'A Christmas Story' movie still, in a story answering the question, is A Christmas Story appropriate...

There’s A Lot To Unpack In A Christmas Story Before Showing Your Kids

A Christmas Story premiered in 1983.

by Cat Bowen
Originally Published: 

Many of us grew up watching A Christmas Story every year on Christmas Day. TBS would play the film for a full 24 hours, so even if you wanted to, it was hard to go through the holidays and not watch little Ralphie’s story again. If it’s one of your favorite Christmas movies and you’d like to share it with your own kids this year, you’re probably wondering, is A Christmas Story appropriate for kids? When you’ve seen it so many times, you might forget some of the little things (that are big things — like bad words — should your kid latch on to them).

The plot of A Christmas Story centers around a family of four in the midwest as they celebrate the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Mom, Dad, Ralphie, and Randy seem to live a pretty 1940s-era idyllic life where Mom does all the cooking and cleaning, and Dad goes to work to win very big, important awards. The boys are rambunctious and wily, and at times, petulant and stubborn as children and tweens are wont to be. The overall content of the film, which got a sequel in 2022, at first glance is pretty innocuous. There’s not much real vulgarity even if it’s implied in many scenes. The only physical violence in the movie is perpetrated by bullies, and the film does a good job of showing why you shouldn’t give BB guns to children when Ralphie does, in fact, nearly shoot his damn eye out. But what ages is it truly appropriate for?

Is A Christmas Story appropriate for kids?

For older kids, maybe. A Christmas Story is rated PG, and Common Sense Media’s assessment says it’s appropriate for kids 8 years old and up. This age rating, the website says, is based on the movie’s inclusion of swear words like “ass,” “son of a b*itch,” and the F word. Maybe this is no big deal to your family, but for some, it’s enough reason to avoid the film just yet.

There are some scenes Common Sense Media flags for parents to consider before turning on the film — ones that include depictions of bullying and racist stereotypes of Black and Asian American people.

Is there anything inappropriate in A Christmas Story?

Aside from the swearing, there are some moments in the film you may want to keep in mind when deciding whether A Christmas Story is appropriate for your kids. Parents ought to be especially aware of the representation of Asian Americans in the film.

Near the end of the film, the Christmas Day turkey is ravaged by the neighbors’ hound dogs, much to the chagrin of Ralphie’s father. The family decides to go out, and the only restaurant open is the local Chinese restaurant. When the family sits at the table, they are greeted by the restaurant’s owner and several workers all playing to racist American stereotypes of Chinese immigrants — overly large smiles like those seen in anti-Asian propaganda during the early 1900s.

Their English was bad, pronunciation worse, and the family is horrified as the chef presents a Peking duck to the table, head still attached. When the mother balks and laughs, the restaurant employee whips out a cleaver and beheads the duck right at the table. The waiters then proceed to sing “Deck the Halls” to the family, singing the line “fa la la la la” as “fa ra ra ra ra.” The film plays to stereotypes and tropes of Asian immigrants popular after WWII, and it’s just plain gross.

The cast is also nearly entirely white, Common Sense Media points out, except for the restaurant employees and the occasional Black character, always a nameless robber or background character. The film also gets an F on the Bechdel test, and the soap-in-the-mouth scene might be upsetting depending on your child’s temperament.

So, if you’re ready to have conversations about these things with your kid, go ahead and cue up A Christmas Story. If you’d rather not have to talk through the racist depictions or why saying “son of a b*tch” isn’t allowed, it might be best to hold off.

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