The Hallmark family of channels are the only non-news channels to have experienced significant growth in the past two years. You know the channels…with those made for TV “movies” featuring your favorite sitcom actresses from the 70s, 80s and… (written with the same feeling as when I hear Nirvana on classic rock radio) 90s.
The Washington Post attributes the Hallmark networks’ growth to the age of Trump, with female (and some male) viewers desperate for stress-free entertainment with happy endings. (This is what we at Boob Tubers call ‘I love calamari’ fare.) I’m with you, WaPo. It does seem to tie in with the age of Trump. But instead, it is the reinforcement, if not exaltation, of conservative values that I suspect is fueling this Nielsen fire. These movies are riddled with women that are being forced into metaphorical hope chests. Time and time again, we see women only achieve true happiness once they have:
- Given up that big promotion to make time for love.
- Moved back to their provincial, small home town, learning that the big city is no place for a real life…or for a woman!
- Ditched their suit and tie fiance for the guy that works with his hands, like a real man, probably back in that provincial, small home town.
And it should be mentioned that by women, I mean white women. Despite all of the nostalgia casting, chasing ratings with the 18-49 demographic, nary a Mowry sister, a Lark Voorhees or a Kellie Shanygne Williams in sight. (If you cross-your-heart knew all four of these ladies and the roles they’re famous for without a Google, let me know. You get a prize.)
If this infuriates you, brace yourself, winter is coming. But for the Hallmark family of channels, winter starts on October 27, with the debut of Countdown to Christmas. This is a two month period in which there is around the clock programming set during Christmastime, and all of the conservative tropes reinforcing traditional gender roles you’ve come to know and love are presented through the lense of what a piece of garbage you must be if you don’t have the most magical Christmas ever. It can be a real nail biter to wonder if the perky, blonde heroine is going to leave her law career behind in order to be a receptionist at a Bed and Breakfast and get with Bucks County’s most rugged handyman. Maybe he has a troubled past, maybe he is a widow with two, precocious kids. But imagine the stakes of whether or not she’ll do it in time for their first kiss to be under the mistletoe at the town Christmas tree lighting? And imagine what a complete and utter failure you must be if your Christmas decorations/ blowout/manicure/life choices are in any way different, and therefore inferior, to hers?
Oh also, I watch the ever-loving shit out of these movies. All of them. I used to call it hate watching. But really, can you hate watch in the age of streaming? There’s no just happening upon something while channel surfing and being like, “Oh..haha…look at Danica McKellar, with her PhD in math…falling helplessly in love with that JCPenney catalog looking PTA dad.” There’s only very. intentional. watching. I’m chalking this up to our mission at Boob Tubers: “If you love something, you shouldn’t set it free. You should hold it to incredibly high standards and call it out when it’s being problematic.” I’m just…doing research.
As I post this, the Countdown to Christmas Preview Show is about to air on the flagship Hallmark Channel. Hosted by Candace Cameron Bure, this is a clip show previewing the 33 new Christmas movies making their debut this year. You know, one for each year Jesus was alive. If you think that’s a coincidence, time to wake up, sheeple.
Reading this on the heels of two depressing weeks hearing about women’s experiences in the entertainment industry opening a Pandora’s box of abuse of women in virtually every profession, you might already be drunk. But if you’re not, this is for you: The Boob Tubers Hallmark Christmas Movie Drinking Game. Come on, hate watch with me during this year’s Countdown to Christmas. And whenever any of the below tropes appear in a movie, take a drink. By the way, if that drink isn’t from great grandma’s eggnog recipe, the one that you make every year or it just wouldn’t be Christmas, presented with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top in the shape of the baby Jesus’ manger, then you are failing at life.
The Boob Tubers Hallmark Christmas Movie Drinking Game
Take a drink when…
- A precocious child is concerned with an adult’s romantic/sex life
- A child who acts out after his or her parents have recently divorced or family has relocated, with parents whose reaction is to passively worry and plan the best Christmas ever instead of, like, getting him or her some therapy
- A couple is dining in an absurdly fancy restaurant, as if the script was written by a five year old who doesn’t know what being an adult is, and that fine dining is now casual and microbrewery focused
- A workaholic lead character, with a comical imbalance of personal and professional priorities
- There is a vague portrayal of how the business world actually works works, almost as if it is being dumbed down for an audience of stay at home mothers. (Buy! Sell! I want to see those mockups by tomorrow morning! I don’t care if your fiance is taking you to the fanciest restaurant in town!)
- A person of color in the best friend/co-worker role
- A person of color, probably elderly, extolling wisdom in a way that romanticizes (infantilizes?) their entire race
- Another holiday or faith gets a token mention. Like Hanukkah! Or Kwanzaa!
- A woman with absolutely no emotional intelligence, as manifested by her inability to realize a man is romantically interested in her
- An establishing shot of a location, usually a city, clearly from stock footage
- An engagement, or serious, committed relationship, before sexual consummation
- The real Santa Claus appearing in the real world
- The real Santa Claus appearing in the real world BUT he is only visible to one person (probably our female protagonist)
- An adult or group of adults that are really, like really into Christmas
- A workplace that takes Christmas and/or it’s holiday party really, like really seriously
- An adaptation of a classic story (like A Christmas Carol) with writing and acting that would make Dickens roll over in his grave
- An actress has hair and makeup in an instance where no self respecting woman would have full hair and makeup (Christmas morning, maybe?)
- Good old country living is framed as the morally superior choice to city living
- There is a subliminal or direct endorsement of Judeo/Christian values. This can be as simple as the casting of Candace Cameron Bure in the protagonist role
- There is a painstakingly ritualistic decoration of a Christmas tree, and some sort of proclamation about this year’s tree being the best ever
- Someone says “I just get carried away with Christmas. I can’t help it!”