I’m venturing into a virtual minefield with this post. Into a veritable hotbed of opinions. The battle lines drawn around this topic will make my last post on women’s rights look positively demure.
We’re about to delve into kitschy culture.
Coming soon to a television near you is—gasp—the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movie lineup. I’m not sure if my readers outside of the U.S. even know what the Hallmark Channel is, so I’ll put it succinctly—it’s the equivalent of your sappiest aunt baking cookies for you, pattting your head and telling you that “every story has a happy ending.” If you’re diabetic, the sap in these movies might just send you to the hospital. They sport titles like Christmas at Pemberley Manor; Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe; and A Gingerbread Romance. Oh, and don’t forget A Shoe Addict’s Christmas. Seriously, I’m not making that last title up.
You with me? Good. (Already, a good portion of my friends are wailing. I know it. Gnashing their teeth and asking why I’m dissing their feel-good go-to. I’m braced for the hate mail.)
I was recently among the Hallmark Channel’s uninitiated. That is, until my friend Nadine coerced me into watching it on a girls’ night. Oh, she played me well. We cooked dinner together, drank wine, chatted about work and politics and all things essential. Then, just when I was in that pleasantly full phase, feeling mellow—BAM. She hit me with it.
“Hey, a Hallmark movie starts in about 20 minutes. Let’s watch.”
I protested, lovely readers. I truly did. I claimed a long workday and a short attention span and a need to reorganize my linen closet. But alas, Nadine emerged victorious. My only pre-condition was that we race to the grocery store to get Raisinets and popcorn. I mean, if you’re going to do a sappy girl thing—do it right.
As we munched and lounged among comfy pillows, I watched the woman onscreen–we’ll call her Joy–in all her spunky glory. She owned a—wait for it—food truck specializing in cupcakes (as if we needed more sweetness in a Hallmark movie–it’ll give you a toothache). As Joy baked and decorated cupcakes in her not-frumpy-but-not-at-all-fashionable clothes, wearing just the right amount of minimalist makeup, I realized Hallmark marketers are trying hard to make her the average woman. Relatable, only better—without the 15 extra pounds and any stray eyebrow hairs.
Intrepid Joy had of course befriended an old, frail woman who died. And of course, this old woman left her an old bakery. It was closed and shuttered, but hey kids—with a little elbow grease and that effervescent spunk—it could be transformed into the bakery she had always wanted.
Did I mention her benefactor deeded half of said bakery to her own handsome grandson? Appropriately handsome, of course. And—wink, wink, nudge, nudge—he also was in not-frumpy-but-not-at-all-that-fashionable clothes, just the male version of them. His steely gaze was a 7 out of 10—steely enough for Hallmark but not venturing into True Grit territory.
People, we were able to predict the entire movie. It was a formula. And I guess herein lies the Hallmark movie magic. Girl struggles on her own and tries hard to maintain her sunny outlook. Girl meets boy, who just needs the love of the right gal to make his life complete. In the end, of course they end up together. But not before banter—the appropriate argument or two—and then the big apology scene. She falls off a kitchen ladder into his waiting arms. As she bakes, he softens his steely gaze for the camera, realizing she is just like his beloved grandmother. And that he is in love with her. Which is a little creepy, if you think about it.
In my informal poll, it appears that all women–other than me and three black-turtleneck-wearing poets in Sweden—love these films. In Hallmark movie land, the men are good—strong on the outside but soft of heart—and the women always get the dream. What’s not to love? It’s a happy ending, every time.
This is a cottage industry, people! Who KNEW?! (Probably you. I think I’m very late to the party.) Thousands of women out there, in their Snuggies, with Raisinets and popcorn flying off the shelves at breakneck speed.
Women are so nuts over these movies that THEY ARE NAMING BABIES AFTER THE CHARACTERS. If you are also mildly insane and inclined to name your baby after someone in this predictable genre of very bad movies, head on over to Southern Living magazine for: “Baby Names Inspired by Our Favorite Hallmark Movie Characters.”
If you don’t have a baby handy, but you still want to get in on the fun, you can always listen to “Deck the Hallmark”—a podcast on Hallmark Christmas movies by three guys (yes, guys) in Greenville, South Carolina. Brandon Gray, Daniel Thompson and Daniel Pandolph have taken on the arduous task of not only watching all the movies, but creating a podcast around each of them. I laughed hardest at the following from an article in the Greenville News:
“We’re literally not going to have time to watch regular Christmas movies this year,” Pandolph said.
“Or anything that’s worth any value or substance at all,” Thompson added.
No kidding, guys. And please, be careful out there gentlemen. I read in the same article that Gray wants to write a Hallmark movie. He already has a plot in mind. You may be heading toward a precipice from which there is no turning back, Gray. Godspeed, just in backward motion.
Finally–lest you think I’m done–there’s more, dear reader. There’s a countdown to Christmas app for Hallmark movies. Oddly enough, even Town and Country magazine—which I think automatically self-destructs if you come within 20 feet of it in a Snuggie—is getting in on the act.
Don’t delay, people. Fellow blogger Scary Mommy is already stocking up on eggnog. You’d best fill the fridge with your stash of the same before your grocer’s supply of creamy holiday drinks, Raisinets and popcorn is depleted.
The parade of Snuggies and sap begins October 27. Be there, be square.
And save some popcorn for me. Just know that I’ll be voting for Mamma Mia and its sequel.