"9/11 simply never happened in the Hallmark universe"
December 19, 2018 12:59 PM   Subscribe

A Past That Never Existed, a Future That Will Never Arrive—Lessons from watching every single Hallmark holiday movie
"That hauntology is perhaps stronger for millennial viewers, for people who didn’t grow up in Hallmark’s America and can never move there because they lack the money and the time machine required. If homeownership, leisure, and making a comforting living doing crafts and blue-collar work remain a fantasy, they are an even more powerful fantasy for people with postgraduate degrees, six-figure debt, cratering industries, and no help on the horizon. It is a cruelty of America that the nostalgia that reared us all is one that only ever truly applied to one demographic in one span of time; that every story we tell ourselves about the possibility of this country is one that ends with the home, family, community, and security depicted in these movies; and that, for a lot of people, this is the closest they’ll get." [Jeb Lund, Medium]
posted by Atom Eyes (48 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not just on Hallmark. There've been several Hollywood movies where the gung-ho career person suddenly finds themselves in a small town or saddled with children due to mysteriously comedic circumstances, and the experience Teaches Them Lessons About What's Really Important. Two examples:

* Baby Boom
* The Family Man
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:28 PM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Jennifer Wright tweeted: I’m waiting for a reverse Hallmark Christmas Movie about a small town girl who realizes her community’s politics are terrible, moves to Manhattan, gets a high pressure office job, meets a businessman, and they host a non-denominational holiday party at their penthouse.

Not that I’m here to shame people for their favorite flavor of escapism. God knows mine is embarrassing enough. It’s not the fantasy I mind, it’s the sinister.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:28 PM on December 19, 2018 [50 favorites]


If homeownership, leisure, and making a comforting living doing crafts and blue-collar work remain a fantasy, they are an even more powerful fantasy for people with postgraduate degrees

Somehow I don't think it's people with postgraduate educations who are watching Hallmark movies.
posted by orange swan at 1:37 PM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


My wife has a masters. Pretty sure she’s seen every last one them.
posted by Frayed Knot at 1:39 PM on December 19, 2018 [24 favorites]


Somehow I don't think it's people with postgraduate educations who are watching Hallmark movies.

Based on my Facebook feed, you are dead wrong sir.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:39 PM on December 19, 2018 [42 favorites]


xmas in fuckberg
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:40 PM on December 19, 2018 [19 favorites]


Previously: "All Hallmark Christmas movies are horror films in disguise."

Also previously: a post on how Hallmark/Lifetime movies are, in fact, empowering for women. Especially Lyn Never's excellent comment: "...there is still a relatively large viewership that prefers even their soapy*/schlocky fare (or one-eye-on-the-TV or background-noise content) mostly filled with women's voices and faces, and content where even the more difficult content (sexual violence, domestic violence, menace of multiple varieties, hardship, loss) is not shot for the male gaze."
posted by Melismata at 1:40 PM on December 19, 2018 [12 favorites]


the gung-ho career person suddenly finds themselves in a small town or saddled with children due to mysteriously comedic circumstances

This is actually the plot of Iron Man 3, I suddenly realize.
posted by SPrintF at 1:55 PM on December 19, 2018 [43 favorites]


During the holidays no less! And that is why Iron Man 3 is a Christmas movie.
posted by yasaman at 2:01 PM on December 19, 2018 [19 favorites]


Well it is a Shane Black movie, after all.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:08 PM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Postgraduate means study after you get your graduate degree, such as postdoctoral fellowships, right? Or did they mean graduate educations?
posted by I-Write-Essays at 2:08 PM on December 19, 2018


This is making me try to think of movies that have the opposite plotline, and all I can think of at the moment is My Sister Eileen: 1942 and 1955.

People, they don't even get married in the end, they just decide to stay in New York!!!
posted by maggiemaggie at 2:12 PM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Postgraduate means post-baccalaureate in my academic experience (USA). Postdoc is what comes after your doctorate.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:13 PM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


saddled with children due to mysteriously comedic circumstances

reading this makes me like to imagine that every other Hallmark movie begins with the protagonist getting handcuffed to one or more pre-teen orphans by a masked clown
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:14 PM on December 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


(I'm a postdoc watching A Christmas Prince RIGHT NOW, so they are watched by postgrads of all definitions!)
posted by ChuraChura at 2:16 PM on December 19, 2018 [19 favorites]


I kinda feel like these, at least the Christmas themed ones, are simply the descendants of It's A Wonderful Life, The Sound of Music (shout out to every Filipino who grew up having it hammered into their collective consciousness that this is a Christmas movie), Miracle on 34th Street, and, let's face it, the progenitor of it all: A Christmas Carol.

