This year with the holidays comes the trend of reviewing a Hallmark Christmas movie. Those sweet and basic love stories that can only take place during the “most wonderful time of the year” are everywhere, all technically different but also all practically the same.
So here there are 5 things that all Hallmark Christmas movies have in common using as an example The Christmas Club:
1- Lady Boss
She is a working woman (single obviously) who is “not looking for love” and wants to “focus on her career”. The “career” in question is something fairly simple, a well-known job that the audience will recognize immediately.
- something in fashion (we don’t know exactly what but we know she is always dressed well)
- teacher (of what precisely? Who cares!)
- businesswoman (a job that has to do with numbers in a generic company)
- charity (’cause she’s so darn sweet and always cares about others)
Here’s the catch though, her career is at risk. Yes, I’m afraid it’s true. Something terrible/unfair happens and the protagonist has to figure out a way to get back on top. Fear not though, for love will find a way!
Our lady boss is either: forced to team up with or happens to be working with… him. The charming, the handsome, the sweet, the “good with kids”, the white… love interest.
They proceed to have a couple of shenanigans together that will make them realize the true meaning of Christmas and, at the end of the movie, her financial troubles will be a distant memory from the time when she was single.
In A LOT of Hallmark Christmas movies, the problems that would take a normal person painstakingly efforts to work through are gone in the span of a few weeks (or even days). As soon as our dear protagonist falls in love and feels the spirit of the Holidays, everything falls into place.
“Would you have met if you didn’t come together to help an old lady? Now, that’s… magic”– Gentrude
Whenever our protagonists make a mistake or don’t get what they want, Ms. Claus (or Gertrude) swoops in and fixes everything.
The guy you like is going to leave and go back to his job? Use “Magic” money-back guarantee.
The two lovebirds fight and risk to not be able to spend the holidays together? “Magic” for the small price of 80 dollars.
Olivia loses Ed’s number and has no way of contacting him? “Ms. Claus’ magic dating agency” providing faithful encounters since 1987.
2- Idyllic Homelife
Miserable mortals like you and I might not have the greatest experience spending the holidays with our families. Sure we might love the members of or family despite their flaws… but they still HAVE flaws.
In a Hallmark Christmas movie, this is not the case. The family of the protagonists (aka the side-characters) are smiley, happy-go-lucky people who love each other unconditionally.
They don’t have real flaws, they have “charming quirks” that make them endearing. Like Ed’s sister in The Christmas Club, who, in real life, would probably get yelled at for being a grown woman who acts like a 12 years old who’s 100% sure that the characters she’s shipping are endgame.
3- Christmas is so… so important
An essential aspect of our protagonist characterization is… Christmas. Which makes sense (kind of) since we’re talking about Hallmark Christmas movies
You might consider it just a festivity, or if you’re not a Christian, just a chance to stay home from work. But for our innocent and sweet protagonist, Christmas is more than that. It’s a holy day (but not in the religious sense) that has united her community for centuries through (surprisingly modern) traditions.
The protagonist can be of two kinds: either a Christmas enthusiast or a Grinch.
Her cute little old fashioned hometown values this holiday more than anything else in the world. Easter? I hardly know her. Valentine’s day? Who cares. But Christmas? That’s the best!
Every year there’s some kind of activity or competition revolving around this festivity that brings the whole town together for a cute and picturesque movie ending. She has been religiously observing this tradition of all of her life, and she’s going to convince the skeptical love interest to take part in it as well.
The Christmas Club gives Olivia an undying love for Christmas, and a bunch of traditions that she has to complete like bullet points every year:
- the dance studio recital
- strolling around the Christmas festival
- baking cookies on Christmas Eve
In fact, our Olivia is so OCD about respecting those traditions that she seems to care more about the kid’s dance recital than the fact that she is soon going to be out of a job. So the entire movie revolves around her and dream-daddy trying to save the recital in time for Christmas.
There are also cases where the main character is not a fan of Christmas, and by “not a fan” I mean hates it to a pathological level.
