like Die Hard ain’t no damn Christmas movie. I felt like I was pushing through an open door. All scrapping aside, however, I wish Chris, Scott, and everyone else who hangs out in this hotel a merry damn Christmas. Yippee Ki Yay moth…well, you folks get the point.

26 thoughts on “Debate: Bah, Humbug, “Die Hard” Ain’t No Christmas Movie

  1. Hunting Guy

    The Christmas season officially starts in July. That’s when Lowes and Home Depot start putting Christmas decorations out for sale, so July is an appropriate time to release a Christmas movie.

  2. PseudonymousKid

    This essay will break down the etymological foundations of the term “Christmas movie” in an attempt to elucidate underlying concepts of what it means to be a “Christmas movie” with the overarching theme that yes, Mr. Machado, Die Hard is a “Christmas movie” if that term is to have meaning.

    No time for all of that, but I give the “W” to CLS if that means anything. This is a debate, so there ought to be a winner. It’s a language game or something and you lost. To spell it out. I ask CLS to pick a Christmas movie to watch together as we snuggle on the couch and drink eggnog. He picks Die Hard. “That’s not a Christmas movie”, I exclaim. CLS responds wisely, “if you meant a something more specific,, you should have just said so.” We both then happily watch Die Hard and agree that Christmas isn’t just about garland.

    Merry Christmas to you too and thanks for playing.

    1. AnonJr

      There only “ought” to be a winner if you’re GenX or earlier. I’m reliably informed later generations have risen above this need, and both should get a trophy.

      1. PK

        You know I’m a filthy millennial, right? I’m down to bash my own when called for, but I have nothing to say about participation trophies. Even if no one else keeps score, I will.

        1. Mario Alfredo Machado

          I qualify as a millennial, only by the year I was born. Some have said I’ve overachieved, at least for millennial standards.

        2. AnonJr

          Last I heard I’ve been shoved in with the Millennial contingent even though most of my life I was counted as Gen X.

          And everyone keeps score, even when they’re told “it’s just for fun”.

  3. Noel Erinjeri

    The real question is, which movie is better, Die Hard or The Last Boy Scout?

    I know this could be considered a “hot take,” but it’s obviously the latter. Especially because of this scene.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bq3_U_YD5ow

    [If there’s no Youtube link attached to this comment, blame Admiral Grinch. It was awesome.]

    Noel

  4. Christopher T. Van Wagner

    Stuck with having to prove a negative, Mr. Machado fails – as do we CDLs all too often. He’s snatched defeat from the jaws of defeat, which also means he finished second, which is still almost first. Does he get an “Almost the Winner” trophy now?

    1. Miles

      As every good CDL knows, there’s nothing to disprove until the prosecution makes its case beyond a reasonable doubt, Chris. If that really is your name.

  5. Guitardave

    I’m with ya, Mario…anyone who thinks that’s a Christmas movie has a heart full of unwashed socks…

  6. j a higginbotham

    Obviously I am not qualified to render a decision. But this debate does prove one thing: not all denialism is a failure.

  7. Howl

    A judge said, just before the jury came back, “No matter what the verdict is, somebody’s not going to be happy.”
    If by my choice somebody will not be happy, what the hell, make ’em both unhappy.
    Therefore, y’all gonna have to

  8. Bear

    “…no gifts given…”. It “snows” (okay, it’s paper) on Christmas in L. A. It’s a dad-blamed miracle.

  9. Skink

    “Before I go forth, I’ll tell you folks which ones are truly Christmas movies, most of which my beautiful and patient GF has enlightened me about, since I’ve always been a scrooge when it comes to pop culture:

    Home Alone.
    A Charlie Brown Christmas
    How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
    Bad Santa.”

    Mario, you’re right, but wrong.

    “Die Hard” ain’t a Christmas movie because it ain’t. It ain’t because there’s no snow, it was made too late and it ain’t animatitized. And no one sings. Your movies ain’t Christmas, neither.

    There are a few Christmas movies: “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas.” “Christmas in Connecticut,” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” We’ll toss-in “It Happened on 5th Avenue.” See what they have in common? They’re all old. They tell tales of when Christmas was simple: maybe a duck for dinner; maybe a present under a maybe tree. It wasn’t about terrorists in an LA building. It was simple. Simple is meaningful when piles of shit comes from Amazonsterdam. Pitching a dickhead off of a building just ain’t Christmas.

    But I know how you get this wrong. You grew up in the Swamp. Here, Santa comes on a 200-foot yacht; he don’t arrive in a sleigh. Sure, there’s a parade when he comes, but it’s a flotilla parade of giant floating stuff. There be lights, but it’s 80 degrees and the parade is in front of “eateries.” Drunken dipshits fall in canals. It’s how we do it. We’re stupider when it comes to Christmas. You never had a chance.

    And all the Tennessee hill folk know better.

  10. Mike V.

    You can argue Die Hard is not a traditional Christmas movie and I’d agree. But it IS a Christmas movie. As I tell the wife, It isn’t Christmas until Has Gruber falls from Nakatomi Plaza.

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