Show of hands. How many of you can’t stop watching the Hallmark channel at Christmastime? Be honest. I’ll wait.
It’s hard to explain exactly what the appeal is. They’re not well written. The acting is…fine, although Hallmark does have their stable of actors at the ready who return year after year. Ever think about what happened to Alicia Witt? She found a home on Hallmark. Wondering about what Winnie Cooper is up to? Danica McKellar has made 8 movies for Hallmark since 2015. The stories are borderline ridiculous. How many tiny European countries have hot, young, single princes and princesses running around? No, seriously. How many? I want names and exact locations and details on their Visa process.
Despite all this though, I can’t stop watching them. And I’m not the only one. During the holidays, Hallmark’s ratings are the top of any cable network. Their “Countdown to Christmas” starts before Halloween even ends, usually at the end of October, and runs straight through to Christmas! They’re so big, they can’t be confined to one network!
I’m not a huge believer in the idea of “guilty pleasure” movies. You like what you like, and that’s fine. Own it. The rate of which I consume truly wretched horror movies would alarm a normal human. Yet I often find myself apologizing for my enjoyment of these movies. Why is it I feel slightly guilty to admit I find pleasure in some feel good fun?
Part of the appeal for me has always been the come down after my 100 Days of Horror, where I watch 100 horror films I’ve never seen in the 100 days leading up to Halloween. After cramming that much blood and guts into my brain, even I need a little bit of a break. And there’s something strangely appealing about the mindless films. You know they’ll always have a happy ending. Little thinking is required. Any conflict that happens is so minor it usually takes only 5-10 minutes to resolve itself.
And yet, these films are problematic. The feminist in me screams during a lot of these movies. Women constantly give up big career opportunities for that nice widower who has a farm and an adorable daughter. They upend their lives and give their ambitions to take part in something that seems like a Mike Pence wet dream. Traditional values, family, and no one does more than kiss. Sometimes they don’t even get that far! Trust me. I’ve checked.
There’s also a depressing lack of diversity. The leads are almost exclusively white, although it does appear that Hallmark finally has some movies on the schedule for 2018 to mix that up. But beyond a lack of racial diversity there’s a huge lack of LGBTQ characters in general in Hallmark movies, never mind the fact that it’ll probably be a cold day in Hell before we see some same sex leads. If a LGBTQ character does pop up, they often fall into stereotypes and exist to reassure they female lead that she is indeed, fabulous.
Despite the problems though, other Networks are taking notice. Netlix has been spewing original content for awhile now, but ended up with an unexpected hit on their hands with last years, A Christmas Prince. The sequel drops at the end of the month, and they’ve already released a few others in the meantime. UpNetwork has their own stream of Christmas movies, but those are often even more heavy-handed with the Christian references, and haven’t caught on quite as much. Lifetime seems to be the one who is most determined to give Hallmark a run for their money, aggressively pushing new movies each week, but so far, they haven’t held the magic that the Hallmark movies have.
With movies running virtually 24/7, anyone in need of a Christmas fix can pop over and be guaranteed to receive some cheer. I will continue to watch and I will continue to feel conflicted by it all. They’ve managed to entrap my cold, dead, cynical heart. Damn you Hallmark. Damn you.