It’s Christmas Eve, and one of our American traditions is “arguing”
about whether “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie.
I put arguing in quotes, hoping that these aren’t real arguments, but at
this point, somebody will argue about anything, no matter how ridiculous. Writing a post about that is ridiculous, too,
but I have a point.
I used to write an online column about conflict
resolution. The platform folded and my
column disappeared, and my perspective on conflict resolution has changed. These days, I’m much more interested in
conflict prevention. It’s easier to do
and it makes more sense.
Here’s what I mean.
Let’s say that you ask me to do something and I agree, but neither of us
says when. I don’t offer and you don’t ask,
or worse, one of us says something uselessly vague, like “soon” or “as soon as Brendan
can.” I know what soon means to me in
that context, know what I can do by when, but it’s unlikely that we share a
perception of those terms. If my
understanding is that it will take longer than think then you’re going to be
angry with me, because we agreed that I would do this thing “soon.” I will be upset, too, because I’m feeling unfairly
pressured. Sure, the job isn’t done yet,
but it’s also not “soon” yet.
It’s much better to express and manage expectations. This prevents many problems. Another way to do this is with rules.
Here’s where my take on rules is different from the general
understanding. I don’t expect you to
agree but I hope that you will consider it.
To me, rules don’t control people.
Instead, rules create freedom.
Here’s what I mean.
Let’s say that I am driving on a highway and I see a sign that says, “Speed
limit 65 MPH.” That sign doesn’t mean
that I can’t exceed 65 MPH. It means
that I can drive as fast as 65 MPH without adverse consequences, which I knowingly
risk if I drive faster than 65. It’s my
choice, and there is no caprice in it, no opinion. If the facts, the accurate measurement of my
speed, is 65 or lower then I am safe from a fine and points on my license. If not then I am at risk of a fine and
points. I’m not being controlled. I’m free to make a decision.
Yeah, that’s a lot of heavy stuff over Die Hard. Sometimes you have to hide the pill in the
applesauce. Let’s focus on this stupid hope-it’s-not-really-an-argument. If we really wanted to decide if Die Hard is
a Christmas movie then we would agree on a definition of Christmas movies,
preferably not on Christmas Eve but when we could really ponder it. Here’s how that could look:
A Christmas movie is one which
Is set in the general Christmas season, around
Thanksgiving to around New Years, and
Includes as important to the plot events of a
Christmas nature, like parties, gathering with friends or family, and the like,
Includes as important to the plot characters who
resemble those of a Christmas nature, like Jesus, Santa Claus, and the like,
Act on or embody essential Christmas values,
like generosity, charity, or redemption
I doubt that anything in there is controversial. I love the classic Philadelphia movie, “Trading
Places” and it fits the definition. “It’s
a Wonderful Life”? Definitely. What about “A Christmas Story”? Oh, I love this movie. I laugh the whole time. I’m not going to argue about this, but for
all of the obvious setting, based on the definition above, it may not really be
a Christmas movie. I’m not seeing the embodied
values in there. “Reindeer Games”? Not even close.
What about “Die Hard”?
We know the time of year and the setting, Nakatomi Corporation’s
holiday/Christmas party. John McClane is
there to visit and try to reunite with his family. He’s looking for reconciliation and
redemption. Let’s grab the third rail,
Is John McClane a Christ figure? Wow, yeah, that feels pretty close to
blasphemy, so I won’t go further than a safely vague “maybe,” 😊
but he risks his life to save others. He
takes on a series of dangerous and generous and selfless tasks. He was trapped on the top floors of a
building that was under assault by organized and trained and armed
criminals. He would be right to hide and
take care of himself rather than get involved.
Oh, and those punctured and bloody feet?
Nice touch. There were other ways
to hobble him.
Rules increase freedom.
Explicit and managed expectations prevent conflict. Die Hard is a Christmas movie while A
Christmas Story might not be. I don’t
need anyone to agree with me. Thanks for
reading. I hope that whatever you
celebrate, or don’t, that you get some time with your favorite heartbeats and
you get to rest in the coming days.