I just watched my first Hallmark Christmas movie for 2019.
It’s not the first one I’ve watched. Last Christmas, somehow [the Christmas elves did it?] my television got glued to the Hallmark Channel, and I am pretty sure it is again. I freely admit that I am addicted to these movies; I cannot get enough of them, which is odd given that just days ago before Halloween, I was discussing the theological profundities of such movies as “The Conjuring” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.”
For the life of me I don’t know how I got hooked on Hallmark Christmas movies, or why they melt my butter the way they do. They are sappy/goopy and clichéd and have only one or two storylines that usually goes something like this: Just before Christmas, a beautiful businesswoman from the big city, highly successful but missing something, gets stuck in a small town – sometimes even her hometown – in a quaint little community that looks like Thomas Kinkade threw up on a Norman Rockwell painting.
There, she meets a ruggedly handsome widower with a sugary kid (think Beaver Cleaver) who helps her rediscover what matters most in life. She must choose between returning to her successful-but-empty career or finding true fulfillment in the quaint community, with the rugged widower person thrown in as a bonus. After a moment of misunderstanding, everything gets sorted out at the Christmas Eve gala. Beautiful businesswoman and rugged widower embrace and kiss. Then It snows.
Smarmy? Yes. Schmaltzy? Definitely. Warm and fuzzy? Sure. Blissfully wonderful? Absolutely!
What is it about these movies that completely draws me in? For that matter, what is it about them that draws in so many other people too? Last Christmas, Hallmark totally dominated the ratings.
Why? What is the draw?
First, Middle America is respected. For the rest of the year, Hollywood depicts its residents as backwards, bigoted simpletons who lack the style and sophistication of the Coasts. It gets exhausting to be told by Hollywood how much we suck. But in Hallmark Christmas movies, these folks and their simpler, slower life is celebrated. Rural wisdom is acknowledged. Instead of fleeing in horror to the major metropolises, people actually find fulfillment in the small towns. For a couple of months each year, Hallmark movies truly connect with the values and traditions of the heartland.
Second, the stories show innocence and unity. Their sole purpose is to show people enjoying Christmas as a community. Nothing can tear the townsfolk apart; they all truly want the best for their families, their children, and their neighbors. If they disagree with one another, their differences are never mentioned because celebrating the season together is far too important; there is no “us-versus-them.” This shows us that there is life beyond divisiveness, that true community is people caring for each other because they want to – not because they are forced by government policies to do so.
Sooner or later, I will hear the objection (because that’s the type of people we are): “These stories aren’t real! They’re completely made up!”
True. But the same applies to Jesus’s illustration of the Good Samaritan. It’s a story—a parable. That doesn’t mean there is no truth in it.
Hallmark Christmas movies are a wink to the audience. They don’t pretend to be real (and the joke is really on those who take them too seriously). Instead, these movies show not what is, but what could be—if we all just reset our priorities, cut the drama and vitriol, and put people and community first.
If you hate Hallmark Christmas movies, don’t worry. Soon, there will soon be a whole ten months where everybody can hate on each other again.
P.S. Full disclosure: As I write this, the Hallmark Channel is on in the background. I look up just in time to see beautiful businesswoman and the rugged widower embrace and kiss. Then it starts snowing.
Toni Fitzgerald, “Behind the Hallmark Christmas Movies Juggernaut: Ratings Just Keep Rising.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/tonifitzgerald/2018/10/26/behind-the-hallmark-christmas-movies-juggernaut-ratings-just-keep-rising/#760f2a9051ed Accessed, 11/3/2019.