How A Christmas Story Would Look Different In 2020

A Christmas Story hit theaters back in 1983 as a low-budget holiday release. It lasted just a few weeks at the box office, but as Vanity Fair reports, its subsequent release on VHS tape helped it grow into such a holiday tradition that it now runs for 24 hours nonstop on TNT starting on Christmas Eve. What is it about this little film that resonates with us all? Is it the realistic portrayal of family life (bullied older brother, whiny little brother, profane but loving dad, long-suffering mom)? Is it Ralphie’s quest for the perfect Christmas gift and his elaborate fantasies along the way? The unexpectedly hilarious moments (the Bumpases’ dogs! the bunny suit! Santa pushing Ralphie down the slide!)? Or all of the above? Whatever the reason, A Christmas Story has become as much of a holiday tradition as matching family pajamas.

While other holiday movies have undergone remakes, sequels, and updates — think A Christmas Carol, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer — ACS has only been reimagined as a live musical (per IMDb). But as with the original, the plot remained intact, and it was kept as a 1940-ish period piece. But despite it being an unquestionable classic, if the movie were to be set today, a lot of important changes would have to be made.  

Ralphie would have to revise his wish list

The main conceit of the original film, of course, is Ralphie Parker’s quest to find his ultimate Christmas gift under the tree: “an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.” So determined is he to get his wish that he hides ads in his mother’s magazines, writes an impassioned theme for school (which earns a measly C+), bribes his teacher with a fruit basket, and braves the line at Higbee’s department store to get his request in to the guy in red. (Even Santa himself warns, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”) 

But in 2020, a film about a kid wanting a toy firearm wouldn’t cut it, unless the Parkers were portrayed as avid hunters or NRA members. No, it’s more likely that Ralphie would be craving something less destructive, like a PlayStation or a 500-piece Mandalorian LEGO set. Or maybe he’d want a copy of Call of Duty, or a similarly violent game inappropriate for a nine-year-old. In that case, his mom could object by saying, “You’ll shoot someone else’s eye out.”

The kids' school would look a lot different

A Christmas Story is set in the 1940s, a more innocent era, when schools had blackboards and neat rows of desks, children learned cursive and simple arithmetic, wrote themes, and lived in fear of being sent to the principal. An updated version would have to include a total classroom overhaul. The desks would be spaced six feet apart, the teacher’s desk would have a Plexiglas shield, and everyone would be wearing masks as they studied Common Core math and the civil rights movement. That is, assuming there was in-person learning at all. Depending on Ralphie’s school district, he might be in an all-remote class, in which case he’d be logging on from home in his pajamas and uploading cool backgrounds for Zoom meetings. 

As for the pranks in the original movie? Forget it. Those fake teeth the class wears to fool the teacher would be a breeding ground for germs. And if Flick and Schwartz wanted to argue over whether tongues always stick to a frozen pole, they’d whip out their phones and do a Google search for the answer instead of triple-dog-daring each other to try it.

Childrearing has changed over the years

Watching the original film, we accept the fact that parenting techniques were different in our grandparents’ age. But for a modern-day Christmas Story, Ralph’s mom would probably be driving her boys to school, rather than wrapping them up in a dozen layers and sending them to walk a half mile in the snow. She wouldn’t deal with a picky eater by encouraging him to inhale his meatloaf and potatoes like a little piggy (Hellooo? Choking hazard?). 

And while Ralphie might still let an F-bomb slip, no way would he be punished by having to hold a bar of soap in his mouth, nor would Schwartz’s mom be spanking her son over Ralph’s fib that Schwartz taught him the word. More likely, the kids would have their tablets taken away for a few days, and their moms would threaten, “Just wait till the Elf on the Shelf tells Santa what you did!”

Some elements of the classic film would have to be scrapped

Alas, there are certain parts of A Christmas Story that would be tougher to translate into an update. Take that iconic scene at Higbee’s where Ralphie finally meets with Santa. In 2020, Ralphie wouldn’t get anywhere near St. Nick’s lap; the big guy would be safely behind a plastic screen, and the snotty teen elf would be tasked with taking the kids’ temperatures before posing them for pictures at a safe social distance.

In the original, the Old Man wins a “major award” in a sweepstakes that turns out to be…a lamp shaped like a woman’s fishnet-stocking-covered leg. Even Ralphie is intrigued by it. But watching modern guys drool over a provocative lamp is more of a trigger than a chuckle.

And a remake would definitely have to scrap the scene where the Parkers go out for Peking duck after the neighbors’ dogs eat their turkey dinner. Chinese waiters singing “Fa ra ra ra ra”? Ouch.

Maybe it’s just as well that nobody’s planning a Christmas Story 2020…yet.

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