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A solution to a really dumb Internet argument about "Die Hard"

I don't keep up with too many Internet debates, but I got the short version of one recently that reminds me that we're all a bunch of confused idiots with arbitrary hangups.  Apparently, everybody else is also unsure of whether or not Die Hard can be called a Christmas movie.


On one side of the debate you have a combination of too-cool-for-school hipstery types and broad stroke painters who'll lump anything with Christmas in the background into the same bin of "Christmas movie."  Some do this because they think they're being clever by referencing something incidental to the setting of a beloved action classic (full disclosure: this was me about six years ago, when I was an even bigger dipshit than I am now), and others do this because it's just plain easier.  Something has Christmas in it, it's a Christmas movie. Simple, right?

On the other side of the debate, you have folks who take a much narrower view of the term "Christmas movie" and think phrases like it should be limited only to features that can meet a specific set of criteria.  This camp includes both pedantic twerps and people who aren't trying to be a jerk, but who keep rolling their eyes and saying, "You know what I mean," when they ask other people what their favorite Christmas movie is and they get Die Hard as an answer.

It's the same problem that comes up when you try to sort any movies into genres and subgenres.  The anal retentive, OCD part of your brain that drives you to categorize everything into readily identifiable groups is perpetually at odds with the Melting Pot part of your brain that likes to see the edges blurred.  The only way to reconcile this for me is to allow for a movie to have "flavors" in addition to genres.

A flavor is basically a theme, but without the need for an actual thematic statement or any real discussion.  It's not really fair to call something a true theme or subgenre or genre if it's not a driving force of the movie's plot or if the movie doesn't go into it much detail, but it's also not fair to pretend that this element is not in the movie at all.  This is where flavors come in handy.

A good example is Star Wars.  It has robots in it, but it's not a movie about robots.  It doesn't explore the relationship between humans and technology, it doesn't innovate on the ways robotics might influence human life, and its robots could easily be replaced without changing the fundamental story it tells.  You would be doing a disservice to both movies if you lumped it into the same subgenre as Ex Machina.

It's kind of a "have your cake and eat it, too" argument, but I think it works.  Die Hard is not a Christmas movie, but it does have a Christmas flavor.  So the next time somebody feels like having this argument when you ask "What's your favorite Christmas movie?", just clarify your question a bit.

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