A minor Die Hard fan theory
This post is part of Fan Theory Fridays, in which we share and explore a new fan theory about a film, television series, book, or other fictional narrative. For more on what a fan theory is—and what it isn’t—please read D. F. Lovett’s previous explorations of the subject.
Much talk is made every year about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas film. This article does not seek to resolve, or even directly address, that debate.
Instead, I’d like to highlight one aspect of that film that occurred to me on a recent viewing. While it’s never stated in either Die Hard or any of its sequels, I think that a close viewing of Die Hard suggests that John McClane is a huge Christmas guy. Like, a major Christmas guy. And that this detail of his personality explains a lot of his behavior throughout the film.
“Got any Christmas music?”
During the first scenes—and opening credits—of Die Hard, a few details are revealed in short succession about John McClane:
- He doesn’t like flying
- He’s married
- He’s a New York City cop (and has been for eleven years)
- He smokes cigarettes
- He brought an oversized teddy bear on the flight, presumably as a gift for someone
- His wife lives in California and he lives in New York and he doesn’t like talking about it
But there is one more detail about him. A subtle one, that isn’t stated as blatantly as the other exposition above… John McClane likes Christmas music.
Before the Die Hard title card flashes onscreen, the limo driver Argyle puts a cassette in and Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” begins to play.
John McClane: Don’t you got any Christmas music?
Argyle: This is Christmas music.
Now, let’s reconsider everything we’ve seen until this moment. John McClane is anxious, confused, overwhelmed, and doesn’t seem to like California very much. He’s also carrying a giant teddy bear with a big red bow on it. Is he anxious because he’s about to see his estranged wife?
Or, is he anxious that his Christmas is getting ruined?
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells…
But that’s not the end of the Christmas music issue. After John checks in—a debacle, as he realizes his wife is listed as Holly Gennero in the office directory instead of Holly McClane—he walks to the elevator, slowly, while whistling “Jingle Bells”.
It’s not long before McClane gets to the Christmas party, argues with his wife, and washes up in the bathroom while terrorists take over the party. The story is relatively straightforward from there, with Christmas songs fading into the background while the narrative is consumed by John versus the Bad Guys.
But there is another detail of the Christmas party. No relief washes over John when he arrives at the party. Why? It’s likely that he was disappointed when he got to the party and, instead of Christmas songs, the tune being played was Pachelbel’s Canon. A nice song, yes, but not an inherently Christmas song.
It’s Not Just Sentimentalism. It’s Christmas.
So, let’s consider this: is John just an overly sentimental guy? Is he reaching for comfort in asking for the music he knows? Wishing it was a white Christmas rather than a California one?
The answer would initially seem yes, until one considers that John didn’t bother calling his wife or kids before hopping on the plane or upon landing.
This isn’t to say that John would be whining about the “War on Christmas” in today’s political climate. After all, Jesus Christ is one of his favorite swear words.
No, it’s simpler than that: he likes classic Christmas songs and stuffed animals and big red bows in gifts.
After killing his first terrorist, John puts a Santa hat on the dead body and writes Ho Ho Ho on the it. This is a guy with a Christmas obsession, if not necessarily a deep reverence for it. He might even like snow and ice skating and mugs of hot cocoa, explaining why he is so upset to be in this strange land of Los Angeles.
Also, not only did John not call his wife and kids before or after landing, but he came straight to the Nakatomi Plaza from LAX. Suggesting he isn’t very excited about seeing his family and kids. He just wants to go to a Christmas party.
A Holly Jolly Christmas
Finally, and this could be the kicker: John’s wife is named Holly, one of the most festive trappings of the Christmas season.
Sure, this evidence could be considered circumstantial, but when paired with the rest of the evidence, it suggests that John may have married a woman whose named reminded him of his favorite time of the year.
Enjoy this read? You may enjoy reading about why Die Hard 2 is a better Christmas movie than the original Die Hard.