Thanksgiving: Pop culture's forgotten holiday (sort of)(Read article summary)
Sure, Halloween and the winter holidays get all the movies and songs. But Thanksgiving has gotten a few famous places in pop culture, from the Peanuts to Steve Martin trying to get home.
It‚Äôs almost Turkey Day, and so obviously it‚Äôs time to turn on those‚Ä¶ Thanksgiving‚Ä¶ movies and play all those Thanksgiving‚Ä¶ songs?
Okay, so compared to the winter holidays and even Halloween, Thanksgiving, sandwiched in between, gets short shrift in pop culture. In terms of holiday movies, most of America would probably recognize the Peanuts singing ‚ÄúHark! The Herald Angels Sing‚ÄĚ or the Grinch stealing presents (and that‚Äôs just the animated movies), and even Halloween has gotten some Disney movies that are beloved by many ‚Äė90s children such as ‚ÄúHocus Pocus,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúHalloweentown,‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúThe Nightmare Before Christmas,‚ÄĚ to say nothing of frightfests centered around the holiday such as the cannily titled ‚ÄúHalloween.‚ÄĚ
While Thanksgiving may bring to mind turkey dinners and family gatherings, it doesn't have a lot of pop-culture recognition.¬†However, while it‚Äôs lagged far behind its fellow fall and winter holidays, the celebration and its turkey-laden tables have served as the focus for a few movies, some classic TV episodes, and even a couple of songs.¬†Here are a few you may have forgotten about.
‚ÄďThe most well-known is probably the 1987 film ‚ÄúPlanes, Trains and Automobiles,‚ÄĚ which finds a frantic Steve Martin (playing the straight man, mostly) trying to get home for Thanksgiving and meeting a friendly but disaster-prone fellow traveler (John Candy). The movie also features a turn by ‚ÄúThis Is Spinal Tap‚ÄĚ actor Michael McKean as a state trooper and a cameo by Kevin Bacon, whose character snags a taxi ahead of Martin.
‚Äď‚ÄúPieces of April,‚ÄĚ which was released in 2003, stars Katie Holmes as April, a Manhattan resident trying to cook dinner for her estranged family in her tiny apartment as the family deals with April‚Äôs mother (Patricia Clarkson)‚Äôs breast cancer.
‚Äď‚ÄúHome for the Holidays‚ÄĚ is a 1995 film starring ‚ÄúThe Incredibles‚ÄĚ actress Holly Hunter as Claudia, a single mom who decides to spend Thanksgiving with her parents and siblings. Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft played Mom and Dad, while Robert Downey Jr. was the brother who tries to set up Claudia with a friend of his. ¬†
‚ÄďThe Peanuts gang, welcome at any time of year, celebrated the holiday in two separate specials. 1973 saw ‚ÄúA Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,‚ÄĚ which first aired on CBS and includes Lucy pulling that pesky football away, Charlie Brown suddenly finding himself hosting a holiday dinner for some of the other kids, and Snoopy and Woodstock in Pilgrim costumes. As part of the series ‚ÄúThis is America, Charlie Brown,‚ÄĚ the Peanuts gang tagged along with the Pilgrims for the first Thanksgiving dinner in Plymouth in an episode titled ‚ÄúThe Mayflower Voyagers,‚ÄĚ which first aired in 1988.
‚ÄďThe longrunning NBC sitcom ‚ÄúFriends,‚ÄĚ which ran from 1994 to 2004, became well-known for its Thanksgiving episodes. Memorable escapades included all six playing a touch football game which brought up old sibling rivalries between brother and sister Ross and Monica, Chandler spending the holiday in a cardboard box to make up for kissing his roommate‚Äôs girlfriend, and star Jennifer Aniston‚Äôs then-husband Brad Pitt guest-starring as an old high school classmate.
‚Äď‚ÄúCheers,‚ÄĚ which aired from 1982 to 1993, featured a Thanksgiving dinner that ended up airborne when the cast went to Carla (Rhea Perlman)‚Äôs house for a badly cooked dinner which turned into a food fight.
‚ÄďMany classic rock radio stations still play the 1967 song ‚ÄúAlice‚Äôs Restaurant Massacree,‚ÄĚ recorded by Arlo Guthrie, at noon (or occasionally other times) on Thanksgiving Day. The anti-draft song is 18 minutes long and considered a Turkey Day song because the main character, Arlo Guthrie, is arrested for littering after the town dump being closed on Thanksgiving Day leads him and his friend to throw their trash elsewhere.
‚ÄďThough people who only know the beginning may be confused by its association with Thanksgiving, the song ‚ÄúOver the River and Through the Wood,‚ÄĚ written by Lydia Marie Child in 1844, is often now sung for Thanksgiving because of the end of its second verse, which states ‚ÄúWe would not stop for doll or top/For ‚Äėtis Thanksgiving Day.‚ÄĚ (The last line mentions pumpkin pie, too, but that could be for either Thanksgiving or the later holidays, we guess.)