This is a reprint of the Movies essay from Issue #57 of Exploits, our collaborative cultural diary in magazine form. If you like what you see, buy it now for $2, or subscribe to never miss an issue (note: Exploits is always free for subscribers of Unwinnable Monthly).
I don’t really vibe with Christmas, which it often seems like nobody does. My impression from the outside looking in has long been that it’s a month of financial distress, familial strife and suffering under the weight of expectations that are never met.
The songs and movies are all about merriment and togetherness and occasionally Jesus; most of them are also written by Jewish people (hi) who, notably, don’t usually celebrate Christmas and aren’t quite so beholden to the hulking, stumbling, insatiable, brain-devouring monstrosity that is its reality. Every brush I’ve had with actually celebrating the holiday has been a complete horror show.
I spend a lot of time trying to reconcile this gulf between what people insist Christmas is and what it’s actually like. There’s got to be something I’m missing, right? But the deeper I dive, the more I find the same thing: people watching endless Hallmark movies of their own lives while gnawing each other’s flesh off on the other side of the screen.
When I see a movie like Anna and the Apocalypse, I understand that it’s supposed to be ironic. I do. The High School Musical style synchronized dance numbers, the themes of familial warmth and reconciliation, they’re all supposed to contrast with the zombies. Holiday decorations aren’t meant to be used as weapons, pop-up markets aren’t supposed to feel like the hedge maze in The Shining.
I get it, it’s just that Christmas retail is creepy and ominous, and living through the season is a lot like being beaten with a humongous candy cane. The irony goes away if you never took the seasonal mythology at face value in the first place
This doesn’t flatten the appeal, though. In fact, my experience as a viewer is that it’s all the more hilarious, just in more of an “it’s funny because it’s true” kind of way. Here, at last, is a Christmas movie that takes the mask off and shows this holiday authentically, the way it’s always looked for me. An actual Christmas miracle.