The disturbing sexual undertones of ‘Deck the Halls’

‘Deck the Halls’ is a 2006 Christmas comedy starring Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick. It tells the tale of Buddy Hall (DeVito) and his quest to make his house visible from space using Christmas lights; this in turn aggravates his neighbour Steve Finch (Broderick) and hilarity ensues.

So far so normal all American Christmas comedy slap stick fun; that is until you notice the sexualisation of both ‘Hall’s’ and ‘ ‘Finch’s’ underage teenage daughters.

The film does actually start out toeing the family friendly line; that is until the arrival of the ‘Hall’ family. This first meeting sees ‘Steve Finch’ catching ‘Buddy Hall’ stealing his morning newspaper. ‘Buddy’s’ wife soon joins them and a joke is made that ‘Steve’s’, in just a dressing gown and boxers, penis is poking out. Later the ‘Finch’s’ take their children to meet the ‘Hall’s’. At first their ten year old son becomes obsessed with ‘Buddy’s’ wife ‘Tia’ breasts and then, on their introduction, the ‘Hall’s’ teenage daughters ‘Ashley’ and ‘Emily’ who, like their mother, are scantily dressed.

‘Tia’ then reveals she meet her much older husband when she caught him spying on her when she posed naked for an art class. With the current revelations from within Hollywood this joke seems to have taken an even more disturbing twist.

Throughout the film the twins are continued to be shown as sex objects that help their farther achieve his goal. This could be as simple as handing out drinks whilst dressed in clothes not warm enough for the winter weather to help to draw a crowd at the switch on party. They also become close friends with ‘Finch’s’ daughter ‘Madison’; their first question being to her ‘what are the boys like around here’.

This friendship leads to two of the film’s most disturbing moments. The first is when ‘Madison’ and the ‘Hall’ twins have arranged to meet three sailors in their twenties at the switch on party. They are all seen to leave with these sailors without any of their parents seemingly that worried. What happened that evening is never raised or questioned. The second is during the towns ‘WinterFest’ celebration three girls take to the stage to do a sexualised dance to the song ‘Santa Baby’. Starting with their back to the audience the two fathers take the chance to catcall them. In the case of Broderick’s ‘Finch’ this seems massively out of character and a clumsy way to set up a joke. The joke being of course that when the girls turn around the fathers realise they’ve been inadvertently objectifying their own fifteen year old daughters.

So why this strange mix of family entertainment, paedophilia and mistaken incest. It’s mainly due to the fact the film was originally written as more of an adult comedy in the vein of 2003’s ‘Bad Santa’. Rewritten as a family comedy the girls ages were reduced from twenty-one fifteen, the sons from sixteen to 10 and the bad language removed. Also many of the jokes were toned down. One where ‘Finch’ needs to be warmed up after being pulled from a frozen lake was reduced from near sexual assault to just having to share a sleeping bag with a naked ‘Buddy’ on the way to hospital. Despite the rewrite the parts were the girls are used for sexual titillation mainly remained.

Now eleven years old the films use of young female characters has aged about as well as a 1970’s British sexploitation comedy. Plus whilst a few of the sight gags hit the spot, it’s not even close to some of its supposed contemporaries.

‘Deck the Halls’ is regular being shown throughout December (and for some reason November as well) on the British TV network ‘Channel 5’. So if you would like to witness this strange, uncomfortable and at times incestuous family comedy keep an eye on the listings.

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