Culture of Pop

The State of Christmas

Back in April, Hardwood and Hollywood’s odd-couple, Dalton Baggett and Sonny Giuliano, discussed the state of the National Basketball Association. Today they discuss the state of the Christmas Season.

Sonny Giuliano: My dear friend Dalton,

Merry Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah to both you and Jeanie. I hope you guys are doing absolutely splendidly in Colorado this holiday season. I have so many things that I’m compelled to talk to you about, and that’s for two reasons:

1. You often ignore my Facebook messages and that saddens me. I know you ignore them too because Facebook tells me that you have seen them, so it’s apparently a conscious decision that you make not to answer me. Back when we were co-workers you couldn’t just listen to what I had to say and choose not to reply. First of all, it would’ve been very unprofessional for you to do that, and we both know that when you and I were manning the store together we put a particular emphasis on being professional at all times. Second of all, for some odd reason, you couldn’t ever be too mean to me for an extended period of time when we saw each other almost daily. Even though you’d never admit as much, I think you had such deep brotherly love for me that you couldn’t stand to think about me being hurt by your actions.

But now that you live a thousand miles away in Colorado, you apparently couldn’t care less about hurting me.

2. It’s the Christmas season, and this is by far my favorite time of the year. The only other stretch of the year that even comes close to rivaling Christmas is during the NBA Playoffs, but I don’t have the opportunity to open presents, listen to Christmas music, watch Christmas movies or get that warm and fuzzy “Christmas feeling” in April, May and June.

So anyway, let’s start this back-and-forth. The first thing I want to know is whether or not you are enjoying the Christmas season now that you get to experience it with snow? Having been a Floridian for your entire life, I imagine it must’ve been odd to listen to Christmas songs that mentioned snowfall, men made of snow and cold weather altogether when you didn’t know what that was like around Christmastime. Like, did you ever even think about the process of “making a snowman” or did the whole idea of a snowman just exist because of the song Frosty the Snowman? When you would listen to the “The Christmas Song” and Nat King Cole so beautifully sang “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” did you just think to yourself, “It’s way to goddamn hot to roast chestnuts on an open fire right now”?

I love living in Florida for all but one week a year … the week leading up to Christmas. I wish I still could experience that cold Western New York weather from December 18th through December 25th. It felt just a little bit more like Christmas when you could look our your window and see the snow falling on a Christmas Eve night.

Dalton Baggett: Well thanks Sonny, that was a beautiful introduction into our little discussion, and a happy non-denominational gift giving season to you and yours as well! Christmas is the holiday I grew up celebrating, so I guess I’ll continue to do so for the rest of my life, although Hanukkah and 8 days of gifts sounds better in my opinion. However, with Christmas comes nostalgia, and nostalgia is the eternal glue that holds the universe together, right?

So let me tell you some things I get nostalgic about during Christmastime: Rolling down dirt hills, sweating, building mud people, and drinking cold coco in 150% humidity. Ok, I’m kidding about most of that stuff, but as you pointed out I grew up in Florida so it doesn’t sound too far-fetched. To answer your questions, I have not built any snowmen, or snowwomen and I have no great connections to any Christmas songs. To be honest I still, at 25 years old, have no fucking clue what a chestnut is. Am I missing something incredible? Or is it like your distant relatives that you only pretend to like around Holidays such as this? These are things I need to know! Should I really not eat the yellow snow? I’m lost, please send help.

It’s not some winter wonderland out here though, as it’s only snowed twice since I’ve been here. It was in the 80’s the other day! I know there are much bigger issues to worry about, but climate change may very well have robbed me my opportunity to ever build that elusive snowman I’ve heard so many different artists sing about.

Actually can we talk a little bit about Christmas music? I have some things to say.

PS: Yes, it is much easier to ignore you over social media, and I wish I could say I was sorry.

SG: Chestnuts are like the sixth best nut out there, so I wouldn’t be in a huge hurry to roast any on an open fire. And no, I wouldn’t advise eating the yellow snow … it’s banana flavored and bananas are disgusting.

Anywho, of course we can talk about Christmas music! What a silly question to ask someone like me, a guy who usually starts dabbling in Christmas tunes around Halloween time. Apparently you forgot that just two years ago I authored the defining list of the Twelve Best Christmas Songs ever. I’m sort of an expert when it comes to this field. So tell me, what are these things you have to say?

DB: Well, you see, I think people like you are part of my problem with Christmas music. Let me get my most shocking take out of the way first: Christmas music is overrated. *ducks*

Now, let me clarify this while you and everyone else recovers from the intensity of the take. I like Christmas music. A lot, in fact. I just don’t think we need to start listening to it at Halloween, you heathen.

