I Watched 24 Hours Of 'A Christmas Story': A Timeline of One Human's Slow Descent Into Madness
The Christmas Story marathon has been a TBS tradition for the past 15 years now. Since 1999, people who are fanatics of the 1983 Bob Clark Christmas classic are able to tune in to the film for a full 24 hours (because who needs to spend time with their family on Christmas when they can watch someone else's)? Back in 2011, three insane people attempted to watch television for 100 hours straight in order to raise money for a non-profit. I’m no philanthropist, but since moving to Florida, it has been challenging for me to get into the holiday spirit when I’m sweating my balls off trying to decorate a palm tree in cargo shorts and a tank top. In an effort to feel holly and jolly, I decided to take drastic measures: I agreed to watch A Christmas Story for a full 24 hours, non-stop, so you don’t have to.
The rules my editor and I agreed on were simple: I could only stop the film for bathroom breaks and I had to watch the film as many times as I could in a consecutive 24 hours. What's different about my experience is that most viewers tune in once, maybe twice, during the 24 hours TBS plays the film, but, like the masochist I am, I agreed to watch the film on DVD. No commercials, no yuletide carolers to distract my attention, and no escape.
Armed with a truly bonkers fox Snuggie I picked up at Walmart, caramel corn, and a copious amount of wine, I settled down to destroy myself for the one film I have always adored.
Watch One — 5:00 p.m.
As Ralphie’s first voice-over comes on screen, I quickly calculate the film’s runtime of 1:34, which means I will have to sit through this film approximately 15 times. I think of all the things I have always wanted to do 15 times in a day, such as masturbate or watch 15 episodes of Bob’s Burgers, but haven't. I consider crying for a moment, but settle on opening up my caramel corn because momma didn’t raise no sissy.
I understand that I will have to watch this movie a shit ton, so I focus this viewing mostly on googling trivia facts about the movie on my phone. I’m allowed to tweet, but figured that if I live-tweeted my way through this entire experience then I would be exiled from the Internet. What I discovered that first hour and a half, during which I felt alive and sane, were these cute little facts about the movie:
- Did you know that there is A Christmas Story house and museum!?
- Bob Clark got the idea for A Christmas Story by listening to radio personality Jean Shepard’s recollections of growing up in Indiana in the '30s and '40s. Clark was so caught up in Shepherd's stories that he drove around the block until the program was over. “My date was not happy,” Clark said, hinting that in no way did he get any action that night.
- At the box office, A Christmas Story made roughly $19 million, which was trumped by Scarface and Christine.
- Over 40 million people per year tune into TBS’ tradition of 24 hours of A Christmas Story “at some point.” As I read the phrase “at some point,” I thought to myself, "pfft, amateurs."
- Most of the snow you see in the film was made from soap flakes and firefighter foam — meaning the cast and crew were very clean and very slippery.
Watch Two — 6:34 p.m.
The full gravity of the choice I have made to watch this movie 15 times begins to set in. By now, I've eaten a third of my caramel corn and I sort of feel like puking, but I remind myself that I'm only allowed to leave for bathroom breaks. I open up my wine and pour myself a big ol' glass. I’m still in good spirits though, and this movie is bringing back memories of my own campaign to get my dream Christmas present. Although, instead of asking Santa or my parents nicely for a Bratz doll, I kicked and screamed and demanded until one materialized under my Christmas tree. You know, because I was an evil dictator.
Watch Three — 8:10 p.m.
I begin to text everyone I know asking if they’ll join me and to please bring more wine, but everyone responds with a resounding "no" and asks me if I’m psychotic for agreeing to watch a movie 15 times in a row. Vowing to find new friends, I order delivery Chinese food and it goes a little something like this:
- Me: Hi, I would like to place an order for delivery. I would like an extra, extra, burn your tongue off spicy General Tso’s chicken entree with an egg roll (made with love). Also, would you be able to send a delivery man who wants to hang out for a while?
- Woman Over the Phone: What? That’ll be $15. And — no.
- Me: Shhh, let me have friends.
- Woman: Thirty to 35 minutes, bye.
When the delivery man finally does arrive, I feel a lot like Randy as he hands me my bag: “Wow, whoopie! This is mine! That's mine, too! This is mine!” I ask him to come in, and he shakes his head and tells me that he is busy. I ask him to take a photo with me to “prove to the Internet that I have friends,” and he hesitantly agrees. As soon as I snap the photo, he literally bolts away from me and I am all alone again.
