By Nancy Bowne
Hallmark movies are perhaps one of the only things my whole family can agree on to watch. Ironically, we watch Hallmark movies because it feels warm and allows commentary on some idyllic society where Christmas is the top concern year round.
But I know, I know; no one actually believes in the lessons from Hallmark movies. It’s all for the meme or for something quaint to enjoy. While these justifications might be true, there are some heavily infused themes from these movies that represent darker aspects of our culture that we can’t help but fall back on, as classic archetypes with complacency and comfort.
Hallmark movies actually appear to be against the rise of industrialization. Whether they have a lack of Christmas spirit or resent dense population, where not every person’s priority is Christmas cookie competitions, they often antagonize cities.
For such a holiday that’s become corporate-marketing centered, Christmas in Hallmark movies is best depicted in the comforting, familiar hometown, before the oldest daughter had career aspirations and left to become a lawyer, doctor or “business professional” in the city. Hallmark might as well be “Brigadoon;” stuck in the past and resistant to accepting other forms of a lifestyle.
Hallmark movies also seem to discourage women from entering the workforce.
During Covid-19, women have already faced especially tough decisions in balancing work and family, and now are more likely to feel obligated to help remote school their children than continue in their careers.
While each person should find a balance that works for them, Hallmark movies can seamlessly create a sense of guilt for wanting more to life than, say, their childhood bedroom and hometown where everyone knows each other. There are limited job opportunities in Hallmark Christmas movies too, from bakery owner to school teacher; it overly domesticates women’s career interests.
Through these plots, women are also always required to change their mindset, whereas the men stay as stoic characters. Evil, corporate boyfriend from work? Never will change. Rustic truck cutie from high school? Never will change. It’s the women who are dynamic characters who must shift their priorities. Are they bending for society, more flexible in having a wide range of interests, or frankly acquire better taste in men? Sometimes this can give the wrong impression of how relationships might work. You can’t ever change someone, but you can adjust your mindset.
While Hallmark may intend people to embrace their roots, stay at home and create the perfect Christmas experience for their families, sometimes it creates unrealistic expectations for the perfect “Christmas” season. The holidays are stressful enough.
So, maybe people watch these movies to vicariously live that lifestyle. But through these plots, we need to let families, of any size or background, not feel guilty about placing their priorities during the season. The holidays shouldn’t be stressful to organize and prepare some glamorous idea of the perfect Christmas; it’s rather a mindset and place of comfort of renewal and reflection.
We also need to recognize and support a healthier work-life balance too. Hallmark movies can promote this mindset of stepping back and valuing family. But careers drive our communities, too. It’s just a matter of finding a healthy medium; a concept especially introduced during the pandemic.
Apparently both Hallmark movies and the Covid-19 pandemic promote toasty little country corners, away from the big, bad city. Maybe we shouldn’t take Hallmark movies so seriously, but I can’t help but recognize some darker themes to these tinsel tales of true family traditions.
Trust me, I will continue watching Hallmark movies with glee, but I also understand that perhaps we shouldn’t become too brainwashed into a large card and gift company’s marketing scheme for an idealistic, traditional Christmas.
No matter how you celebrate, the holidays will certainly be different this season. Perhaps this is the year to create new traditions and standards of how you wish to relax, reenergize, reconnect with loved ones, and plan your careers and dreams. There is no right way to do it.