Pop Culture Blind Spots: I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Jonathan Taylor Thomas – J.T.T., if you were born between about 1980 and 1990 – perfectly illustrates the life cycle of a tween hearthrob. He was Randy Taylor on Home Improvement, Young Simba in The Lion King, and a Certified Hottie in the pages of Tiger Beat. When I was in fourth grade (the 1995-1996 school year), all of the girls in my class were obsessed with him. A few short years later – 1998, when I’ll Be Home for Christmas was released – we had all but forgotten about JTT. A lot had happened since 1996 (Hanson. Leonardo DiCaprio. Puberty). That’s how I, a one-time J.T.T. fangirl, got to 2015 without seeing his foray into Christmas entertainment. Here goes:

  • This is the most high-school looking college I’ve ever seen. J.T.T. is in a hallway covered in lockers; his dweeby friend is STUFFED INTO ONE.
  • 1998 thing: J.T.T. uses the phrase “on the net.”
  • 1998 thing: a flock of girls are wearing Biore pore strips and J.T.T. asks if they work (1998 thing: they don’t).
  • 1998 thing: J.T.T. (Jake), wearing one of those button up bowling shirt things, flirts with a Mary Camden-era Jessica Biel (Ally), who has a Smashmouth poster.

  • Ribbed shirts sure were all the rage, weren’t they?
  • I think Mary Camden  is wearing a skort.
  • So Jake wants Ally to spend Christmas with him instead of her family. Is this a thing 18-year-olds do? My 18-year-old cousin went to Florida with her girlfriend’s family last Christmas and we all thought it was a little extra for someone who didn’t exist until 1996.
  • J.T.T. and his bros are in a cafeteria. This is the weirdest, most high-schoolish college.
  • J.T.T’s little sister is roughly the age we were when this came out, and she is the late-90s awkward stage personified.

File under: lime green mock turtleneck, stripey zipped thing, half of your hair pulled tightly back. Yep, all checks out.

  • “Is the convenience of technology worth the loss of our privacy?” – a very prescient J.T.T.
  • J.T.T.’s father offers to GIVE HIM A PORSCHE if he comes home for dinner at 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve. If I am home for dinner at 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, I get dinner.
  • So how’d I end up watching this? I’m watching a nephew and niece while their brother is in the hospital (note: this will be relevant later). Anyway, the 8-year-old boy requested a Christmas movie that neither of us had seen. He pronounced J.T.T.’s dad’s offer “a little extreme.”
  • 1998 thing: A group of boys cheat on a final with the aid of beepers and antique dial-up internet.
  • Mary Camden is wearing her second chunky-knit awkwardly short ribbed sweater.

  • The bros drop J.T.T. in the desert wearing a Santa Suit and I have questions. They leave a note: “Let’s see you sweet talk your way out of this one.” So. They knocked him unconscious, changed his clothes, and drove him to a secluded location to die? God, this is dark.

  • Mary Camden: “if you make me listen to any sexist, racist, or homophobic jokes I’m gonna have to slug you.” Add that one to my to-cross stitch pile. (She’s driving cross-country with J.T.T.’s enemy bro.)
  • 1998 thing: Eddie, the enemy bro, is in a sensitive mood, wants to listen to “Jewel, Sarah, Fiona.”
  • Tracey, Jake’s sister, is wearing giant terrible overalls.

Can’t find a pic of the overalls, but here’s a vest. A vest and I guess a spoiler.

