I describe all the funny scenes in the movie
that end in minor disasters,
concluding with the sneaky inclusion of the “Golden Age” sign:
Ralphie, with loaded gun in hand, is the personification of “armed and dangerous.” He sets up a target in the backyard, and gets ready to shoot. The scheming kid has gotten his wish.
And here comes a comment on our family entertainment. How many viewers notice that the support for the target is an advertising sign, maybe from some commercial emporium that had discarded it as useless? One has to look fast for a clue to the film’s ironic comment about nostalgia — that upended, sideways sign, in beautiful, old-fashioned, pure white script, in a fleeting reminder of the good old days, announces the soda’s brand simply: “Golden Age.” That discarded sign, of some resilient metal, propels the ultimate comeback to Ralphie’s first shot, ricocheting that BB at him so fast it almost shoots his eye out. Some day the kid might learn the worldly savvy, adult adage, “Be careful what you wish for.” Perhaps this is why Shepherd originally wanted to title the film Santa’s Revenge.
Although Jean Shepherd’s philosophy tended to be that most things in life were going to end in disaster, in A Christmas Story he was able to present this in an acceptable form, disguising a negative undercurrent and making people laugh with his ever-present humor. After all, much laughter in life springs from a bit of ironic recognition of hard truths unexpectedly made manifest.
(More to come)