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Come Christmas Eve, it’s pointless to try to avoid the inevitable. Even if you’re not searching for it, you’re bound to at least catch a glimpse at some point over the course of the night and into Christmas Day.

It’s been a long and weird journey for Jean Shepherd and Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story, but nothing says “cult status” like an annual 24 hour stint on TBS.

Gone Too Soon…But Not Forgotten

Cult films are usually a perfect storm of initial confusion, neglect, and underestimation, though that’s not to say that some underappreciated films don’t experience modest success. With that being said, A Christmas Story was certainly no stranger to these attitudes. The life cycle of such a film dictates that in order to achieve immortality, the film must first hit rock bottom.

And hit rock bottom it did. The film’s 1983 premiere was all but forgotten, as the festive film was nixed from the big screen before Christmas even happened that year. How tragic.

…cult movies survive because they’re embraced by a community, no matter the size. The fact that A Christmas Story is tied to the biggest American holiday of the year certainly helped the film gain traction with the masses.

But even the upturn of critic’s noses and a bombastic limited engagement on the big screen couldn’t keep Ralphie and his family down for too long. Simply put, cult movies survive because they’re embraced by a community, no matter the size. The fact that A Christmas Story is tied to the biggest American holiday of the year certainly helped the film gain traction with the masses.

(The Rocky Horror Picture Show is always associated with Halloween…but it’s really just popular year-round…and kind of has nothing to do with Halloween…)

Enough Wackiness To Go Around

More often than not, cult movies are defined by the oddities that reside within them. Donnie Darko has it’s weird, person-sized bunny (or guy in a bunny suit?), Pulp Fiction operates by way of wonky timeline, and The Room is just puzzling in every way you can think of.

However, there’s nothing that weird about A Christmas Story. Compared to the aforementioned artistic works, Clark and Shepherd’s film about the festive goings-on of an average Indianian family is about as vanilla as they come.

…there’s nothing that weird about A Christmas Story…Clark and Shepherd’s film about the festive goings-on of an average Indianian family is about as vanilla as they come.

Or at least it is on the surface level, as the main character is a nine-year old boy. Beneath a seemingly innocent front lurks a suggestive Italian lamp fashioned to resemble a seductive leg and a work around f-bomb.

You could call those instances exceptions, however.

Such a revelation about the inherently “average” nature of the film begs the question:

Cult Film or Cult Classic?

When stacked up against a “transsexual Transylvanian” and a person-sized bunny, pole-licking and BB guns seem about as run-of-the-mill as they come in the movie game. Perhaps, then, A Christmas Story fits more snugly into the “cult classic” category. Too mainstream now, thanks in part to the aforementioned marathon, to be considered a true cult film, but outcast-ed enough to find some distance from Elf and Miracle On 34th Street.

A Christmas Story fits more snugly into the “cult classic” category. Too mainstream now, thanks in part to the aforementioned marathon, to be considered a true cult film…

A wholesome, joyful middle ground. Just the way all of us fans like it.

Status and genre set aside, A Christmas Story is a pervading part of the Christmas season, whether you like it or not. After all, somebody must have liked it enough to play it for 24 hours straight every Christmas.

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