And seeing as I like the older movies, I have this weird feeling that if I watch A Christmas Prince just out of curiosity because A) that whole thing last year with Netflix' mean tweet and B) a sequel?!, I'll end up liking it.

Which is why I'm maybe going to avoid it and just watch Die Hard.
posted by linux at 2:46 PM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


> saddled with children due to mysteriously comedic circumstances

Is there any other way?
Sincerely,
mother of two
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:50 PM on December 19, 2018 [21 favorites]


saddled with children

I now desperately want this to be an all-horse reboot of the TV sitcom Married With Children.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:56 PM on December 19, 2018 [31 favorites]


I haven't watched any of this genre for a long time, but when I did they all had kind of an afterlife feel to me, as if the main character had been in a horrible accident, and as they were being rushed to the hospital and bleeding to death, their dying brain constructed a fantasy of the life they might have led, and at the final dissolve, they breathed their last breath.
posted by jamjam at 3:06 PM on December 19, 2018 [35 favorites]




Which is why I'm maybe going to avoid it and just watch Die Hard.

The best meme I've seen going around this year, paraphrased:
Tired: Die Hard is the best Christmas movie.
Wired: Lion in Winter is the best Christmas movie.

My mom was laid up with health complications for most of spring and all of summer, sometime during July the Hallmark channel did a "Christmas in July" marathon and my mom DVRed and watched basically all of them. She's a writer so she couldn't help but pick them apart and discuss how they worked (or didn't), but she enjoyed them enough that she's thinking about writing a few of her own. We were both somewhat entertained to see that the keys to the formula are spelled out in great detail in their submission guidelines.
posted by mstokes650 at 3:09 PM on December 19, 2018 [31 favorites]


Those submission guidelines are phenomenal, mstokes650!
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:13 PM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


I love those guidelines. “This is what sells in this market.” Never clearer.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:23 PM on December 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


There are some Hallmark movies where, I am convinced, you could do a pretty good re-edit of them wherein the bulk of the movie is a dream-sequence nightmare experienced by the protagonist, and at the end they suddenly awake, secure in their urban apartment with their well-paying job and hundreds of miles away from their clinging family and the small town they escaped years ago.

In some cases I think you'd just need to cut, like, five minutes off the start of the reel and stick it onto the end.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:39 PM on December 19, 2018 [14 favorites]


This is actually the plot of Iron Man 3, I suddenly realize.

Thus setting up the inevitable crossover between the Marvel and Hallmark Cinematic Universes.

(Or maybe Avengers:Endgame will conclude with Thanos discovering the joys of simple life and deciding he really just needed to spend more time with his daughters)
posted by thefoxgod at 4:33 PM on December 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


This is making me try to think of movies that have the opposite plotline

My Life Without Me?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:41 PM on December 19, 2018




I now desperately want this to be an all-horse reboot of the TV sitcom Married With Children.

Someone see if Bojack Horseman is available.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:20 PM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Postgraduate means study after you get your graduate degree, such as postdoctoral fellowships, right? Or did they mean graduate educations?

Postgrad means post graduation, so the same thing as having a graduate degree (which is not the same as having graduated with a degree because fuck you, English language).
posted by Dysk at 5:21 PM on December 19, 2018


(Or maybe Avengers:Endgame will conclude with Thanos discovering the joys of simple life and deciding he really just needed to spend more time with his daughters)

"I was so obsessed with romancing Death, that I never thought about really living life." (Unsnappens everything, grafts the X-Men universe into the MCU, writes a book titled Living the Balanced Life, gets a daytime talk show.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:02 PM on December 19, 2018 [11 favorites]


Would be way more interesting than whatever they're going to do with Endgame actually. Please make that happen.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:38 PM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm pleasantly surprised that the Hallmark submission guidelines specifically do not exclude same-sex romance, and explicitly ask for 'diverse characters and stories'. I for one could countenance considerably more seasonal schmaltz if it were less hetero/white/cis.
posted by freya_lamb at 6:39 PM on December 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


Medium essays mocking nostalgia are okay, but I miss the good old critiques: Rod Serling's "A Stop at Willoughby"or Jello Biafra's "Nostalgia for an Age That Never Existed."
posted by smelendez at 6:40 PM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Anyone who's actually spent time in small rural towns wouldn't think of them as being very romantic places.
posted by octothorpe at 7:39 PM on December 19, 2018 [13 favorites]


