Realities: Jean Shepherd and Randy's Only Defense

“The reality of what we really are is often times found in the small snips, way down at the bottom of things.” - Jean Shepherd

I watched Bob Clark's Christmas Story (1983) for the first time on TBS, years before TNT started broadcasting the film twenty four hours a day in 1997. I soon became an obsessive fan of the film, watching it over and over again every Christmas. Now I probably watch it once a year, but its lessons and humor have affected my life significantly, and I quote the film more than I should. I started reading Jean Shepherd's short stories and listening to his old WOR radio show. Many of these have been archived on the internet spanning a period from the early 50s to the late 70s. 

According to lore, Shep usually told his stories without a script, ad-libbing about certain characters and scenarios, and commentating on culture and society. 

I particularly identify with his stories of the Midwest because I grew up there fifty years later, but not that much changed when it came to playground situations. His stories have a timeless quality, which adds to A Christmas Story's continuing popularity. 

No matter how many shows I listen too, when I think of Jean Shepherd and his impact on my life, I always remember the scene in the film when Randy Parker (Ian Petrella) falls down and needs help getting up because his snow suit immobilizes him. Jean Shepherd, in a voiceover as a grownup Ralphie, comments "Randy lay there like a slug. It was his only defense." It feels like an apt metaphor for life as circumstances beyond his control hamper him, but he wants to continue. Soon Randy must get up, with help from his brother and friends, but he is able to lie there in a defensive position, and avoid harassment from Grover Dill (Yano Anaya) and Scut Farkus (Zach Ward). This scene is representative of Shepherd's humor as it shows how life is full of seemingly impossible situations that can be overcome through sheer willpower or necessity. Shep makes the probable seem improbable. Such is life in these stories. 


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