As novelty seasonings transition from pumpkin spice to peppermint, another tradition of commercialized Christmas has appeared in full force. Welcome the reign of the Hallmark Christmas Special! These made-by-Tuesday rom-coms begin airing around Thanksgiving and continue ceaselessly until the new year. Typically set around the holidays, the average Hallmark film usually has the words “Christmas” or “Holiday” in the title and contains an artery-clogging amount of cheesiness and sticks to the following cinematic recipe:
A no-nonsense 30-something white girl with the personality of wet cardboard is either fresh out of a relationship or dating someone rich. Though she is living in either an adorably quaint town or crimeless city, she is still unhappy and has no Christmas spirit. According to the film this is the greatest atrocity sufferable by humanity, and before too long, the girl is put in an unfamiliar situation with a creative white guy who reignites her Christmas spirit. The two bond while doing stereotypically Christmassy things (which the white girl “always did growing up, but never has time for now”) and the two almost kiss. Suddenly, there sprouts some misunderstanding between the couple, either involving a current boyfriend or a profitable business plan. The two part ways and one leaves town, only to be reunited at the last minute after the girl talks to her parents and/or dumps her present boyfriend, under the pretext of “following her heart.” They reunite. They kiss. The camera zooms out.
Though many people enjoy these cinematic fruitcakes, the Hallmark channel’s primarily older female demographic is pretty obvious. Characters in these films will go lengths to communicate a message in person that could have been accomplished by a phone call or text, and struggle at accomplishing tasks that could be easily googled. Need to cook a turkey? Better kill a forest’s worth of cookbooks instead of watching a YouTube video! Another feature is the lack of variety in characters. Protagonists are unwaveringly white, middle class, heterosexual couples, and any deviance found in side characters is a true rarity. These cathartic paperback films give grandmothers a warm-up round before they start shipping them to visiting grandchildren who are still inconveniently unwed.
Perhaps that’s why these Christmas films have such an appeal. They call back to a time when relationships, financial problems and even one’s understanding of human sexuality were simpler and Christmas was a very big deal, not just a three-week break for students from homework and classes. In reality, a time like that may not have existed, but in most childhoods, there was a time when future plans were as simple as a Hallmark movie, and Christmas was always a big deal. Though they may be campy, overplayed and cornier than Indiana, it’s that pandering that makes Hallmark Christmas movies as tacky and enjoyable as an ugly Christmas sweater.