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Yule Shoot Your Eye Out: Classic Holiday Movie Characters That Underestimated Risk

4 min read
Dec 19, 2018

Whether it makes you laugh or cry, everyone has a favorite holiday movie. These classic films let us enjoy a bit of nostalgia and give us a break from the holiday rush.

But do they have anything to teach us about risk? I’d say yes.

Holiday movie characters consistently underestimate risk. From Home Alone to A Christmas Story, characters often rely on faulty logic or fail to think through their actions. Read on for some of my favorite examples of classic holiday movie characters that underestimate risk.

Home Alone

Synopsis: An eight-year-old boy named Kevin McAllister is accidentally left home alone when his family leaves for a Christmas vacation in Paris. He is forced to defend his home against a pair of bungling burglars known as The Wet Bandits.

Guilty of Underestimating Risk: Kevin’s teenage brother Buzz.

Everyone but Buzz is very worried about Kevin, who can’t be contacted because a storm knocked out the phone lines.

Megan: You're not at all worried that something might happen to Kevin?
Buzz: No, for three reasons: A, I'm not that lucky. Two, we use smoke detectors; and D, we live on the most boring street in the whole United States of America, where nothing even remotely dangerous will ever happen. Period.

How wrong Buzz was.


A Christmas Story

Synopsis: Nine-year-old Ralphie wants desperately wants a Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle for Christmas, but every adult he tells, including Santa, warns him that “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Ralphie gets his BB gun in the end and almost shoots his eye out.

Guilty of Underestimating Risk: Ralphie’s friend Flick

The risk of Ralphie shooting his eye out is well established, but the real risk lurking in the shadows is the triple dog dare that led Flick to lick a frozen flagpole, getting his tongue stuck to it. If only Google existed the 1940s, maybe poor Flick could have used his smartphone to assess whether it was a good idea.

Then again, that hasn’t really prevented this same thing from happening today.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Synopsis: Clark W. Griswold is pulling out all the stops to give his family “a fun old-fashioned family Christmas.” Unfortunately, his over-the-top ambitions have a way of backfiring.

Guilty of Underestimating Risk: Clark

Clark’s Christmas is one self-imposed calamity after another. There’s the 25,000 Christmas lights Clark uses to decorate his home that cause a temporary area-wide power outage. The replacement Christmas tree he cuts down from his front yard ends up housing a squirrel that wreaks havoc in his house. He nearly breaks the sound barrier (and his neck) racing down a hill on a sled after applying an experimental “silicone-based kitchen lubricant.” That’s in addition to getting stuck in the attic when hiding presents and dangling from the roof after a mishap stapling on Christmas lights. Perhaps worst of all, he assumed he’d get a Christmas bonus and had already spent it on a pool, putting his family in a precarious financial position when it turns out his bonus was a subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club (at least until Cousin Eddie gets involved).

Perhaps it’s for the best that Clark works in a creative field developing food preservatives like “a non-nutritive cereal varnish” that prevents cereal from getting soggy in milk. He would make a terrible risk officer.


It’s a Wonderful Life

Synopsis: Angel 2nd Class Clarence Odbody is tasked with saving the life of depressed community banker George Bailey by showing him how the world would be worse off if he were never born.

Guilty of Underestimating Risk: George Bailey

George tasks his absent-minded Uncle Billy with depositing $8,000 of his building and loan’s cash. Uncle Billy, known for being very sweet but not super reliable, promptly misplaces the money which bankrupts the men and creates worry over possible jail time.

Any banker could tell you this was a supremely risky move. Who lets anyone, let alone someone like Uncle Billy, walk down the street with the equivalent of $112,000 in today’s money? Did they not have armored cars in 1945?

Good thing the people of Bedford Falls bail the Bailey men out of their mess.


Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Synopsis: A cranky hermit plots to steal all the Christmas presents and decorations in Whoville to try and stop Christmas from coming so he doesn’t have to hear their singing.

Guilty of Underestimating the Risk: The Grinch

The Grinch goes on a dangerous and time-consuming trek to take every present, tree, Christmas decoration, and all the food from the Whos' Christmas feast, yet when he listens for the sound of crying on Christmas morning, he realizes his plan failed:

“Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, Was singing! Without any presents at all! He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same! And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?" "It came without ribbons! It came without tags!" "It came without packages, boxes or bags!" And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

Clearly the Grinch misunderstood the event he was trying to prevent and ended up using a wrong-headed strategy.

Do you have a favorite holiday movie? Let us know in the comments below.

And from Ncontracts to you, we wish you and your loved ones the happiest of holiday seasons!


Related: Creating Reliable Risk Assessments

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