The Problem with Hallmark Christmas Movies

I remember throughout the entirety of December and even the last days of November walking through my kitchen and seeing the same movie playing on the television screen, only it wasn’t the same movie—they were different films, but with the same plots, character relationships, and settings that all looked identical. Other than Bing Crosby and Josh Groban, the one thing I distinctly remember playing in my house during the holiday season was the Hallmark Christmas movie marathon lineup.

At first I didn’t really understand why I had a strong dislike for Hallmark movies after seeing them endlessly throughout not only the holiday season, but the entire year (a.k.a. the “Christmas in July” Hallmark segment). After thinking about all of the things that annoy me about the cheesy love stories and unrealistic relationship expectations (and the recent scandal involving the Hallmark channel’s reaction to a commercial, which I will get to later), I compiled a series of reasons that Hallmark movies should be nominated for the Razzies (which honor the worst films in the industry).

I started to see a trend in all of the Hallmark Christmas movies not even in their actual plots, but just from the posters they release. The typical Hallmark movie poster features the protagonist (usually a female) and her counterpart (usually male) in traditional Christmas colors (red and green) against a festive holiday background with a Christmas tree, with the title of the film in fancy cursive handwriting or calligraphy. After seeing several of these posters either on the screen or some social media outlet like Twitter, I began to assume that Hallmark had a formula for making their movie posters and that they had very little originality on how they wanted to market their films.

Speaking of little originality, the plots of almost every Hallmark Christmas movie are indistinguishable from each other. From the movies that I’ve seen on my family’s TV screen and from what I’ve gathered from the “Plot” section of the movies’ Wikipedia pages, here is what follows as the typical Hallmark Christmas movie: a successful woman works independently in a metropolitan area (usually New York City). Something unexpected happens at her small hometown (usually in the suburbs or countryside) that she is basically forced to leave work and go back home for a period of time. When she gets back home and reunites with her family, she runs into an old friend or someone she hadn’t seen since she left (this is usually the love interest of the film). While the protagonist is back home doing what she has to do to “fix” the unexpected problem, romance finds its way to the main plot and gets its way to make the protagonist and her love interest fall in love and live happily ever after.

The problem with this structure is that it is not only repetitive throughout every movie, but also that it sets unrealistic expectations for relationships. And this is where the “instant love” element comes into play. For most Hallmark movies, they take place over a series of days, so it isn’t a long period of time that the protagonist spends time with the supposed love interest. There is one movie where the protagonist and the love interest said they were in love after only three days. Really?

Another issue with Hallmark Christmas movies is that they cast the same three women for protagonists almost every single time, and I call these three women the Holy Trinity of Hallmark Christmas movies: Lacey Chabert, Danica McKellar, and Candace Cameron Bure, a.k.a. Gretchen Wieners, Winnie Cooper, and DJ frickin’ Tanner. Bure—the queen of Hallmark movies—currently has eight Hallmark Christmas movies under her belt (and many more to come, I’m sure).

One thing that really stuck out to me the first time I saw a Hallmark Christmas movie on the screen was that all, if not most, of the characters in every movie are very ~white~. There is already a problem of “whitewashing” and an infrequent among of casting people of color in films and television shows, so Hallmark isn’t doing a better job than the Hollywood entertainment industry when it comes to casting for their movies—there are more people to cast than just the Holy Trinity.

While Hallmark markets itself as a family-friendly network, it also publicizes itself as a religious network, further creating an outreach that is very traditionalist. If you really think about it, almost every Hallmark Christmas movie starts with an independent successful woman eventually finding love by the end of the movie. In addition to these movies consisting of predominantly white characters, many Hallmark Christmas movies end with the protagonist giving up her career for love. For a person who leans on the progressive side of things and isn’t fond of giving up a passion for someone else, it makes sense why they might feel uncomfortable over these movies.

Although I kept these thoughts of Hallmark elsewhere, what made me determine that this corporation upholds conservative values was its recent controversy with Zola ads that featured same-sex marriage, in which a spokesperson for the company said that the channel does not accept ads “that are deemed controversial.” The spokesperson also said that the same-sex couple’s “public displays of affection” violated the channel’s policies, but didn’t comment on why a similar commercial featuring a man and a woman kissing was not pulled.

I won’t comment anymore on this issue, but I will leave it at this. There are so many movies out there for everyone to see that make huge statements about not just the cinema industry, but our society as well. You see so many movies making milestones, like Parasite becoming the first non-English film to win the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. In a society where almost everything is moving forward, our entertainment industry that comes in many forms should be able to move forward as well. And that means to stop making the same exact movies for our diverse world to see.