So many of us remember the 1983 film A Christmas Story. It’s considered a classic by many, and for good reason. It has a lot of funny moments, and memorable quotes, and the whole idea of a kid wanting a BB gun for Christmas is pretty unique. I like the movie for all these reasons, and for a few more.
However, there is one thing about the movie that bugs me, and that’s the way the ending plays out. Like I said in the last paragraph, the plot revolves around a kid named Ralphie who wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. He expresses his desires to his parents, and his teacher at school, and even a Santa Claus at the department store, but everyone tells him “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Despite their warnings, Ralphie ignores them and continues pining for his gun.
When Christmas Day arrives, Ralphie is disappointed to see that he hasn’t gotten his BB gun, but then his dad directs him to said gun, which was hidden from him. Ralphie is really happy about getting his gun, and he takes it outside for some target practice. And then the gun’s bullet bounces back and shoots his eye out.
Actually, it turns out that the gun had knocked Ralphie’s glasses off his face, and they broke. So Ralphie lies to his mom that a falling icicle broke them, and she believes him. And then the movie ends with Ralphie saying how happy he was that he got his gun.
Um…okay? I mean, I’m glad Ralphie didn’t get his dreams crushed, but what happened with him shooting his glasses off his face…doesn’t that prove that everyone was absolutely right? That a BB gun is a very dangerous thing for a nine-year-old kid to have? When Ralphie does “shoot his eye out,” he has a brief flashback to everyone telling him that he’d shoot his eye out, indicating that he could be having an “OMG they were totally right” realization. But then he realizes that his eyes are still intact, and it was his glasses that broke. And then he goes forward as if he’s still disregarding those warnings.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and the best conclusion I can come up with is that, on a meta level, the screenwriters may have wanted Ralphie to have a sort of “hitting rock bottom” point. The thing that’s been plaguing him for the entire movie comes back to bite him, but he finds a way to escape it. Which is fine, but the way the movie plays out, it’s like “Oh no, I shot my eye out! Wait, actually, I didn’t! I’ll just lie to my mom, and everything’s fine!”
On the other hand, the movie didn’t seem to be building toward any kind of revelation that Ralphie would realize that gifts aren’t what Christmas is all about and that it’s really about family, or anything like that. It was all about his desire to get a Red Ryder BB gun, along with the other misadventures he experienced in his life. So narratively, it does make sense for him to find some way to attain and keep the BB gun that he wanted so badly.
I dunno. I want to like the ending, but I’ve always been kinda conflicted on it.