  • J.T.T. and a car full of blue-haired Tom Jones fanatics listen to What’s New Pussycat.
  • It starts snowing on J.T.T. in the desert, I scoff, 8-year-old reminds me that deserts have dry climates but can be extremely cold at night. Which is true.
  • Jessica Biel slug’s Douchebag Eddie “as per our agreement.” I miss this teen movie archetype.
  • A van driver swerves about the road while he’s trying to retrieved a dropped sandwich and Charley and I both laugh out loud. FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY. GIGGLES FOR ALL AGES. No but really, this movie is not bad on the separate rating scale I use for Christmas movies.
  • Douchebag Eddie calls himself a “millennial type of guy” who likes yoga and macrobiotic food. I could have sworn we were still going by Gen Y in 1998.
  • J.T.T. and the sandwich guy lie to a cop and say they’re giving presents to children in the hospital. They hand out kitchen appliances.
  • THEN a little boy says that all he wants is to go home and be with his family. My nephew looks a bit glum thinking about his brother, and I learn a lesson about trying to entertain a worried child with Jonathan Taylor Thomas movies. See, that’s why the Babysitters Club used to bring Kid Kits with them. ANYWAY. The hospital boy is never seen again, so there was no point in the movie turning serious for like 20 seconds.

21 Reasons You'll Want To Watch "I'll Be Home For Christmas" This Holiday

  • Sandwich Guy sings to his estranged wife Marjorie at her workplace. Her workplace is a restaurant where you, I guess, choose which cow you want to eat.

  • Douchebag Eddie wonders why more breakfast places don’t serve food right in the skillet. Same. But also, tort liability probs.
  • I’ve somehow stopped noticing that JTT has been wearing a Santa suit this whole time.
  • Douchebag Eddie and Mary Camden stay at a honeymoon suite decorated by my grandma during one of her mid-90s craft sprees.
  • JTT steals a man’s gross meat sandwich, which sounds like a euphemism but isn’t, and says it’s a liver transplant so that his bus goes where he needs it to.
  • This is an OK Christmas movie, but you know what would be the BEST Christmas movie that I’d watch every year? If they cut together all of the Christmas or wintery or snowy parts from all the Harry Potters. I’d pay probably not evening admission for that, but definitely matinee.
  • Allie and Jake meet up and have a boring fight. You could skip it.
  • J.T.T. enters a Santa 5K to get money to fly home. He wins after a cluster of Santas gets taken out by a friendly dog. The whole thing would make a fantastic Where’s Waldo page.

  • Jake donates his winnings to homeless people.
  • Tracey has a plane ticket’s worth of money in her “ballerina bag.” The best thing I had in my Irish Dance bag was maybe like a newish Werther’s Original.
  • Jake stows away in a dog crate because he doesn’t have an I.D.
  • Charley: “How did Allie and Jake get there at the same time, if he flew and she took the bus?”

Me: Wait. How DID they?

Honestly the geography of this trip is very confusing to me.

  • Jake steals a sleigh to get home in time. My nephew notes that Jake “steals a lot” and he isn’t wrong.
  • Jake makes it home at 5:59, but refuses to go into the house until after 6 because he is silly.
  • The Porsche is parked in the snowy front yard by a set designer who doesn’t know how snow works.

 

  • Jake, a silly goose, refuses the car but accepts his father’s love. AWWW.
  • Jake and his stepmom exchange sweater sizes. She is an 8.
  • 1998 thing: a size 8 woman in a movie.
  • Bottom line: this Lifetime-quality Christmas movie that was perfectly serviceable. On my separate rating scale for Christmas movies, it was “cute.” In Christmas movies, cute isn’t a bad thing.

 

Things I Irrationally Wanted As A Child (But Didn’t Get)

  • A turtle. [I was 5, and my mother told me that they don’t sell turtles anymore. That was a 100% lie.]
  • A real, adult shopping cart. [There was an Ames shopping cart in a swamp near my church for a while, and I wanted it so badly. ]
  • A robot who would clean my room. [I know, the Roomba exists now… and I am too poor to afford it. But also, I think I speak for all of us when I say I don’t need a robot to vacuum, I need it to file my bank statements, match my socks, and put my clothes away.]
  • That skating rink thing from Lillian Vernon that you could freeze in your yard.

    Does this child know how lucky she is? Evidently not. Her mom is selling this on ebay.