I wonder if the guidelines were more flexible back in the day. I just remembered watching a Hallmark movie with my wife a few years ago that was basically a Buffy episode turned into a Christmas movie. It had Amber Benson and an emergency trip to the library for arcane research and performing a ritual in a circle and everything.
posted by Jpfed at 7:50 PM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


These things are like potato chips or something: when I'm at my mom's (where Hallmark is playing 24-7), all I want to do is sit there and watch them, though some are more interesting than others. You really do need to cast fairly charismatic people and have them hang out with each other having fun, or the movie doesn't work. It's always fun to make fun of the tropes though, such as Christmas firing.

Also, I admit it's a nostalgia thing even though even when my nuclear family was intact, Christmas frequently involved arguments and then having to spend time with the relatives who didn't like us. It looks very nice when you have no plans beyond just well, watching more Hallmark.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:24 PM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


hallmark christmas movies are the new guy fieri
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 9:42 PM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


A Christmas For Flavortown
posted by cortex at 10:21 PM on December 19, 2018 [17 favorites]


Medium essays mocking nostalgia are okay, but I miss the good old critiques: Rod Serling's "A Stop at Willoughby"

But the protagonist there got what he wanted, right? He got it forever, of course, but for a Twilight Zone hero it was a good ending. I thought it was mocking the modern world (which is now, of course, one with Nineveh and Tyre). That’s an ep I gave a lot of thought during some low times.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:46 PM on December 19, 2018


Maybe it's Dickens' fault. Not that he was unaware of it: I always got a chuckle out of the polished sarcasm, here at the end of 'Carol':

... to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the good old City knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough in the good old world.

to which all of us who know ourselves can respond with a wink,

knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins as have the malady in less attractive forms.
posted by Twang at 1:08 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Two anonymous Hallmark movie writers explain the creative process.

"The first rule is snow. We really wanted to do one where the basic conflict was a fear that there will not be snow on Christmas. We were told you cannot do that, there must be snow. They can’t be waiting for the snow, there has to be snow. You cannot threaten them with no snow. Our idea for Christmas in Miami? Never. Not in a million years."
posted by eponym at 5:33 AM on December 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


I'm pleasantly surprised that the Hallmark submission guidelines specifically do not exclude same-sex romance, and explicitly ask for 'diverse characters and stories'. I for one could countenance considerably more seasonal schmaltz if it were less hetero/white/cis.

Wow, I would watch the everloving hell out of a sappy trans Christmas movie.
posted by ITheCosmos at 6:11 AM on December 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


“...Our idea for Christmas in Miami? Never. Not in a million years."

I mean, with climate change heading where it’s heading, you could get your snow in Miami.

*scrolls back up to the top and reads the synopsis* oh, right right right...
posted by gc at 6:17 AM on December 20, 2018


For all of that love of snowy locales, including namechecking Vermont, Hallmark Christmas movies are actually rarely filmed in Vermont.
posted by doctornemo at 8:04 AM on December 20, 2018


I'm curious, as someone who doesn't watch these movies. Just how strong is the country-versus-city theme in them?

The article makes the theme sound central, as do the many anti-rural comments and links in this thread.
posted by doctornemo at 8:58 AM on December 20, 2018


I haven't seen that many, but in the few I've seen that theme has been extremely prominent.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:25 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


doctornemo: I can think of a whopping two Hallmark movies ("Window Wonderland" and "Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade") that don't unabashedly dog on cities. Those two movies by virtue of their plots HAVE to take place in cities only, so I think they couldn't shit on them in those. But pretty much every single Hallmark movie except for those two is about making the hero/ine move from the Big City to a small town.

I decided to look for Hallmark movie generators and found a bunch:

Mad Libs version
Numerology version
Take one from each column. (same goes for writing a Hallmark romance)
Christmas movie name generator
Plot generator (note: website limits how much you can view)

In other news: my mom got the flu for Christmas, our vacation was canceled, and I spent six days straight pretty much doing nothing but watching Hallmark Christmas movies. I watched around 25 of them in full and saw bits and pieces of other ones. Now I am having Deep Thoughts about how Hallmark handles jobs, and came up with my own Hallmark movie idea except they'd never take me, so maybe I should just write my own and call it "Hallmark From Hell," and like, have it take place in a land of no snow just to fuck with them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:16 PM on December 30, 2018




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