This, of course, has nothing to do with consumerism and other valid criticism of the modern idea of Christmas. No, this is personal, and it revolves around something from her past.
When she was a little girl, she asked Santa to keep heal her sick grandfather, but the poor man died instead. Because of this, now she acts like a full-on Grinch who can’t even stand the sight of a pine tree, the smell of cinnamon, the cold feeling of a snowball.
In The Christmas Club, our Grinch is Ed, Olivia’s love interest. He detests everything Christmassy so much that he hasn’t eaten any dish traditional of the season for years. And the event that caused in him this deep hatred of the festivity, this PTSD that prevents him from functioning around the holidays is his parents’ divorce.
4- Romantic (not sexual) tension
As I mentioned before, any Hallmark Christmas movie uses a good dose of plot convenience either in the form of “magic” or something else. This cannot be more evident than in the relationship between the male and the female lead.
The two are either old friends who haven’t seen each other for years or two complete strangers who were destined to meet and fall in love. But wait! There’s a problem! How are they going to fall in love if they don’t spend every minute of every day in each other’s company?
Most of the time, the movie will come up with some kind of contrivance that will force them to stay together, the most common is a “project” that both of them need to work on.
So, back to The Christmas Club, what is their contrivance? First of all, I just need to say that this movie has to most forced and fake meet-cute I’ve ever seen.
They are both walking down a busy street in New York when they notice that an old lady has lost a few 20 dollar bills in the wind. Olivia offers to bring the shook lady inside a shop where it’s warm, while the intrepid Ed rushes down the street trying to find the missing bills.
Once they realize that the money is gone forever, the pair decide to pay for the lady’s gifts through their own pockets. Thus becoming friends and earning the approval of Ms. Claus.
What happens next is that the two complete strangers (who have nothing in common and live in one of the biggest cities in the world) coincidentally run into each other every 5 minutes. Officially making this movie a discount version of When Harry met Sally.
There is also an unspoken rule that any Hallmark Christmas movie seems to respect: the tension that’s created between the couple is always romantic, never sexual.
The two HETEROSEXUAL protagonists will only share one brief kiss at the end of the movie, only after making their relationship official. Before that, there will only be: smiles, accidental hand touches, accidental falling, chuckles at bad jokes, and lots of “thank you for helping me”.
5- Empowering fake feminism
Another pattern I’ve noticed in the Hallmark Christmas movie franchise is the incredible number of empowering speeches that the side characters have to repeat every other scene to the protagonist.
Each movie with a female protagonist makes her a lady boss, but a weak one. She falls into despair every time one of her beloved Christmas traditions in threatened, or her business seems to be going badly.
And every time she starts feeling any kind of discomfort, one of the side characters steps up to her and gives her encouraging words that… are ultimately wasted because she doesn’t fix her problems by herself but rather “magic” intervenes or the love interest does.
The bizarre effect is that we hear that this woman is great, inspiring, wonderful, creative, and intelligent; but we see that she is lost and helpless if left by herself.
And if you don’t believe me, I’ll leave here a few quotes from The Christmas Club to prove my point:
“When somebody cares about something as much as you do, they make it happen”– Ed
“I’m so proud of you, I knew you could do it”– dance teacher
“Thank you for bringing Christmas back to me”– Ed
“This is exactly everything that was meant to happen. You deserve it”– Token black friend
Olivia: “Thank you”
Ed: “You should be thanking yourself”
“People will come in here and see how incredible you are”– Ed
Ed: “I’m so proud of you”
Olivia: “I’m proud of me too”
Olivia: “Did you do something to push my loan?”
Ed: “No, I just put a very good word for you and talked about what a great investment you’d be”
“Olivia, you’re gonna be a huge success”– Ed
And, I sh*t you not, those aren’t even all of them.
Overall, those are the 5 things every Hallmark Christmas movie have in common, and the 5 things that make them instant classics and a wonderful– just kidding those movies aren’t good, but if you’re looking for a version of the world where everything is simple and magic takes away your problems Hallmark is the way to go.