Frank Shirley in Christmas Vacation
Editor’s note : this piece is a part of the legendary Great Villains Blogathon (2017Edition) and an informal return from my semi-retirement as a film critic.
Even if Jean Renoir’s La règle du jeu is one of my favorite film of all time with Taxi Driver and The Shining, I always thought that Christmas Vacation is a movie that works on multiple levels.
First, it is a pop culture phenomenon and it celebrates our nostalgia of our childhood memories of the holiday. It now connects with me in another manner since I am a father of a three year old; I idealize Clark Griswold as the father who wants everything to be perfect but fails miserably while being loved by his family despite his obsession of perfect reconstitution of memories.
In the movie, the villain Frank Shirley has a small part played by Brian Doyle-Murray, yes the brother of the well known Bill Murray, but this part represents a lot of things for the common man that Clark (Chevy Chase) portrays. In the collective mind, the representation of a boss is this grumpy cold blooded with a gigantic office and opulent house.
He doesn’t know the names of his employees and looks like a workaholic in his gold linen filled office. (Does it ring a bell?) He has this attitude of treating his employees like numbers and not taking a human approach in his relationships with his workers. If it’s been a while you’ve been working you probably have encountered this kind of boss that even when given a gift is not giving a turd about being polite and thankful for the good work.
One might say it is a stereotypical boss from a 1980s comedy but it reflects a preconception that the boss represents in the society. His decision, that makes Clark go mad, is a capitalist driven one that consisted of cutting the Christmas bonuses. Corporations have been trying to cut everywhere and cuts in budgets often more than not is suffered by the ‘’small people’’ as Shirley calls them.
As of today, the mold of the boss as a villain is more or less an antiquity. Now they plan happy hours, get to know their people, and see their employees more like coworkers, friends, and even family.
As for the representation of the boss from the collective mind that Frank Shirley represents I wanted to expose this villain from a holiday classic.