Why the Holiday Movie Endures

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Written By Pinang Driod

This is an edition of The Wonder Reader, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a set of stories to spark your curiosity and fill you with delight. Sign up here to get it every Saturday morning.

The question “What is a Christmas movie?” might seem straightforward. But there’s one film that has scrambled the logic of the holiday movie for years now—at least for those who probably spend too much time online. “Because of the dreaded incentives of social media, we force debate upon ourselves all the time, even at the most wonderful time of the year,” my colleague Kaitlyn Tiffany wrote in 2021. “According to Google Trends, search traffic for the phrase Is Die Hard a Christmas movie jumps every November and December.”

Today’s newsletter doesn’t purport to solve that particular debate, but it will explore the many meanings of the holiday movie, from its inherent cheesiness to its ability to move people in rare ways.


On Holiday Movies

The Cheesy Endurance of the Made-for-TV Holiday Movie

By Megan Garber

The Hallmark Christmas flick has become a genre in itself—one that insists, against all odds, on the inevitability of the happy ending.

Is [REDACTED] a Christmas Movie?

By Kaitlyn Tiffany

No one realizes that their own take on Die Hard as a Christmas movie helps sustain a powerful curse on the internet—not even the guy who started it all by accident.

The Most Unsettling ‘Christmas Carol’

By Tom Nichols

Why my father and I loved George C. Scott


Still Curious?

  • The mournful heart of It’s a Wonderful Life: The holiday classic is a timely exploration of what happens when all that you’ve relied on fades away, Megan Garber wrote in 2021.
  • Twenty movie families to spend your holidays with: Excellent cinema for every mood, whether you’re feeling homesick, ruminative, or perfectly content (from 2020)

Other Diversions

  • Read this before you buy that sweater.
  • The great cousin decline
  • Nobody knows what’s happening online anymore.

P.S.

If you’re in the mood for a sharp critique of a piece of Christmas entertainment, check out my colleague Caitlin Flanagan’s essay “Don’t Subject Your Kids to Rudolph.”

— Isabel

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