Recently, I have been watching a lot of Hallmark Christmas movies while working on a craft project. For those not familiar with these movies, they are "made for TV" movies that generally involve (1) Christmas and (2) a predictable romance with a happy ending. During November and December, the Hallmark channel is pretty much wall to wall Christmas movies.
Prior to this year, I think I may have seen one or two Hallmark Christmas movies, but I hadn't been exposed to them in any depth. Watching at least 10 of these movies over the past few weeks has been an eye-opening experience, and has lead me to ponder why I dislike these movies, and why I keep watching them anyway.
A Story about the Top 10 Problems with Hallmark Christmas Movies
To begin at the beginning, all of these flicks contain (10) Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Acting. Even if they contain actors or actresses you've heard of or liked in other contexts, the people in these films seemed to be trapped in a maze of...(9) Dialogue worse than the acting. I realize that it costs money to hire quality writers. Unfortunately, it appears Hallmark is not willing or able to pay what it costs to hire people who know how to craft dialogue that sounds like humans talking instead of Christmas bots. Instead these "writers" rely on...(8) Tropes, Tropes, and More Tropes! There is the Too-Ambitious-Career-Woman who is too caught up in big city life (or The-Small-Town-Girl-Who-Loves-Christmas-At-All-Costs). There is the Big-City-Dude-Who-Hates-Christmas (or there is the Small-Town-Guy-Who-Knows-The-True-Meaning-of-Christmas). In most movies, someone is trying to get The Big Promotion. Someone is also usually trapped in...(7) Predictable Occupations. We've got Lawyers! Lots of Them! With "Fancy" Offices! We've got Doctors! The most common occupation seems to be "Christmas Tree Farm/Shop/Bakery owner." And they all seem to live in or travel to... (6) Small Towns ©. In the Bible, nothing good can come out of Nazareth. In Hallmark Movies, nothing good can come from the Babylon of the Big City. I've yet to see one of these movies that finds anything positive about life outside of a Norman Rockwell Small Town where Everyone Knows Everyone. Usually the Big City Person sees the errors of their ways at the end of the movie and moves to a small town, all the while they are...(5) living in an HGTV dream home, whether in Alaska or Ohio. Each kitchen has granite counter tops and each home is always tastefully decorated with matching Christmas ornaments on the Christmas tree. The houses are almost as perfect as the people - (4) everyone is having a flawless hair/make-up day, every day. These people look plastic - their hair is always perfectly coiffed, their make-up is always without a smudge, whether they are carrying in Christmas trees from the forest or ice skating or cookie decorating or any other "normal middle class" Christmas Activity. Which brings us to yet more egregiousness: (3) WHITE (like REALLY WHITE) Christmas. All, and I'm talking ALL of the main characters in these stories are Caucasian. I don't really know how to explain this, other than it's a deliberate choice. I know that Hallmark can find actors and actresses of color because actors and actresses of color are allowed to play "Sidekick" characters, but never the main character. This is simply awful, but in my mind that's not the even the worst message of these movies. (2) All of these movies have that element of predictable romance. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a good predictable romance as much as the next Jane Austen girl, but these have a special element of craziness: these people are falling in love and getting married within WEEKS. That is nutso-crazy-pants. These romances are built on obviously unrealistic expectations and I feel like this just increases the divorce rate in the real world. Unfortunately all of the things I've mentioned aren't the worst of it. That honor goes to (1) asymmetric sacrifice by women characters. If there is a character who is Giving Up the Big Promotion, or Leaving the Big City Job, it is INVARIABLY the woman. This BUGS me. Why does the woman always have to be the one who gives in? Why does she have to bow to the whims of the man who wants to live in the town with terrible cell service? Or why does she give up the opportunity to work in Paris when the man is eminently employable there and could move there to support her? This is gender dynamics at their worst, and I could go on and on about this, but I just don't want to, it's too depressing. The message to little girls of (1) and (2) above is that she shouldn't follow her dreams, instead she should find a MAN and give everything up for him. How about him giving up anything for her? The male characters never have to sacrifice a thing.
Hey, I'm not the first to document the problems with Hallmark movies, nor will I be the last. I got 99 problems (and more) with Hallmark Christmas movies, BUT I'll probably keep watching them, sadly. It's a good mindless activity that I can do while crafting because I won't miss anything when the sewing machine is loud.