It’s a campy movie, part of a franchise, about a good willed man who tries his hardest to do amazing things for his family and blunders it all along the way. It the first movie, he attempts to take his kids to an amazing amusement park. After a series of weird events they make it, only to find the park is closed. The movie doesn’t end there, and if you haven’t seen it… I won’t spoil it. I know there is a generation of kids who haven’t had the chance to see the humble beginnings of an incredible franchise. In fact there are 3 movies when they attempt vacations (Family Vacation, European Vacation, and Vegas Vacation – sadly this last one is just worthy of skipping). Then there is my personal favorite the “Christmas Vacation” where Clark Griswold attempts to have a family Christmas at his home.
This is a movie that I love for a lot of reasons, besides being campy. You have a man who works hard for his family, in a company where he is practically invisible to the management. When discussing their annual bonus, his co-worker asks if Clark is spending the money on himself. Instead Clark shares his intention of spending the money on the family. This is a guy who is a family first kind of guy, he is working hard to provide for his family not just financially but also in building memories. Clark values the importance of putting his family before himself.
When his wife expresses concern over all of the family members staying in their home for the Christmas Vacation, Clark scoffs at it. He knows it won’t be perfect, but it is important to him to have this memory for his kids. Clark doesn’t feign the knowledge that the family members are not perfect, knowing there will be bickering and a tight fit. However, for Clark it is something he can deal with for the over all goal of having his family together at Christmas. Clark values the importance of family time, including the in laws.
When the senile aunt & grumpy uncle show up, as well as some uninvited extended family members arrive, Clark is surely surprised by their antics. Despite the comments he makes under his breath, Clark never asks them to leave or makes them feel unwelcome in his home. He accommodates them, and ends up offering to provide Christmas presents for their children. Clark values the importance of being charitable to those who are in poor in health, spirit, and finances. He also doesn’t allow the children to suffer from the mistakes of the parents.
Yes there are moments where Clark loses his cool, and is not the epitome of great husband, dad, or person. He isn’t immune to the stresses of the holidays. He is not impervious to outside influences affecting things beyond his control. Clark puts too much pressure on himself to make things perfect for everyone else, but that is the very thing that makes him endearing. Clark is a man who TRIES with everything in his might to make things grand for others. It’s never about himself, but about making sure others feel loved, appreciated, and cared for.
In fact, in those moments where it becomes about him… is only from his failure to achieve those goals. Not because he wanted the accolades, but instead because he failed his family.
Yet, the family response is what shows how much they know he cares. It is those who are closest to him that try to talk him down from the grandeur. They know how much it means to him, how much effort he will go to, and they know him well enough to expect there is going to be a let down along the way. They want to spare him, in every comment they make… it is always a concern about how he will feel. Even his teenage daughter stands to his defense when his father in law criticizes him, and attempts to make him feel better.
Many might see Clark Griswold’s character as flawed and foolish, but I contend it that be that as it may… it is in the most wonderful of ways. Despite his imperfections, this is a character that clearly cares about others above himself.
There are days that I can be a Clark Griswold, wanting everything to be perfect for the experience of others. There are days my husband can be too, as he LOVES Christmas and wants to create that feeling of wonder all month long. We both fail miserably at times, or buckle under the stress of it all. BUT, if I must be married to an imperfect man… I’ll take someone who is a Clark Griswold.
A man who works hard for his family, putting them ahead of himself. Who opens his doors to others, who is generous, caring, wants to build memories, and is doing the best he can for no other reason than to see smiles on the faces of those he loves.