• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #90: Clark Griswold


"Despite all the little problems, it's fun, isn't it?"

As we get ready to board a plane with the kiddos for the cross-country flight to Orlando, my mind turns to Clark Griswold. Everybody has their favorite Vacation iteration - some are defiantly attached to Christmas, some to European, and even Vegas has a few fleeting moments. For me, I'm partial to the original. Maybe it's his idiotic, understandable flirtation with a very nubile Christie Brinkley, but it's also the sympathy we feel for a man who only wants to give his family an unforgettable, amazing vacation. Destiny has other plans for the poor soul, and his clumsy handling of those hurdles, many of his own making, is grist for some wonderful low comedy.

Clark's a well-intentioned doofus, a polyester Odysseus for the fannypack set. He is an emotional infant, and his inability to navigate the world, or even basic social interactions, rapidly depletes his shallow resources. He is not equipped for even simple situations, let alone the bizarre predicaments he finds himself in. His wife and children barely tolerate his embarrassing antics, and yet there's a fundamental loyalty to the Griswold clan, a kind of muddling esprit de corps that endures despite Clark's middle-school relationship with life. It's a long way down the holiday road.

As men of my vintage approach - or perhaps even fully inhabit - our Clark Griswold years, these films become even more poignant. One of these days we might find one of our parents quietly passing away in the back seat while we drive across country. Or the bells tolling for our apprehension in central Europe. Or our Winnebago-residing redneck cousin filling our septic tank. Or our son having an expensive entourage. As for me, I hope it's Christie Brinkley (that's a joke, honey).

A programming note: Disney week is upon us here at Favorite Fictional Characters. You've been warned.

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