Full disclosure, I didn’t do much actual research on the subject, but I’m going to spit some numbers at you anyway. There are only, like, 11 Christmas songs, which get repeated by literally every artist. So while it seems like there is enough variety to just play Christmas songs 24 hours a day, it is a ruse. A ruse that has duped society as a whole. I don’t care how many different iterations of ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’ there are, it gets old quick.

I feel the appropriate day to start listening to Christmas music is December 10th. That is plenty of time to listen to thousands of versions of 11 different songs, and not get sick of them before Christmas. Any more than two weeks, and everyone needs to be honest with themselves here, Christmas music is less cheerful, and more rage inducing. I worked retail for 6 years, and I can tell you that people start to get really awful the closer to Christmas it gets. I believe this is directly influenced by the amount of Christmas music they have been subjected to.

With all that being said, here are my top 5 holiday songs:

1.       Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy – David Bowie, Bing Crosby

2.       Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – DMX

3.       Happy Xmas (War is Over) – John Lennon

4.       Mary, Did You Know? – Peter Hollens

5.       The Chanukah Song – Adam Sandler

SG: Wow. There’s so much about what you just said that I’m angry about, I don’t even know where to begin. December 10th? Everyone knows Christmastime starts on Thanksgiving day. Your Top 5 Holiday Songs list? Only one of your choices are on my Twelve Songs of Christmas List (though I will admit, the Bowie/Crosby collaboration is one that I overlooked when I made my list … allow me to bump “Wonderful Christmas Time” from the #10 spot, replace it with “Cold December Night”, slide “All I Want For Christmas Is You” back to #12 and slot “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” as the #11 song on the list). Only 11 Christmas songs? I have a playlist of 30 songs dialed up for Christmas morning, and there isn’t a single repeat on there. Seriously, between the things you just brought up and your admittance that my social media messages are often ignored, it’s like you’re intentionally trying to hurt my feelings, and I don’t understand this because CHRISTMAS IS THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR DAMMIT!

Here are my two theories as to why you’re the modern day Ebenezer Scrooge:

1. You didn’t grow up with true winter weather like I did. Having lived in New York for eighteen years and Florida for seven, I think the weather plays a major role in ones appreciation of Christmas music. The cold climate helps to put a lot of Christmas songs in perspective, and the Christmas season makes the winter weather a bit more tolerable. In New York, you could tolerate the cold and snow up until December 25th. In fact, you could even grow to enjoy it if you hummed “Let It Snow” to yourself as you were watching a blizzard from inside a cozy home. It was just part of the deal.

You however have been accustomed to beautiful Florida weather all year round. It’s similar to how sports fans in big, warm weather cities are often a little less passionate about their teams. In smaller, cold-weather cities, the sporting event is what you get excited for. Sure, you probably celebrated Christmas and I’m sure you and your family created many great memories, but you poor guy, you could never learn to love or even understand the beauty and magic of Christmas and Christmas music.

2. Working six years of retail can devour a human being. I only worked two, and I saw firsthand how miserable people could be while they were shopping for their loved ones. It’s disheartening. With that said, I personally don’t think that’s a product of Christmas music though. I would argue that the glorification of the Black Friday mindset and the increased emphasis on the importance of gift-giving can make a person go mad during the Holiday season.

Deep down, I think you know it’s not the Christmas music that makes you a Grinch. I think it’s the six years of having someone bitch at you almost daily for something as ridiculous as “Why don’t you have a bigger selection of Baltimore Orioles apparel to choose from?”

DB: This doesn’t have to do with Christmas, but how about the Cowboys fans who came in, but always had to tell us they don’t like Tony Romo.. WHAT ELSE DID THAT TEAM HAVE FOR OVER A DECADE? THE ANSWER IS NOTHING. Tony Romo is the GOAT.

I’m going to let that slightly digressive rant lead into another one:

The entire premise of the holiday shopping season is an absolutely ridiculous and heartless way for corporations to make oodles and oodles of cash. This isn’t even the Ebeneezer Scrooge in me either, I love buying gifts for the people I love. I’m a great gift giver if I do say so myself. However, I don’t like to feel obligated to buy a gift for every single person I’ve ever had a conversation with. The point of a gift on Christmas is to be creative and show someone you care with something that represents the relationship the two of you share. The amount of times people would come in on Christmas eve screaming “I need a gift for my cousins’ new girlfriends’ step-kid, I DON’T CARE WHAT IT IS JUST FIND ME SOMETHING!” Kind of puts a damper on the whole Holiday spirit thing.

