Why Clark Griswold may be one of the most perfect veterans in film
Every Christmas, we watch a handful of films that are just so iconic to Americana that, no matter how many times they get played, you'll watch 'em again next year. One such film is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Though never overtly stated in the film, it's pretty clear that Chevy Chase's character, Clark Griswold, is a former sailor in the U.S. Navy. Every action he takes falls perfectly in line with how 90% of veterans are in real life.
We get a clue into Clark's service when crazy Aunt Bethany arrives for Christmas Eve dinner. She's senile and has a tendency to ask questions that haven't been relevant for years. She asks Ellen if she's still dating Clark, but they've been married and have two teenage kids. Perhaps more importantly, she asks Clark's son, Rusty, if he's still in the Navy.
This doesn't make sense — Rusty's still a kid. But earlier in the film, when Clark's stuck in the attic, he not only walks by a military tough-box labelled, "Griswold," he also watches some old family videos featuring crazy Aunt Bethany giving cookies to what appears to be a younger "Sparky" Clark, in uniform.
She's old and probably mixed up the names. (Film by Warner Brothers: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation)
He's a perfectionist, even if he procrastinates.
Clark's central goal throughout the entire National Lampoon's Vacation franchise is to give his family the best vacation ever. In Christmas Vacation, it's all about having the most festive time. But, just like a veteran, he overdoes everything at the expense of his sanity and safety.
Unlike everyone else in the neighborhood, the Griswolds don't have their houses decorated well in advance of the holidays — Clark begins decorating the house on Dec. 15. He makes up for his lost time by checking every bulb (twice) and manages to hook up 25,000 "twinkling little" lights in just one day. When it doesn't go right, he manages to set it all up and get it right the next day.
Rerouting the entirety of Chicago's power grid? All in a day's work for a veteran. (Film by Warner Brothers: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation)
His family is both overly patriotic and crazy in their own right.
Military families almost always have two things in common: they're dysfunctional and very patriotic. They're crazy, but they're our families, so we make due. Every scene in the film is full of moments that military families can relate to.
During breakfast, both Clark's and Ellen's fathers argue over who had worse rations in the background, so we can assume they're also veterans. Later on, during Christmas dinner, the family begins saying grace, but it eventually diverts into the Pledge of Allegiance. When the sewer blows up and the plastic Santa goes flying, they just give in and sing the Star-Spangled Banner.
Only a veteran would be as calm as Clark was with this scene. (Film by Warner Brothers: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation)
When he snaps...
Rounding out how Chevy Chase perfectly captures the spirit of a veteran is, of course, the famous rant. Only a veteran can be this creative with off-the-cuff insults.
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