Christmas Vacation depicts working class etiquette jokingly
Clark: …and an a**hole, in his bathrobe, emptying a chemical toilet into my sewer.”
This quote not only paints a picture of Cousin Eddie on the white, Christmas morning, but also it explains the lack of intelligence among the lower classes. Christmas Vacation is one of my all-time favorite Christmas shows due to my enjoyment of the family chaos. However, if we focus on how television shows and movies portray working class members, we realize that there are five criteria. The Working Class show: lack of taste, lack of intelligence, disinterest in politics, poor work ethics and dysfunctional family values. If we apply these criteria to Cousin Eddie, we see that his taste is indecent seeing that he dumps his fecal material into a storm sewer and drinks beer from a can. In doing this, it displays his lack of intelligence since Clark said, “he oughta know it’s illegal.” This comment shows a class distinction between Clark, middle-upper class, and Eddie, working class. This clip does not discuss Eddie’s disinterest in politics, but based upon his poor education, we assume this to be so. We also see, throughout the show, how Eddie and Catherine, his wife, do not earn enough money to buy Christmas presents for their children. Thus, if we extrapolate Eddie’s depiction, the audience concludes his work ethic is poor because working hard, ‘pays off’. This poor work ethic exemplifies Eddie’s complacency to keep holding out for a management position – 3 years and counting. Also, his family is dysfunctional since his son has lip fungus, the dog, named Snot, drinks half a quart of Pennzoil at home, his daughter is in a clinic being cured off a wild turkey, and the eldest son is working in the carnival. These experiences act as a boundary between the working class and the hegemonic, normalcy of middle class life. This stereotype acts as justification for blaming Eddie for his own circumstances. If he would have worked harder and “pulled himself up by his bootstraps,” Eddie would have achieved upward mobility. The idea of ”pull himself up by his bootstraps” is portrayed in the media to show how the “crème rises to the top”. Because of this depiction, it distracts society from the systemic issue of poverty and economic disparities. The media further distract us from these societal and policy issues through use of humor. While watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, I found myself laughing out loud at the stupidity. Therefore, I was blind to the idea of Enlightened Racism which relieves white viewers of responsibility for inequalities, hides and distorts the truth about working class life, passes the blame to those members of society and if they are white, the media labels them as a sub-culture or sub-group which deviates from the hegemonic norm. Analyzing the last point, we will find that being white does not always lead to privilege. So, the media justifies it through the open bashing of characters associated with said sub-group. Even though Cousin Eddie may look just like us, his actions denounce his privilege and counter-hegemonic lifestyle. This frame, where Cousin Eddie is the subject, would argue the problem is Eddie’s lack of education resulted in a low standard of living; therefore, we feel like his behaviors are idiotic and the treatment is to laugh at him. This promotes the systemic problem of class segregation and lower class members abilities to work their way up the corporate ladder. This problem of class segregation perpetuated by white, hegemonic power focuses on comparison by ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism is negatively judging a different culture, or in this case a sub-culture, by the standards of the white, dominant group. Through this act, the media help to reinforce the middle-upper class person’s superiority over other groups and sub-cultures. It is plain to see in Christmas Vacation that Eddie’s presence in Clark’s house will destroy Clark’s cultural class of education, taste and lifestyle through damage to the cultural capital of cleanliness and decency. Although the reaction to Eddie’s behavior is humorous, this humor functions as a façade to the personal and societal problems of poor and working class people. Instead, the media frames it as a threat to middle class values.