If anyone would like to contribute to the corporate conglomerate Plutocracy we call a country, I’m a size medium and I could really use a Nintendo Switch.

Sonny, I’d like to hear your much less pessimistic views on the Holiday shopping season.

SG: Honestly, I don’t think we’re in much different categories of Holiday shoppers. I personally enjoy shopping for my loved ones and I never buy gifts out of obligation. Unlike you, I enjoy walking through a mall and listening to the Christmas music and seeing the Christmas lights up around the establishment. I generally always try to make small talk with the mall Santa’s and I do my best to spread Holiday cheer in situations where it seems like cheer is lacking — and as you laid out, there are a great number of cheer-less shoppers out there. I guess where you and I differ most is with that last point. I’ve never seen you going out of your way to spread cheer. Now Mr. Scrooge, if you don’t mind transitioning, I’d like to talk about the part of the Christmas season I’m actually most pessimistic about/down on.

So the other day Maria (my girlfriend for those who aren’t familiar) and I were having a delicious sushi dinner and we were pondering what we should watch on Netflix after we got back to her house. I suggested watching Catch Me If You Can, my personal favorite Christmas movie, but Maria shot it down because “it’s not a Christmas movie.” I proceeded to set her straight, pointing out the number of Christmas scenes in said film, and then after we couldn’t come to agree on any Christmas movie to watch I realized that I don’t go out of my way to watch any single “traditional” Christmas movie during the Holiday season.

Aside from The Godfather, which  watch every Christmas Eve, the only five Christmas movies I go out of my way to watch during the Holiday season are Catch Me If You Can, Eight Crazy Nights (just as much a Hanukkah movie as it is a Christmas movie), Rocky IV (the climactic fight between Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago takes place on Christmas Day), and Home Alone and Home Alone 2 (the climactic showdown between Kevin and the Wet/Sticky Bandits takes place on Christmas Eve).

Now these are all fine films and each year I’m downright giddy to settle in and watch them during the month of December, but I think it’s a fundamental problem that there hasn’t been a truly great Christmas movie that released in our lifetime. I’m sure that’s considered a “Hot Take,” but come on, am I really supposed to be pumped about Jingle All The Way or Elf or the God-awful Jim Carrey Grinch movie?

Once I make it to Hollywood as a screenwriter in five to seven years, my first priority is to create an ER reboot series, then after that I’m going to save Christmas cinema. First a film about the origin of Santa Claus, then a live-action Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer movie, then a great romantic Christmas movie (Michael Buble will be doing the music for us), and finally a psychological thriller series on Netflix that is basically True Detective meets Se7en. The pending title is The 12 Slays of Christmas. 

You want in?

DB: I think you’re missing out on some great “traditional” Christmas movies my friend. You need to add Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story to your rotation just to name a couple. Oh and Die Hard which is very much a traditional Christmas movie.

Also, I think your take is more luke-warm than hot, and I’ll agree with it. Elf is super overrated and our generation has lost it’s collective minds thinking it deserves a spot on the mountain. But please shut your mouth about Jim Carrey’s Grinch. It’s pure gold. I do have to admit a personal bias though because my parents surprised me with seeing it in theaters when I was a kid and we didn’t go a lot, so it holds a special place in my heart.

I’d like to mention that Jeanie (my girlfriend for those of you unacquainted)  had me watch Love Actually for the first time a few days ago and it deserves to be in the discussion for a great modern Christmas movie. A lot of big names, and Liam Neeson plays an adorable step-dad who just seems to be giddy no one is trying to steal his child. It’s pretty wonderful.

As for our careers as famous screenwriters in Hollywood: I will never speak to you again if the first thing you do is a reboot and not something original. I won’t be privy to such blasphemy. On top of that I can’t think of a show that deserves a reboot less than ER. “ANOTHER show about over dramatic doctors?! Count me in!” Just kidding, count me all the way out.

I’m very down to make a great romantic Christmas movie. We’ve got to be unique and original though, no Buble. I’m thinking the world needs some great Ed Sheeran Christmas music, and what better place than in our movie? Plus Ryan Gosling has to star, that’s non-negotiable.

I feel like the Thriller-Christmas genre is both untapped and also incredibly difficult to pull off. Let’s do it. It can be our Affleck-Damon moment. I’m already preparing my Emmy speech. If we call it the 12 Slays of Christmas, people might think we mean sleighs and that’s not a show i’m going to see. How about The Christmas Killer. Tagline: “Santa isn’t the only one coming down the chimney tonight”?

SG: Aside from the fact that this could be the tagline for a cheap Showtime After Dark Christmas-themed porn, I love it. Let’s not waste any more time. We have a pilot to write!


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