Best Christmas Ever: Why Bill Murray Is the King of Christmas
In 1993, Bill Murray in Groundhog Day became king to this 12-year-old ‘queen.’ On a vacation to visit my homophobic relatives in Florida, I escaped five times to see the movie. It was even playing on the plane on the way back, and I wasn’t mad. Bill Murray had become my imaginary yet cynical uncle. I imagined him loudly chewing the turkey, giving me a comforting wink from across the table. I imagined him smelling like a Christmas candle, with honest warmth during this sometimes emotionally cold time of year. Bill Murray saved my Christmas that year and has done so ever since.
Three profound Christmases and three profound Bill Murray movies help me metaphorically knight and crown Bill Murray, not just as my king of Christmas, but OUR king. Here they are below:
Nomination 1: Groundhog Day
Every time I watched, I would eagerly await the ‘I am god’ scene. I would stop chewing my popcorn, a tear would form, I would chuckle and goosebumps would pop up as wry and witty Bill Murray melted my heart like Christmas should.
Murray, caught in the same snowy day, transforming from cynical weather man to "perfect person," was weirdly cathartic — and it still is. Even as we have faced our own Groundhog Day with 2020 being dominated by the "Miley Cyrus" (the British Cockney rhyming slang for Corona virus), Groundhog Day still holds up — full of charm, sentiment, profound reflection, solidified by our Christmas King, Billy Murray, as the protagonist.
Watching Groundhog Day every night this week, with its echoes of A Christmas Carol, has solidified it as a Christmas Classic for me. Bill Murray is our enigmatic protagonist, as we all enter Christmas, with modest hope yet some moodiness. I think Bill Murray is the personification of mixed emotions that we can all relate to as we drive home for Christmas. Or, stay home alone for Christmas, which leads me to Christmas number two that Bill Murray saved.
Nomination 2: Scrooged
I think we've all had a Christmas where we've thought "I have to kill all of you" — just as Bill Murray exclaims in Scrooged. Or, a Christmas where we want to escape the rat race and retreat from our fellow humans, yet are forced into a climactic one-day event that is Christmas itself.
One Christmas, when I was craving a solitary holiday and not wanting to say to my family, "I have to kill you all," the martyr in me chose to do a lonely social worker shift at the homeless shelter where I worked. I ended up with a bruised eye after a crispy roasted potato was thrown at my face — maybe Karma for avoiding my intense mother forcing fun down my throat. (Am I Scrooge?!)
Too stubborn to call the loved ones I missed, I walked the streets of Manhattan with a Scrooge-like scowl as if mirroring the talented treasure that is Bill Murray in Scrooged. A lonely bitterness settled in as snow fell on happy families and couples, and I slipped on the sludge of Times Square before being offered some mistletoe by a man laying topless on a mattress.
On my own Scrooge-like odyssey walking downtown with no ghost to guide me, Scrooged happened to be playing in an old movie theatre in the Village. I slid into the dark back seat, one of many other solo viewers (but possibly not as lonely), on Christmas. Inspired by the scene in Scrooged when a stranger woke Murray out of his Christmas self-pity, I too hoped I would be offered a companion to eat my prawn crackers with, as a bid to cure my loneliness. Loneliness is a thing we have all felt at Christmas, no?
Covered in hoisin duck and prawn toast, I found myself on my own fantastical daydream doing a post mortem of my past, present, and future, licking my fingers as I planned to reform my solitary, moody ways of 2010, and communicate with the people I loved dearly. Bill Murray's amazing transformation, as in Groundhog Day, was a prophecy.
Nomination 3: Ghostbusters
Picture this: you're cornered by a violent Shih Tzu whilst dog sitting for a billionaire in a penthouse apartment in Midtown. You're trying to cook your first vegan Christmas dinner for your new partner's family, whilst pointing the knife at the snarling Shih Tzu. You're emotionally preparing yourself for a clash of cultures when two families meet for the first time. There's already been a Game of Thrones-style conflict over the absence of meat... from your own family.
It gets worse with awkward silences, unhappy faces over the nut roast, and ruffles at mine and my partner’s public display of affection. The Shih Tzu then bites your possible future father-in-law's foot, and he threatens to shoot it. But then, Ghostbusters comes on. The tension you could cut with a knife dissipates, and transforms quickly into nostalgic anticipation of a common bond. They're all fans of Ghostbusters. And guess who loves Bill Murray? Who even claims to have questioned his sexuality over him? That's right, my maybe-future father-in-law. Then, my drunk mother also confesses her teenage fantasies of Bill Murray. I then confess that he was a close contender, along with Bruce Willis, as my first crush. Even the Shih Tzu stops growling, stares longingly at Bill Murray, and starts to drool.
That year, Bill Murray became the king to end the war that is my Family Feud. Bill Murray is the Christmas King. I believe he could unite the Obamas and the Trumps, or even the Montagues and the Capulets, lulling them into a multi-dietary, harmonious Christmas Dinner — just like he did for my in-laws with Ghostbusters.
To top it all off, here's our king being charming, yet philosophical. Just like a rosy-cheeked Santa coming down your chimney, indulging in some mulled wine with you, and diving into a hearty discussion on the meaning of life.