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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'You could shoot your eye out'

I saw National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation for the first time on Christmas Eve -- I'm always just a bit behind the culture -- and watched A Christmas Story (my husband's first viewing) on Christmas Day.

At the end of the movie, Ralphie falls asleep clutching his beloved "Red Ryder range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time.”

Like his mother, I thought: That's dangerous! You'll shoot your eye out!

Set in 1940 (or so), A Christmas Story was made in 1983, and it shows. Ralphie's nightmare -- being seen in a pink rabbit costume -- and his dream -- shooting a BB gun -- are not politically correct by today's standards. I was shocked by the scene in which Chinese waiters sing Christmas songs, confusing "l"and "r" sounds. Was that still considered funny in 1983?

We haven't seen A Christmas Story Christmas, the 2022 sequel that features the adult Ralphie and his family returning to the house where he grew up. (The New York Times panned it.)

In this history of the Red Ryder BB gun, I learned that Daisy started as a windmill company that gave out an air rifle with every windmill, but switched focus when the rifles proved more popular than the mills.

I remember BB guns -- and the phrase "you'll shoot your eye out" -- from my childhood in the 1950's. My father wouldn't even let us have toy guns. "Guns make me nervous," he said.

"But you were in the artillery in the war," I said.

"It made me nervous," he replied.

We made bows and arrows with garden stakes to play Indians. It occurred to me that they might put an eye out, but my sister and I wore glasses, so we were protected. The cowboys were allowed to have squirt guns. It was one of the few times in American history when it was better to be an Indian.

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Dec 28, 2022

In 1983 the use of the trope was considered funny, rather than the trope itself.

BB guns weren't a toy in my area; more of a training device for the child who needed more practice in respecting gun safety and hunting protocol.

The kids who wanted to hurt others from a distance used slingshots and rocks when not at school or sports.


Dec 26, 2022

We played war with BB and pellet guns, with "live" ammo. Well, until one kid got a pump pellet gun and a few shots had to be pulled out of the skin.

But this was the era of lawn darts. Talk about putting an eye out.

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