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'Jingle All The Way' Is Actually A Crushing Satire, But You Only Remember It As A Dumb Holiday Movie

Jingle All the Way is that Christmas flick where Arnold Schwarzenegger attempts to transition from action hero to family-friendly leading man, right? Well, no. Jingle All the Way is actually a brilliant satirical film - seriously. Like Demolition Man starring Sylvester Stallone, the movie is remembered as a straightforward film starring a muscle-bound actor. But the anti-consumerism notes the filmmakers hit are spot-on. Movies that are secretly satires rarely tip their hands they’re doing something subversive. Instead, self-aware films like Jingle All the Way play things straight and let audiences decide how they want to view the movie's message.

The '90s were a particularly interesting time for consumerism, with children’s television shows built around selling toys. These programs not only acted as ads for the products but were also interspersed with actual commercials. Jingle All the Way takes this concept and shows audiences the darkest outcome of modern consumerism.

  • The Fake 'Turbo Man' Episode Encapsulates The Film's Real Premise

    Turbo Man doesn't exist, but the film opens with the final moments of an episode of the action hero's fictional TV show. In a few short scenes, the filmmakers distill everything that made '90s shows like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into such efficient sitcom-length commercials. 

    This TV show within the movie features Turbo Man, an equally ridiculous villain, a couple of sidekicks, and various accessories that are no doubt sold separately. It's a brilliant piece of satire, methodically pulling apart everything that was child entertainment in the '90s. 

  • Howard And Myron Never Stop Working

    We first meet Howard at his office Christmas party on December 23. Everyone around him is drinking, dancing, and getting into the holiday spirit. Meanwhile, Howard is taking business calls from other workaholics who don't know how to take a break, either. 

    His secretary informs him that he's late for his son's karate tournament (why there's a karate tournament on the eve of Christmas Eve is a topic for another time), but he keeps working

    Myron may not be a part of the same corporate world, but he, too, never stops working. As a postman, he's dedicated his life to delivering the mail through rain, sleet, or snow; and now he's adding a Christmas Eve shopping trip to that list. Even while he's in the middle of a bitter fight with Howard, Myron has a bag full of letters slung over his shoulder that he's no doubt delivering while he shops. He's the perfect consumer. 

  • Phil Hartman Is The Bad Guy Because He's Not A Workaholic

    The invisible antagonist of Jingle All the Way may be consumerism, and Howard may be battling Myron for a Turbo Man doll, but his perceived enemy in the film is Ted Maltin (Phil Hartman). Ted is everything Howard isn't: well prepared, a bit of a nerd, and not handcuffed to his desk. 

    The audience first meets Ted at the karate tournament, where he videotapes the kids' performances and receives praise from their mothers. He tells Liz Langston he likes to "take care" of women in the neighborhood. Is he a creep? Yes. But we're led to believe that Ted's inherently creepy attitude comes from the fact that he isn't working all the time. His open schedule gives him extra hours to bed the married women of Minneapolis.

  • Everyone Is Obsessed With Status

    All the male characters in Jingle All the Way - even the kids - are obsessed with what others think of them. They all seek out status symbols as if to say, "I AM SOMETHING." Early on in the film Jamie earns a purple belt and tells his father that it's "three away" from a black belt.

    He's obviously trying to squeeze blood from a stone by telling his father this, but can you blame him for trying to achieve something as a way to make his father pay attention to him? Jamie also believes if he owns Turbo Man, he'll fit in with the rest of his friends at school. 

    Howard is desperately clinging to the idea of the '90s alpha male. He never stops working, and when he discovers his wife thinks he's a less-than-stellar father (which he definitely is), he loses his mind and assaults another person before destroying a parade to give his son what he wants - all to prove his self-worth. 

    Ted Maltin so badly wants to seem like the perfect neighbor that he puts a set of Christmas lights on the Langston home. At no point does he stop to think that Howard wouldn't want those lights. He simply sees something that doesn't meet his idea of Christmas perfection and changes it.