  • Teddy Ruxpin. [Sources say they were less cool than you’d think in real life]
  • Porcelana. [This was a cream that vowed to fade your freckles, but the label said that it was for people over age 12. I actually did get some in high school, but all it did was give me a maroon rash like this for a day or so. I discontinued use immediately.]

    Skin bleach. I wanted skin bleach.

  • Glasses [Briefly, in second grade or so. I blame Molly McIntyre. Now that I have them I rarely remember I’m supposed to wear them.]
  • To marry Jonathan Taylor Thomas someday [I can’t be sure, but I don’t think that would exactly work out well.]

    Found this on my work computer (lunch break) and probably going to have an uncomfy convo with HR later.

  • One of those Barbie/Hot Wheels cars that you can drive [My nephew has one now and it goes at like 2 MPH. I think my parents realized that I could walk faster than those things went.]
  • A pogo stick [My dad always wanted a pogo stick as a child, but never got one. Thus, my siblings and I didn’t, either. I can’t wait to withhold things from my kids out of bitterness someday, too.]
  • A doll that looked like me [Because I didn’t yet think that those would probably come alive at night and try to take over your body – now I do. Also, I was essentially Felicity with Kirsten’s haircut, and I had both of those.]

    Horrific. But I do wonder if they’d agree to make a painfully honest one of my current self, including my under-eye circles and nose-scar.

  • A hanging porch swing in my bedroom.
  • A bedroom with a slant-ceilinged alcove so that I could write things at a cozy desk. [I wanted to be Jo March but am probably more of an Amy if I’m honest with myself.]

    C+S Fun Fact: This is how we write all of our blog posts.

  • An E-Z Bake Oven [My mom was more into having me help bake real cookies in a real stove.]
  • Muzzy [No, those children weren’t French, they were American! I wanted Muzzy so badly that I became a foreign language major in college. I was terribly disappointed when I learned that I was too old to walk around saying “je suis la jeune fille.” By the way, my grandmother’s first language was French, so I don’t know why I didn’t realize that she could teach me for free, instead of this sketchy BBC cartoon.]
  • For scientists to re-animate one of those Egyptian child mummies, like Jurassic Park or Encino man, so I could have an Ancient Egyptian friend. [I was a weird kid.]
  • Ballet or tap classes. [I used to pretend that my soft shoe Irish dance was ballet and hard shoe was tap. I wasn’t allowed to take tap because my older sister did at one point, and my mom thought the costumes were skanky – so I got to competitive dance in woolen frocks with ringlets and poodle socks.]

    Really hard to feel like a cool kid when you look like a living Madame Alexander doll.

  • To be somehow declared “the next Shirley Temple. ” [I went through a phase where I was like a very toned-down version of  this kid. Lots of local theater, commercial auditions, and retrospective embarrassment. Who would even be in charge of selecting the “next Shirley Temple?” Shirley herself? Or would it be a succession after she died? Because she’s still alive.]

    My 6th-7th grade headshots. While I preferred comedic roles, my physical type was more “creepy haunted girl” or “orphan from the past.” Also I looked like I was 8.

  • An enormous chair like Edith Ann. [Edith Ann was a 1970s Lily Tomlin character who people my age have never heard of. My parents stopped keeping up with pop culture when they had kids, and I’m the youngest of 4. Thus, although I was born in 1986, I grew up somewhere in the late ’70s. I mean, my GPS is named Ernestine because the voice sounds like this character.]

    Comedy ladies 101: Lily Tomlin in Laugh-In

  • The Disney Channel.  (They would have free trials every once in a while, and every day after school I would turn to channel 98 to see if it was time. It always cut out at the worst moment, like right in the middle of Fern Gully. I think that little Molly would be thrilled that her 26-year-old self watches Disney Channel like crazy. Thrilled or maybe confused.)

What ridiculous thing did you want as a kid? And if you got it later on, did it live up to your dreams? [I’m especially interested in hearing from whoever snagged JTT, you lucky lady or gentleman!]