There is so much to love about the winter holiday season, but also massive amounts of single-use plastics to manage and avoid, which can make some of these magical moments downright stressful. In addition to plastic-wrapped candies, plastic decorations, and plastic bows atop our gifts, single-use plastics are popping up in our cherished holiday films.
Once you’re aware of all the single-use plastics found on screen, it’s hard to unsee them, and this can detract from the fun of watching our favorites. But not every movie is laden with single-use plastics, and we’ve devised a tool to help you decipher if a movie is clear, or at least aware of, the plastic pollution problem: The Begley-Cohen Test.
What is The Begley-Cohen Test?
Inspired by and modeled after the Bechdel-Wallace Test, which is used to measure female representation in media, The Begley-Cohen Test is designed to help audiences quickly assess the representation and prevalence of single-use plastic within the content they consume.
A film or TV show passes The Begley-Cohen Test if…
(1) No single-use plastics appear on screen (i.e., the film/show is set in a time with no plastic, or plastics are replaced with refillable, reusable, or package-free options), or…
(2) If a single-use plastic item appears on screen, it is portrayed or discussed as problematic.
We selected five of our staff’s most beloved holiday favorites that pass with flying colors, and give you and your family the opportunity to enjoy seasonal viewing that’s free from single-use plastic.
1. A Charlie Brown Christmas
All it takes are a few notes from the jazz score to be swept up into the hand-drawn whimsical magic of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Despite the fact that this 1965 television special was sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company, it presents the audience with a thoughtful critique on the consumerism of Christmas. While his friends are focused on winning contests and staging attention-grabbing pageants, Charlie Brown spends his time searching for the true meaning of Christmas. And even when Charlie is encouraged to purchase a fake Christmas tree, he is presented with aluminum as the main option over plastic, but as we all know, Charlie picks the only real, wooden tree on the lot. While the original message may be muddled nowadays, with recreations of Charlie’s tree popping up in stores across the country, nothing can take away the original warm heart of this joyful and jazzy holiday special.
A Charlie Brown Christmas can be streamed on AppleTV+
2. A Christmas Story
Steeped in nostalgia, and featuring the unforgettable and repetitious line, “You’ll shoot your eye out,” A Christmas Story has been a holiday staple since its 1983 debut. Set in the 1940s, before single-use plastics began to sneak their way onto our tables and movie screens, A Christmas Story highlights some of the cozier and reusable moments of our past, like glass milk bottles on the table every morning. And while the iconic leg lamp may be made of plastic, it was intended to be used for more than a few days. We only wish it met a better fate than being buried in the backyard in the dead of night.
Unfortunately, the newly released follow-up, A Christmas Story Christmas, does not pass the test, with a plastic bottle of coolant and single-use plastic stir sticks appearing within the first half hour of the film.
A Christmas Story can be streamed on HBOMax.
3. Little Women
If you’re looking for a wintery tale that isn’t exclusively a Christmas movie, Little Women is a fantastic option. The March Sisters’ never fails to tug at our heartstrings with this timeless story of sisterly bonds. Set in the late 1800s, before plastic was invented, every retelling of this classic novel passes the Begley-Cohen Test with ease. And with five different adaptations made between 1918 and 2019, you can find a version of this movie that pleases almost everyone in the family, though at PPC we have a soft spot for the 1994 film.
Little Women 1994 film can be streamed on Tubi. Little Women 1933 and Little Women 1944 can be streamed on HBOMax.
4. The Muppet Christmas Carol
There is no shortage of adaptations of A Christmas Carol, and each one has its particular charms. At Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC), our most loved version is The Muppet Christmas Carol. This musical retelling sticks to the original text while taking it to wondrous heights by the presence of Jim Henson’s delightful and fuzzy muppets. We’re presented with both familiar and new characters, ranging from Kermit and Miss Piggy as Bob and Mrs. Cratchit, to a chorus of singing vegetables and so much more. And because this film sticks to the novel’s original setting in Victorian London, single-use plastics are nowhere to be found. You’d have to be a real Scrooge not to enjoy this seasonal masterpiece.
The Muppet Christmas Carol is streaming on Disney+.
5. The Nightmare Before Christmas
For those of us who feel the holiday season starts with Halloween, no movie is better than The Nightmare Before Christmas. This hauntingly beautiful stop motion film adds a gothic flare to the typical warm wonder of Christmas, and lets the spooky-at-heart in on the fun. Set almost entirely in an array of magical holiday lands, there are no single-use plastics to be found—even the candies stuck to Santa’s beard are wrapper free, because there’s nothing magical about plastic. The ultimate message of The Nightmare Before Christmas is to embrace who you are and celebrate that year round, whether you are skeleton, human, or elf, and that message warms even the blackest of hearts.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is streaming on Disney+.
Learn More and Get Involved
For more ways to keep your holidays plastic-free, watch our November Webinar: Plastic-Free Presents: Mindful Gifting for Healthier Holidays, listen to Plastic ‘Tox” EP 8: Plastic-Free Holiday Traditions with Ranae Hanson, and sign-up for our Plastic-Free Holiday Gift Guide.
Learn more about the Flip the Script on Plastics here, and let us know what holiday movies you’re watching that pass The Begley-Cohen Test on social media using #FlipTheScriptOnPlastics @PlasticPollutes.