TV Features

A Very Merry-Go-Round: In Defense of Hallmark Christmas Movies


Tis the season! With A Very Merry-Go-Round, we’ll be offering the hottest holiday takes in town

Oh God in Heaven, I love the Hallmark Christmas Movies. Hallmark cranks out 20 or more of these suckers per year with algorithmic precision, and once you’ve watched a good chunk of them, you could probably write a great one over a long, cider-fueled weekend. They’re basically montages of attractive white people in tasteful winter wear decorating Christmas trees, drinking hot cocoa, having snowball fights, and giving each other chaste, closed-mouth kisses under the mistletoe. They exist in a magical parallel world where problems literally don’t exist, and everything always works out for the better.

Rather than take you through a few of these as examples, I’ll just break the formula down, because they’re basically all the same. 30-something Christmas Bitch (usually “Holly,” “Carol,” “Mary,” or some other vaguely Yuletide thing) works in Corporate Job in Big American City (typically New York or Chicago). She works too hard and doesn’t have time for love or holiday joy. Something happens and she has to secure the Big Account by going to Quaint Town (sometimes where she grew up, other times just some random small town). While in Quaint Town, she meets and/or reconnects with Hunky Christmas Daddy. They first encounter each other by literally crashing into one another. Yadda yadda yadda, ice skating, snowball fight, blah blah blah, hot cocoa, they fall in love, only two days until Christmas! Just when it seems like Big Account is hers for the taking, Tragic Misunderstanding takes place (sometimes just Hunky Daddy seeing Christmas Bitch standing kind of near another man and assumes they’re dating), and Christmas Bitch loses both the Big Account and Hunky Daddy. Christmas Bitch prepares for her defeated return to Big American City, but Christmas Miracle happens and she decides she doesn’t need Corporate Job after all! She clears up Tragic Misunderstanding, kisses Hunky Daddy under the mistletoe, and decides to stay in Quaint Town forever to start a new life with Hunky Daddy. Merry Christmas. The end.

Hallmark green

Christmas dinner will be Froot Loops and milk served separately

If this sounds terrible to you—good! You’re probably a balanced person who craves intellectual stimulation from the content you consume. But y’know what? 2018 was stressful. It sucked big time. I don’t have the emotional fortitude to force myself through the two-hour, black-and-white, emotional rollercoaster that is ROMA this Christmas, let alone try and sucker my family into watching it with me. I’m sure VICE is amazing, but dammit, I don’t want to spark a dinner-ruining political fight with the in-laws. Hell, this Christmas, it’ll be a miracle if I put on pants, let alone make it to a movie theater during the busiest days of the year. Give me a fucking break.

It is in this end-of-year exhaustion that the Hallmark Channel presents itself, not unlike the angel Gabriel. For 80 blissful minutes, you can cast off all the Oscar bait and prestige television. You can put Letterboxd away and simply enjoy a perfectly mediocre Christmas romp. Hallmark promises simplicity, laughter, machine-like construction, fun for the whole family, and an opportunity to get so lit on spiked cider you’ll look like the Ghost of Christmas Past from the 2009 Jim Carrey adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

Just in case you forgot – because I never will

Oh yes, dear reader, the one thing you and your staunch conservative family back home have in common is drowning your problems in alcohol, and if there was ever an opportunity for family bonding, it’s getting absolutely White Christmas Wasted and poppin’ on a couple of these Hallmark classics. There are plenty of Hallmark Channel drinking games to go around, including this viral sensation from Country Living magazine in 2016, but I prefer to just keep the nog nearby and go for it. Mama didn’t raise a quitter, and I’m gonna drink her under the table this year to the tune of PRIDE PREJUDICE AND MISTLETOE starring Lacey Chabert.

The fact is, your level of ironic enjoyment of the wooden acting, deus ex machina to the max, and shoehorning of product placement will be just about equal to your family’s sincere enjoyment of watching a movie with you about a wholesome Christmas romance instead of all the nonsensical aesthetic trash you usually force them through to get those last few Letterboxd reviews in before the year closes up shop. And who knows—maybe you’ll find that sweet ol Mom and Dad have better taste in film than you thought and you can shit on them together! Guffaw with Grandma as CHRISTMAS IN GRACELAND never explains why or how or with whom the lead female character has a child—she’s just there! Snicker with your sisters as the plucky protagonist of MISS CHRISTMAS spends an entire movie trying to find the perfect tree for the Christmas festival in Chicago, is threatened with losing her job if she doesn’t find one, and when she doesn’t pull it off, is informed that they can use “the backup tree” and it’s never addressed again! Yuk it up with your uncles when, in PRIDE PREJUDICE AND MISTLETOE, a couple seeing each other for the first time since breaking off an engagement one month prior has an amicable conversation about why their relationship just didn’t work out!

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I’ve always had respect for films that never try to sell themselves as anything other than what they are. The Hallmark Christmas Canon isn’t trying replace IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE or rake in awards. They serve the same purpose as their more-famous greeting cards: to bring comfort, a smile, holiday cheer, or to just make you laugh. I find myself feeling more and more like it’s OK for things to just be nice sometimes—and what better time than Christmas? Whether you enjoy them sincerely, ironically, or if you’re honestly not even sure anymore, look no further than the Hallmark channel for some quality Christmas content this season. You’ll be glad you did, and even if you regret it, just drink until you don’t remember it at all.

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