Watch Four — 9:47 p.m.
Is it just me or is this movie just vaguely racist? “The old man was like an Arab trader and twice as shrewd?” The Chinese people with their ridiculously caricatured accents singing to the family at Christmas Eve dinner? Yikes.
Watch Five — 11:21 p.m.
I’m becoming increasingly convinced that A Christmas Story is just a thinly veiled meditation on gun control in the United States. Ralphie plays the role of a Republican hell bent on getting a gun “for reasons,” and his parents, teacher, and any other adult play the role of a Democrat who is like, “LOL, why?” Ralphie’s mom is like, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” But Ralphie is like, “‘Mericuh, bitch.”
Watch Six — 12:57 a.m.
I’m about halfway through with my wine, and I’m wasted. I revel in it and wonder where I would be able to procure a bedazzled cowboy outfit like Ralphie wears in his first daydream sequence. And, also, how much I would be willing to pay for one?
Halfway through the movie, I begin to scream, “Oh, FUUUUUUUUUDDDDDDGGGEEEEE!” and “I can’t put my arms down!!!!” loudly until my roommates come down stairs and tell me to shut the hell up.
As I watch this movie, I realize that only one thing from it has transcended the past 30 years: the ultimate dare is still the Triple Dog Dare. I think of all the times my friends Triple Dog Dared me to do something, like taking a jump rope to the eye and almost blinding myself, or jumping off my bed and cracking my ankle on a radiator. There is a reason this movie has persevered throughout the years and Jenny McCarthy’s Santa Baby and Sled Dogs 4 haven't. It’s because it's a film about navigating the childhood social waters. It teaches children that it is totally cool to kick the crap out of people who bully you and to throw your friends under the bus when you get caught cursing. I think of writing an apology to all the children I metaphorically slayed in my attempt to stay out of trouble in my youth.
Instead, I drink more of my wine.
Watch Seven — 2:24 a.m.
Does anyone care that this bully, Scott Farkus, clearly has jaundice with his yellow eyes? So help me God, yellow eyes. I spend most of this viewing researching the side-effects of jaundice and I'm realizing this movie is exactly what sparked my fear of gingers and pre-teens, which has carried on into my adult life. The guy who plays Scott Farkus, Zack Ward, not only grew up to be the kind-of-sort-of hot love child of Crispin Glover and Freddie Kruger, but was also in the movie Almost Famous — in case you were as curious as I was.
Watch Eight — 4:01 a.m.
I begin to drown out the dialogue because whoever does the voice-over for Ralphie sounds like he is trying to convince little children to get into his van every time he speaks.
I take note that, at this point, my ass is literally numb, and I wonder if it’ll have to be amputated. All I want to do is run a marathon right now or pick out the perfect Christmas tree and cut it down myself. I know things are getting serious because any time I have the inclination to willingly venture out into nature, it's a sign that something is deeply wrong.
Instead, while on a bathroom break, I stumble across a bar of Palmolive soap and decide to shove it in my mouth for 10 minutes.
I want to understand what Ralphie is going through. I need to feel what he is feeling in this moment. I recall the first time my mom caught me cursing was because my sister was attempting to drown me in the pool and I called her a word that I later attempted to claim was “witch!” This Palmolive tastes like defeat and, after 10 minutes, I throw up a lot of wine and caramel corn in the bathroom. I don’t pause the movie while doing so.
I consider emailing my editor to say I failed, but I feel like the soap was already punishment enough. I press on.
Watch Nine — 5:37 a.m.
Around this time, I begin to feel myself crack. For the first 30 minutes, I can feel my left eye twitching, and I have to keep poking it in order to make it stop. I find myself drinking three cups of coffee and literally screaming when Ralphie curses in front of his parents. It is at this point that I take off my glasses to simulate Ralphie going “blind” in his daydream about how terrible his parents feel for giving him soap poison.
I am Ralphie, you are Ralphie, we are all Ralphie.
I take at least five bathroom breaks throughout this viewing, then lock myself in the bathroom and sit on the floor. But, per instructions from my editor, I’m required to pause the film every time I leave the room. There is no escape. A Christmas Story has quickly become my very own American Horror Story.
