There is a running tradition in my home. Whenever a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie comes on the question is asked: “Oh, is this the one with the female executive who is far too busy for Christmas but finds herself stuck in a small hamlet where she encounters a handsome man with whom she is belligerent but she learns to see the charms of the town and the meaning of Christmas and she ends up falling in love with the hunk and kiss in the snow on Christmas Eve while wearing scarves???”
The gag, of course, is that is the plot of EVERY Hallmark holiday “film.” My noting the tropes inherent in these movies is not appreciated by the heavily estrogen-infused family unit, as these films are on consistently. I am an inveterate bad-movie heckler, and I am frequently excused from the room after less than 10 minutes of my unwelcome quips. These movies are completely froth-filled, harmless holiday treacle with overly-familiar plotting and shot-glass deep characters always arriving to comfortable resolutions.
Oh, wait a tic – No! These are hate-filled racist lessons of weaponized pro-Trump aggression against all that is decent in this nation!!! At least that is the lesson delivered in Slate by writer Zachary Jason. He endeavored to watch 21 of these titles (seriously, props dude) and based on his essay he came away feeling as if he had witnessed nearly two dozen variations of “The Birth Of A Nation.”
“They all depict a fantasy world in which America has been Made Great Again,” writes Jason. “They brim with white heterosexuals who exclusively, emphatically, and endlessly bellow “Merry Christmas” to every lumberjack and labradoodle they pass.” They “bellow” this, mind you. It’s rather precious they way he resorts to hyperbole to express contempt for exaggerated representation.
Understand the inherent contradiction. Trump is railed at for the hatred, divisiveness, and contempt seen through our society — and he is also to blame for innocuous holiday movies filled with cookie-baking and mistletoe.
Obliviousness reigns throughout the Slate piece, as it describes those demographics omitted in these productions are “everyone on Trump’s naughty list—Muslims (uh, do they celebrate Christmas???) gay people (I thought we should treat them as everyone else??), and feminists (who despise Hallmark-type traditionalism and would NEVER watch).
Then, to lurch to hilariously hysterical levels of sensationalism, the men in these films are described as “strong-jawed heroes with white-nationalist haircuts.” I’m sure Mr. Jason thought he was delivering a hilarious rebuke here, except funnier than that is the charge arrives from the quill of a nearly translucent weak-jawed scribe. The writer himself resembles the wispy sort we recently witnessed brandishing tiki torches in Caucasian solidarity.
That Zachary, like so many others in media, has fallen prey to Trump Derangement Syndrome is blatant. It has been a default mode of many to blame the new President for any insurrection — even be they generationally-aged — and all manner of entertainment can be said to be an indictment of Trump, despite being created and in production well before his election. Jason exposes this tendency by essentially disproving himself throughout the piece.
He has declared Hallmark’s flood of holiday films a “counterstrike” for Trump in the supposed War On Christmas. That enormous total of 21 films debuting is higher than last year’s slate — of twenty. Thus the proof the channel is flooding the zone on behalf of the President is one additional title?! As he acknowledges this is the first holiday season under Trump, Jason missed that Hallmark has been at this for years already. So how does he explain the bulk of movies the channel premiered all these past Christmases, long before Trump was elected? He doesn’t. But he is sure today they are pure Trump agitprop.
It’s all very Trumpian behavior. Hallmark Christmas movies channel and normalize a world in which the president can insult China, the press, Hillary Clinton, and the prime minister of the United Kingdom, and share anti-Muslim propaganda all in one day.
I might say that could be an interesting observation, were any of those subjects actually ever mentioned in any of the films. Socio-political content is never found in these holiday flights of fancy. You get the sense of Jason lurching here, when he offers up the lone detail that comes closest to actual proof of a Trump connection — Hallmark Channel had exclusive rights to broadcast the national tree lighting ceremony.
The best is — we are actually presented with the rationale behind the success of these yuletide larks, and it disproves Zachary’s accusations entirely. He cites a piece from the LA Times that lays out how Hallmark Channel enjoys its largest viewership in Red State regions. While there is certainly a ratings overlap, as the article points out, “The channel’s programming is politically agnostic.” And therein lies the truth.
While Hollywood has been desperate to load political commentary into everything from film narratives to sitcom plot lines to late-night talk shows and even our sports diversions, audiences are seeking out a respite. Yes, Hallmark Christmas movies are formulaic, cliche-ridden, and trope-filled affairs. What social scolds like Zachary Jason miss is that this is by design. The general public seeks out the familiar and comfortable during the holidays, to bring a welcome break from the constant little-drum-beat of how awful Trump is for us all.
Despite the hectoring histrionics Hallmark is laughing the whole time. Each year they broaden the amount of holiday films, and all they manage to do is see their audience swell. Of the top cable networks Hallmark is the only one to enjoy double digit ratings increases. So popular are these films they decided to show even more on a second network, its Hallmark Mystery Channel, this season.
In his zeal to lay perceived aggression in these “belligerently traditional” movies at the feet of The President, the uninsightful Zachary Jason manages to invalidate himself and neuter his rambling screed completely. The writer actually states “these movies offer giddy, predictable escapes from Trumpian chaos.”
It is always a welcome surprise when a Scrooge delivers a present like that.