Christmas is around the corner, and its critics are out again. No, they’re not making coffee cups red or forcing your children to say “Happy Holidays.” But they are coopting the traditions of Christmas in an effort to undermine the family.
Two recent movies—Daddy’s Home 2 and A Bad Moms Christmas—both make the holiday seem like hell. Daddy’s Home attacks the notion of fatherhood and the nuclear family, while Bad Moms criticizes the idea of motherhood. The films have nothing nice to say about the Christmas season, and don’t have much nice to say about parents either.
Daddy’s Home 2 continues in its predecessor’s footsteps. At this point, Mark Wahlberg’s and Will Ferrell’s characters Dusty and Brad are happily “co-daddying.” Brad has married Dusty’s ex-wife, and the two have somehow learned to harmoniously raise Dusty’s kids together.
But when Christmas comes around, the situation gets more complicated. One of the kids complains at school about never getting to spend a “normal” Christmas with their whole family. So both Dusty’s and Brad’s families drive out to a big cabin together—oh, and Dusty’s and Brad’s dads are coming along too.
Tensions quickly come to a head—Dusty’s dad, played by a tanned and smirking Mel Gibson, is a macho man who thinks his son “co-daddying” is utterly emasculating. And Brad’s father, played by a sweater-clad John Lithgow, is a touchy-feely type who congratulates the two co-dads on being so “progressive.” Predictably, the usual clichéd Christmas movie pratfalls unroll: accidents with Christmas lights, tree cutting, and even drinking too much eggnog—all are painfully present.
The film tries to paint over the confusion of having multiple sets of parents. After all, what kid wouldn’t want two sets of Christmas gifts? The script suggests the kids don’t really care, yet even in a fictional world the effects are obvious. For instance, the oldest son Dylan receives several competing sets of advice about girls—and ends up kissing his step-sister. Somehow the scene is meant to play for laughs, but I didn’t hear anyone chuckling in the theater.
The holiday madness doesn’t stop with Daddy’s Home 2. Mila Kunis’ A Bad Moms Christmas deserves a whole stocking of coal for itself. In the follow-up to last year’s movie, which catered to “repressed” suburban moms, the sequel indulges its trio of moms even more lavishly. This year, they decide that being a mom for Christmas is too much stress. Out with the fir tree, in with the Santa strippers.
The movie shares the same tired premise of Daddy’s Home 2. Shockingly, the mom trio’s own mothers turn up for the holidays. And again, they’re met with grimaces and stress. But unlike their male counterparts, the moms decide to blow off Christmas entirely. They’re sick of their roles as joy-makers, and they decide to leave their families behind and go party through the Yuletide season.
Obviously the movie is not trying to present a serious recommendation for how to respond to the holidays. But it depicts Christmas as something to be merely survived, and views families as a source of irritation rather than joy. The movie follows up last year’s Office Christmas Party and Bad Santa 2, which also suggested that the holiday season is at best an opportunity for partying, and at worst, a lengthy ordeal full of stress.
It shouldn’t be a radical goal for holiday movies, even comedies, to attempt to actually celebrate the holiday. Remember the gleeful wonder of Buddy the Elf, the selflessness of George Bailey, and even the family values hidden in Home Alone and Die Hard? But instead of promoting holiday values, these recent releases try to tear them down.
The protagonists’ kids are materialistic, their spouses are an afterthought, and their parents only come in to drive them crazy. Sure, the holidays can be a stressful time—but is that really what we want from our movies during the holidays?
All of the conflicts and stress surrounding the holidays are real, but normal families resolve them with honest words, not binge drinking and snowball fights. And divorce does happen, but broken families are nothing to promote as ideally “progressive.” If Hollywood families are anything like their on-screen counterparts, December 25 will be a rough morning in Beverly Hills.
Image: (Daddy’s Home 2) Paramount Pictures, (A Bad Moms Christmas) STX Entertainment