SHEENA BARNETT: Celebrate the messy holidays



The movies: raising everyone’s expectations about life since the 1920s.

Everything in the movies, from high school to first dates to marriage proposals to death, are always that much sweeter, that much more perfect, that much more glamorous than they are in real life.

That’s to be expected, with a cast of gorgeous actors, a hair and make-up team and special effects artists who can create anything they can dream up, all ready to make a scene perfect.

For those of us who regularly consume pop culture, I think there’s always a part of us who wishes our lives were “like the movies,” from on a big scale like the perfect marriage to a smaller scale like perfect hair.

I’m especially guilty of it around the holidays.

Part of me will always wish for the big house like the McCallisters had in “Home Alone,” not to mention the entire family’s trip to Paris.

I’ll always wish for a Christmastime meet-cute like in “While You Were Sleeping,” although I really hope no one gets hurt when they fall on train tracks.

And it’s hard to wish for a white Christmas like you see in the movies if you live in Mississippi.

I love seeing a lot of cars parked outside houses at Christmas. I imagine it’s like in the movies, with everyone happy, eating good food, opening fun or silly gifts.

But part of me knows the reality is probably much more awkward than that: the strangeness of seeing people you only see once a year, sidestepping conversations and politics, religion or football, eating horrible food, saying thanks for gifts that seemed to be chosen at random. And that’s hoping for the best, really.

It’s probably more like the Griswold family Christmas – and that’s probably the most accurate holiday movie, if your holidays tend to fall apart.

And I tend to like the holiday movies where things don’t go exactly as planned. Even if the storyline is exaggerated, it feels more real, somehow. If Kevin McCallister’s mom hadn’t left him at home, there’d be no movie; Jack Skellington had to destroy Christmas to really understand its meaning; and Sheridan Whiteside is the worst holiday house guest ever, but he’s also probably the funniest. And we all know George Bailey had to reach his lowest point before he found happiness.

I don’t have the McCallister’s big house, and I doubt I’ll meet anyone at Christmas, in a cute way or even in a boring way.

I don’t have a ton of money to buy expensive gifts. I don’t have a tree, just my 6-foot cardboard cut out of Thor that I’ve decorated with lights and a Santa hat.

So my holiday may not be full of movie magic, but it’s mine.

I’ll take it.

Sheena Barnett is reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal. Contact her at

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