“Don’t you got any Christmas Music?”
“This is Christmas music.”
With this simple exchange, Die Hard declares itself to be a proudly different Christmas film. The music in question is RUN DMC’s hip-hop track ‘Christmas in Hollis’ an inspired choice of song which uses sleigh bells to back up a slick rap beat. Through subverting tradition, the song asks us to discard our traditional, boring, conservative assumptions about Christmas and embrace an alternative view. Within two hours and 12 minutes, the film will have us embrace a fire hose bungee-jump and secret sellotaped guns as the new ornaments of the holiday. What fails to qualify ‘Christmas in Hollis’ as a Christmas song? Nothing. What fails to qualify Die Hard as a Christmas film? Nothing. Both the song and the film revel in the iconography, symbols and spirit of Christmas in an alternative but no less genuine way.
Ever since I hit 13, I have watched Die Hard every Christmas Eve. My mom, sister and I cannot envisage a Christmas Day that isn’t seen in with a seasonal chant of “Yippee Ki-yay Motherfucker” and the sight of a host of slaughtered criminals at the bare feet of Bruce Willis. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Die Hard! Willis once said that he didn’t consider Die Hard a Christmas movie. Oh yeah? Well, he also tried to have a singing career and he endorsed George W. Bush for President. He’s clearly got things wrong from time to time. Besides, he didn’t write or direct the film, so the authorial intent isn’t his to declare. Know who does say that Die Hard is a Christmas film? Steven E. de Souza, the man who wrote the film. Case closed.
What makes a film a Christmas film? A Christmas setting, Family dynamics, seasonal travel, Christmas music, the promise of reunion, a Christmas party and a hero who literally walks around barefoot like Jesus
What makes a film a Christmas film? A Christmas setting, Family dynamics, seasonal travel, Christmas music, the promise of reunion, a Christmas party and a hero who literally walks around barefoot like Jesus. By all of these criteria, Die Hard is a Christmas film. Yet, there is a certain type of person who objects to Die Hard’s hard-earned status as a Christmas classic. These policing types will reject any claim as to a product embodying the season if it doesn’t conform with a boring, traditional, conservative outlook on Christmas. It’s a view as old as time, an irrational fear of anything alternative that threatens the rosy status quo. If it doesn’t have a Disney logo before it, or if it contains a hint of edginess, they’ll tell you it isn’t Christmassy. These people are wrong, and they are fighting a losing battle. Christmas isn’t theirs to chaperone, and the argument that violence disqualifies films from being Christmas films is nonsensical.
If you think that Christmas and violence are incompatible, consider this: during the very first-ever Christmas, King Herod had hundreds of male babies murdered in an attempt to kill Jesus. Christmas and violence have always gone hand in hand, just ask Bernard Matthews. Violence in and of itself isn’t enough of a reason to disqualify Die Hard as a Christmas film. However, if you still think that violence disqualifies films in contention for Christmas classic status, get ready to disqualify more than just Die Hard. If you subscribe to the no-violence argument, you must then believe that Home Alone, a film about the Christmas holidays and the theft of Christmas presents, is not a Christmas film. This would be ludicrous, yet when one applies the anti-violence criteria, Home Alone isn’t a Christmas film. In it we see criminals threatening to torture a child after having been stabbed, burnt, shot and battered. The child in question spends his Christmas worrying about a local snow shoveler being a notorious serial killer and watching a gritty noir film where a gangster makes ample use of a Tommy Gun. It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t free of violence either, as it features a man’s determination to commit suicide and a scene where a pharmacist hits a child in the head hard enough to make his ears bleed. We haven’t even got to the sickest, most depraved, inhumane Christmas film ever made yet. Love Actually, the beloved Christmas classic that involves stalking, fatphobia, the creepiest father-son relationship ever committed to film, Hugh Grant calling Margaret Thatcher a “saucy minx” and the most gratuitous, unnecessary and constant sexual objectification of women and denial of female agency that I’ve ever seen in a film. Love Actually is a nauseating, shameful and obscene stain on the proud history of British cinema. Its celebration of sexism is more disturbing than anything in Die Hard, a far more moral and far less disgusting film than Love Actually.
At its heart, Christmas is about braving terrible odds and hardship to celebrate with your nearest and dearest
In a world where Love Actually’s glorification of repulsive and degrading behaviour is seen as the stuff of a beloved Christmas classic, give me the moral clarity of John McClane and his trusty machine gun any day. At its heart, Christmas is about braving terrible odds and hardship to celebrate with your nearest and dearest. Not presents and sex, but companionship. Die Hard understands this. Love Actually, with its gratuitous and disgustingly antifeminist depictions of women as sex objects, does not. I would be far happier to have a whole family united around the glow of Bruce Willis snapping the neck of a small-footed terrorist than the obscene glare of Bill Nighy saying he wants to “get pissed and watch some porn”. I watched Die Hard at 13 and loved it. I watched Love Actually at 15 and I still wake up screaming. Let’s conclude this simply, because it shouldn’t even be a debate. Die Hard is set on Christmas Eve, has a tonne of Christmas décor, revolves around a man trying to ensure a family reunion goes ahead on Christmas day, has a Christmas party as a central plot device, references Christmas constantly in its dialogue and even has some juicy family drama: everything that Christmas is made of. Yippee Kay-ay Motherfuckers, Die Hard is a Christmas film.