Male anxiety and National Lampoon Christmas Vacation

Just sitting here watching Christmas Vacation.  There’s a lesson that the movie teaches, although I don’t know if it’s the one you’d expect.

In the first scene of the movie the family is driving out to the country to get their christmas tree when they are menaced by a bunch of guys in a beat up pickup truck.  Clark Griswold wants to react angrily to the truck tailgating him and then cutting him off.  The ever-hot Beverly DeAngelo convinces him to play it cool for the family and he reluctantly acquiesces, mildly cursing for effect.

Throughout the movie we see Julia Louis Dreyfus and her tall, greasy-haired mate, the yuppies next door.  They are sterile, finicky and dry, the only emotions they ever demonstrate are disgust, ennui, and boredom.  They live in a tidy, impeccably tackily decorated late-eighties house and do everything that yuppies were so famous for at that time: jogging, having ponytails, and eating beautiful-but-less-than-hearty.  Towards the end of the movie, a maddened Clark cuts down a tree in the yuppies’ front yard, sending it crashing through their front window.  Julia pushes her boyfriend to go over and say something to Clark, saying something to the effect of “If you’re not man enough to say something, I will.”

What does it all mean?  Clark is manly enough to threaten yuppies but civilized enough to resist retaliating against good old boys?  Domesticated suburban men are emasculated, but at least it’s emasculation in the service of the family, as opposed to emasculation in the pursuit of empty  yuppie consumerism?


~ by Joshing on December 14, 2007.

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