Watch Ten — 7:10 a.m.
I’m sobbing when Ralphie’s mom covers up for him after his fight. I call my mom up and she’s like, “How did I give birth to you? I have to go and lead a productive life, you freak of the week.” I think fondly of how Ralphie’s mother convinces Randy to eat his dinner by getting him to act like a little piggie (which, I can assure you, gets more disgusting with each viewing) and I remember how my mom used to hide sweet potatoes in other foods. I also remember how I would reward her by puking on her counter.
Around now, I begin to think that we’re all just broken up into three different types of people: you’re either a Ralphie, a Randy, or you’re that weird kid in pilot goggles in line for Santa who acts like a human Xanax and never blinks or stops smiling.
I start to realize that I’m probably the latter on this list. I frantically search for a delivery service to bring me more wine to no avail.
Watch 11 — 9: 50 a.m.
In an effort to feel alive again and think of anything other than this movie, I stick an ice cube to my tongue, much like Flick does to the flagpole at his school. Although it burns, I can’t stop wondering how they got Flick’s tongue on that flagpole. Clearly CGI wasn’t as advanced in 1983 as it is now, so how did they do it?! A quick IMDb search clears up the mystery surrounding this scene:
They cut a small hole in the flag pole and had a vacuum hose attached that would suck in Flick (Scott Schwartz)'s tongue. The hose trick worked so well that Scott was actually stuck to the pole until they could turn the hose off. Rumor has it that they actually played a prank on him one day on the set and left the hose on while they all went to lunch.
Everyone on set sucked, I think to myself as I open up my $1 fat little chocolate Santa and bite its cute little head off.
Watch 12 — 11:32 a.m.
When Ralphie’s dad’s lamp breaks, I find myself tearing up. Their connection was so beautiful, so honest, so raw. I remind myself that I must be slowly losing my mind and that the real love story here is the one between a boy and his uninhibited desire to get what he wants, not between a father and his disturbingly sexual lamp. At this point, I have also finished my wine.
Around this time, I receive a text from my mom with the following picture. Some would see this as a form of emotional bullying. Instead, I decide to take it as my mother checking in on me. I remind myself that this is the woman who once gave me shaving cream when I was in eighth grade with a note from “Santa” that said, "Shave your face, you dirty hippie." Apparently, while out shopping at our local Kohl's, she stumbled across this gem:
I make a note on a post it and stick it to my laptop, reminding me to write Kohl's a letter telling them that, while I’m really happy they gave Lauren Conrad a job with her clothing line post-The Hills, they can go screw themselves.
Watch 13 — 1:15 p.m.
By now, I begin to mouth the words to the film like I was born sentient to the script of this film, like my very mother read it for me word for word while I was in vitro. This time, I openly sob when Ralphie kicks the shit out of Scott Farkus and find myself turning to my dog to say through teary eyes, “Sometimes the wicked DO get their just deserts.”
At some point, I black out from exhaustion and I’m woken up by my father calling me to ask me if I was still alive. “UNFORTUNATELY,” I scream into the phone and then I shove part of a candy cane in my mouth, hoping the sugar will put me back in my coma.
Watch 14 — 2:50 p.m.
I chuckled at nothing throughout this entire watching and talked to my dog about everything we would rather be doing than watching the Bumpus hounds destroy Ralphie’s mother’s delicious looking chicken. I look up how many people have been eaten by hound dogs (my search result told me that Basset Hounds don’t eat people, but they do eat 2-4 cups of dry food a day). I think that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to feed myself to some hungry dogs as long as I didn’t have to watch this movie again.
My dog and I compile our list that includes but is not limited to: destroying every copy of A Christmas Story in the continental United States, telling every child I see for ever that Santa Claus is a farce, and possibly even getting bamboo shoots shoved under my fingernails.
Watch 15-ish — 4:25 p.m.
As my watch beeps, I begin to scream because it has dawned on me that I will literally never have to watch this movie again unless I choose to. Although I didn't make it through 15 viewings straight, I tell myself at 5:00 p.m. that I have suffered enough. I hate Ralphie, I feel spiritually connected to Ralphie, I want to find the actor who played Ralphie and punch him in his baby face for talking at me for a day straight.
What I learned from this experience is that I really terrify Chinese food delivery men.
Images: MGM; the Binder Family