Posted by: coloradokiwi | November 25, 2007

Christmas Vacation: The Epilogue

While I should have been doing other things, I found myself watching “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” yet again on television. It’s a bona fide classic, of course, and its best bits still hold up after all these years. However, there was one key moment right near the end that struck me as ultimately being tragic and foreboding.

One of the driving plot elements (if you can call it that) is the continued delay of Clark’s Christmas Bonus, on which he’s counting to cover the funds he’s already allocated to a new swimming pool. When the envelope finally arrives, it is not his bonus, but a year’s subscription to the “Jelly of the Month” club. Hijinks ensue.

I will spare you all the subsequent details concerning Clark’s boss’ kidnapping, etc., since anyone who hasn’t lived under a rock the last 18 years knows this movie almost by heart. But it’s the scene with the kidnapped boss that strikes me as something really sad, and here’ why: when the boss is confronted with the results of his decision to cut out Christmas bonuses, he does something that I just don’t think would happen today: he is (gulp) contrite. Not only does he feel bad about his decision, which “looks good on paper,” his rich-bitch wife chastises him, and he decides to reinstate Clark’s bonus plus twenty percent.

This is a nice Christmas moment though, right? No, not for me, and not because I’m a killjoy sourpuss. What bothers me is this: the epilogue to this story does not end well, I’m sure, for the kindly boss and his bitchy but ultimately humane wife. When the board and the shareholders find out that he’s reinstated the bonuses and then some, they will have his guts for garters. They will oust him, and look for another way to increase the company’s profits — starting with pay cuts and the decision to switch suppliers, which saves the company money but causes major bureaucratic headaches for mid-level managers like Clark. This will ultimately force a strike, which will be undermined entirely when the board and the shareholders vote to sell off the company and relocate it to Malaysia. Clark got his bonus this year, but the following year (after spending more than a month on the picket line), he is laid off along with most of his other American coworkers, with the new owners taking only a skeleton crew on short term contract to set up operations at the new facility. As a result of all the stress and financial troubles, the Griswolds get a divorce. After spending a few years flitting around and suffering from severe depression, Clark decides to run for Congress on a largely protectionist campaign, but loses in a landslide after an obscure European porno featuring he and his estranged wife is leaked to the press. His former boss, meanwhile, will have committed suicide several years prior, shortly after his home is repossessed.

So Merry Christmas, Griswolds, enjoy the holiday magic before those greedy bastards find out how peachy everything turned out for you!

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Responses

  1. I side with the capitalists, and would feel completely justified sourcing Clark’s and all his subordinates’ jobs to Malaysia, where those dollars would go much further than paying the mortgage on a McMansion decorated with obscene dollars worth of xmas lights and a new swimming pool.

  2. What I find disturbing is that we’re never even asked to consider whether or not Clark deserves a bonus at all. He’s just a poor little guy, and they’re a big bad corporation, and they owe him money because they have bunches and he doesn’t. But this is a guy who fucks up just about everything he touches. We’re supposed to believe that the guy who can’t set up a few Christmas lights is a productive member of the workforce? Hardly. If his boss gives him a bonus, he absolutely deserves to be canned. And what’s the financial outlook of this company? Are they obligated to overpay unproductive (and relatively rich- he is looking to build a pool, after all, and not just trying to put food on the table) employees in tough financial times? Responsible board members should be on the lookout for unproductive spending, and reinvesting those dollars, or paying dividends to shareholders, or paying off debt, or any number of things would be far better for the long-term financial health of the company and its employees.
    People of your political persuasion like to stir up anti-market sentiment by making proclamations about how capitalism is on the verge of destroying everything it gets its greedy, uncaring hands on. Wait for it…..Now! No, really, wait….Now! In the time it takes for your predictions to be proven wrong, people have mostly forgotten them and have moved on to the next impending catastrophe. An example in the Griswolds’ time would be the fear that machines would replace manufacturing jobs and create massive employment. They did, and it didn’t. Your scenario is dated, though, and we have twenty pro-market years between the time the movie was made and now. Clark has seen Union power decline, he’s seen Nafta, and he pays fewer taxes. Capitalism run amuck! We can take a look what actually happened to guys like Clark in that time, and compare it to your gloomy economic forecast. The conclusion could only be that Clark is fucking-A fantastic! His capitalist hell turns out to be twenty years of steady economic growth, drastic decreases in violent crime, and a full employment economy. Our ability to outpace an inward-looking, socialist economy reduced the chance that Clark will die in a nuclear holocaust. Pool or no pool, the house he owns is undoubtedly worth many times the original note. The Horror! In short, Clark is rich, bitch! Probably a little too rich, by your standards. The only remedy is some good old fashioned wealth redistribution. Then, thankfully, we can overcome the rage that was generated when a company took money from a guy who only sort of worked for it by having the government pass it on to someone who almost certainly did not.

    P.S.- Randy Quaids’ character is a violent criminal who should be tossed in the pokey and have his children taken away from him. I feel bad for him, as he’s surely a product of the welfare state, but he should be removed from society. And so should that fat kid from New Zealand. 🙂


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