It’s the most wonderful time of year: the time when people show up on social media to fight for the idea that Die Hard is a Christmas movie. The thing is… there’s nobody to fight. Nobody really DISAGREES with that position; at most people like me respond to “Die Hard is a Christmas movie!” arguments with “Sure… okay. Whatever. I guess.”
This comes to mind because I saw this tweet from a friend of mine:
There is nothing more pathological to me than people who righteously defend that Die Hard is a Christmas movie when no one even cares enough to fight them on it. You’re tilting at windmills!!
— Desi (@DesiJed) December 4, 2018
And I thought it was very funny, but also very true. And not just true about Die Hard As Christmas Movie, but about all things in our lives.
See, getting online and arguing that Die Hard is a Christmas movie – I’ve seen people with screencaps and lists of reasons to bolster their argument – is a lot like what we all do all the time. We have these arguments with phantom people, with bizarre straw men that we conjure out of thin air. You might do it while commuting, or in the shower. You do it when your mind wanders and alights upon a resentment, and all of a sudden a complete drama plays out in your head.
This happened to me this week. My wifi went out. Not the internet, just the wifi router Spectrum had provided. I rebooted it and rebooted it to no avail. As I kept waiting to see if the next reboot would be the one that would stick, I began to imagine the phone call I’d have to make to Spectrum. And I imagined it WELL – I fucking did world building. I imagined being on hold for 30 minutes before I even got to an operator, and I imagined myself exasperated. I don’t have a lot of time lately, and spending it on the phone with Spectrum is not ideal.
Then I imagined the discussion with the operator, one where I would be frustrated with him walking me through the steps I had already attempted. And my blood pressure began to rise as I envisioned attempting to work out a time for the cable guy to come out to my apartment and look at the device, leaving me without wifi for perhaps days. I considered just going to Amazon and buying a router and skipping the whole fucking insanity-causing situation.
And at that moment I caught myself. I felt the anger that had built up in me and recognized it was anger over NOTHING. I had built a scenario and seen it through to its most irritating conclusion, and in the process had made myself feel like shit. I took a second to relax my muscles, especially in my jaw and shoulders, and to focus on my breath for ten seconds. Then I got dressed and went to work.
When I got home the wifi was working.
What I had been doing was arguing that Die Hard Is A Christmas Movie – I created a foe (Spectrum! The irritating operator!) and went into single battle with it, even though it didn’t exist. If you’re like me you do this ALL THE TIME. Maybe someone doesn’t text you back and you create a whole scenario in your head as to why, and even imagine the argument you will have when you confront them. Or you feel the need to have a talk with your co-worker about their performance and you map out this argument where they behave terribly. Or you need to ask someone a favor and you construct this fantasy about how badly they’ll take the ask. All of these are arguing that Die Hard is a Christmas movie. They’re all constructing a problem that doesn’t exist and then pouring your energy into confronting it.
Of course “Die Hard Is A Christmas Movie” isn’t some sort of terrible plague (that would be defining yourself by your taste for pizza or bacon, or any thing that literally EVERYBODY likes), and that’s what makes it a great metaphor for the phantom arguments we have in our heads. When you realize that nobody gives a shit if Die Hard is or isn’t a Christmas movie (has there EVER been a ‘Die Hard Is Definitely Not A Christmas Movie’ thinkpiece published? I imagine in the internet movie world, which is the hellish equivalent of infinite monkeys typing on infinite keyboards, someone will eventually emerge with that clickbait take) the whole thing gets funny. And so it’s funny when you catch yourself having these arguments in your skull.
Laughing at this stuff is the way to go. It certainly beats kicking ourselves. I try to be mindful about what is happening in my head, and that means I don’t go as far down these phantom argument roads as I once did (I had a running argument with someone I hadn’t seen in YEARS), but I still end up on the Straw Man Argument Highway once in a while. It happens in the shower a lot.
So going forward when I catch myself having one of these arguments, I’m just going to say to myself “Die Hard is a Christmas movie!” and laugh and get back to the present moment and remember to wash behind my ears.