It’s a Triple Dog Dare straight out of the schoolyard: Can someone really watch all 24 hours of the A Christmas Story marathon that plays every Christmas? Author Joanna Wilson takes us on an adventure of doing just that as she looks at why A Christmas Story has become the one movie that can live up to that kind of special airing each year.
Title: The Triple Dog Dare: Watching – & Surviving – the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story
Author: Joanna Wilson
First, a bit of a disclaimer. I know Joanna personally, I’m even quoted in the book a couple of times, so I’m anything but unbiased. But in my defence, I came to know Joanna because of our common love for Christmas entertainment and pop culture, so this book belongs here and everything I say about it will be the absolute truth.
That said, I loved it! What an interesting idea! There are lots of books on A Christmas Story (okay, well ‘lots’ is relative, but how many movies get even books written about them, and owning a few about A Christmas Story myself, I think ‘lots’ is justified). But Triple Dog Dare isn’t like any of the others. And it’s certainly not just about A Christmas Story. Triple Dog Dare is about what goes into something that gets the kind of nostalgic love and pop culture status that this movie gets. This book looks into what is it about A Christmas Story that makes it worth of repeated viewings, close viewings, background viewings and superfans who know if off-by-heart.
This is a book of ideas about A Christmas Story, resulting from A Christmas Story and its special place in pop culture.
Joanna sets to recreate the movie marathon in February, using an old VHS tape of the movie, including all the commercials, which allows her and her boyfriend to find the exact date of the original airing (The little details in this book make it positively endearing. The little things done to reproduce Christmas are guaranteed to make you smile).
The care and dedication to detail in this project really seems to echo the care and detail the filmmakers put into the film, since clearly both projects are a labour of love. As Joanna writes about the many superfans she has encountered on her journey to researching this project, you can’t help but see the echoes of her own superfandom to Christmas and pop culture phenomena like A Christmas Story. I’m not sure anyone else could write this book with the same understanding.
Read in One Sitting
I read Triple Dog Dare in one sitting. That’s not my usual way of reading a book like this, but it was really captivating. I found that it helped replicate the idea of Joanna watching the marathon. She was watching this movie without any breaks, I was going to read it without any breaks. Thankfully mine required less coffee.
The book explores an awful lot of side-ideas, parts of culture and entertain that affect the movie and are affected by the movie. It goes a lot of places, lots of little side trips that talk about things related to the movie. Some can be long and detailed some can be a paragraph and just a short observation. I thought this fit the idea of the marathon perfectly.
There was an immediacy about it where it was like ideas coming into your head, followed and then moved on. In that sense, reading it in one sitting felt very much like a giant stream of thought about the movie and the experience and a culture that loves Christmas and this movie. And the framework of a marathon that was timed and finite managed to reel in all those ideas perfectly. A lot of different ideas about these things are covered in the book, but situating them in a marathon of one movie over and over offers the perfect structure for so many less-structured ideas.
All that said, it wasn’t a quick sitting, I think it was about four and a half hours (hey, it’s no 24 hours, but it was something), so it’s not a light or throwaway read. The Triple Dog Dare was interesting and engrossing read that brought up so many interesting things about A Christmas Story, and pop culture, and Television viewing in general, and fandom in general. This book is the launching point for a lot of new ideas to explore about the film and the ways we think about it, and the things around it too.
Love for A Christmas Story
Reading the book made me want to watch the movie again. Of all the topics covered, it always comes back to the movie and points out all the great things that we love about the movie. It was interesting to see (spoiler) that the process of watching the movie repeatedly, brought our more affection for the movie, rather than being sick of it.
Hearing all the reasons why takes a whole book so I don’t feel bad about that one little spoiler. And it’s not about conclusions or about verdicts, it’s about the journey. It’s about recreating Christmas and why you would want to. It’s about tasting soap for yourself. And it’s about looking at other movies and why they couldn’t do what A Christmas Story did. And does. It’s about a Herculean effort to understand a cultural happening and trying to reproduce key aspects of it to figure out what makes it tick.
The idea of The Triple Dog Dare was a phenomenal one, and I’m so glad that the book lived up to it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Definitely check it out if you get the chance.
The Triple Dog Dare book is available from the publisher 1701 Press.