TO BE CLEAR: I love these. I am ride or die for Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, and you can kindly go off to your home on Sadness Island if you’re gonna make fun of me for enjoying them. I get to poke fun because there’s an element of the ridiculous in them, but this is very much a “no one can make fun of ______ except for me” kind of post. This is the same way in which I get violently defensive of the Fast and Furious movies: they’re silly, but they are certainly not the canary in the coalmine signaling the fall of civilization. They’re ridiculous and harmless at worst and they are THE MOST AMAZING THING IN THE WORLD at best. (*sitting impatiently waiting for F9*)
Back to Hallmark movies: I love them. They began in actual October, because the Hallmark Channel does what it wants, and on the Hallmark Channel the Christmas season would begin in June of the previous year if the fates allowed. Hang your monthly streaming bill upon the highest bough. Did I make Andrew add Sling so I could watch these for 2 months? You bet your ox and lamb keeping time I did. I wanna watch as many cable-knit, twinkly-lit, perfectly-coiffed people as I possibly can fall in love in extremely odd circumstances using a formula.
“But they’re all the same!” I hear you cry. Right, yes. Yes, they are. They are pretty and chilly and sparkly and cozy and they will not hurt me, which is more than I can say for the rest of this year and like, life in general. I love the formula. The formula works. They’re all the same and that’s what I want. And I want it for all of you, too. So here it is: the Guide to Every Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie.
This outline is also, to be fair, no longer completely accurate. The channel has been making an effort to show gay couples and black couples and multiracial families and increase diversity across the board, and while it is far from perfect, the effort is there. But I am **feelin’ sassy** and where’s the fun in mocking a wholesome channel striving for equality? Nowhere. There isn’t any fun. So hop aboard the Willful Ignorance train while I give something I love a hard time. There’s a new movie nearly every night and definitely on weekends. BASICALLY EVERY. DAY. J O I N MEEEE
Straight out of the L.L. Bean holiday catalog, Mr. Tall, Medium Brown, and Handsome is the bergamot-scented, cozy-sweater’d smolderhunk that Hallmark thinks we want and okay they’re not entirely wrong. They come in two main varieties: Earnest Goober and Very Serious and Important.
The Earnest Goober is smiling and happy and generally into Christmas-type things, and will almost certainly be found playing in a snowball fight or other kind of youthful merriment before the end of the film. A patterned scarf is guaranteed, and an ugly Christmas sweater or hat or antlers headband or Rudolph nose or some other festive accoutrement is almost guaranteed.
The Very Serious and Important is a professional profession who works workingly all the time and Cannot Be Bothered with This Holiday Nonsense, as he has Things to Do Right Now. Definitely owns a patterned scarf as well but in a more muted plaid. Not a big smiler, until and unless the heroine is around, and then he smiles like smiling is his new professional profession.
Regardless, he is warmth, he is plaid, he is Kind Eyes, and he is going to help his true love decorate something at some point. Usually a tree, sometimes a baked good (gingerbread house, cookies), sometimes an entire event space.
An actual Sugarplum Fairy of Christmas Cheer or a model for Gucci’s suiting line who probably moonlights as a knife thrower or something; there is no middle ground. The heroine is either full-bore sparkle princess or a sentient pencil skirt who cannot remember her own birthday and would take a call from work during her niece’s Nativity play when her niece is baby Jesus. She’s in no way bad, though: like, if she took this call, she’d make up for it by depositing twenty grand into the kid’s 529.
She either is the meaning of Christmas or is going to find the meaning of Christmas, and sometimes both; do not ask me to explain this sentence any further as I SHAN’T. She does not have short hair, and she will do something absolutely bananas during the course of the movie like bake a batch of cookies in her work clothes, or wear high heels to babysit three children. Her apartment is the size of Grand Central Station and it is clean and gorgeous and no I don’t hate her why would you say that. She’s at least partially made of sunshine and in all seriousness I’d absolutely hang out with her, she’s nice to people and at worst she’s just very busy and at best she’s sugar and spice and skating on ice.
The guy’s best friend
Or roommate. Or coworker. Or brother. Just some vaguely manly presence whose existence we do not analyze in depth. In one Hallmark movie I watched this year, “The 12 Dates of Christmas,” this man’s wife went into labor in the first ten minutes of the film, and we did not hear from him again. Ever. I am hoping everyone is okay and they didn’t name the baby Khrynzleigh, but I must become comfortable with disappointment. Another one was a firefighter at the same station as our hero, who was with our heroine working on electrical safety for an event. The friend dropped “so you’re saying that there’s an opportunity for *sparks to fly*?” with the smuggest grin ever and reader I fell in love with a Hallmark Channel SIDE CHARACTER.
This dude is here as an exposition factory to ensure we know what our Mr. TM-B&H is about, and whether that thing is 1. work or 2. who am I, Hedwig? what am I? I feel kind of bad for these guys since they nearly always seem to have lovely, functional families and want the best for our hero and will at least never call our hero asking him to support their small business that is just Herbalife. I’d watch a movie about the best friend in a second. Sometimes they are allowed to be funny, but usually this is reserved for our next person.
The girl’s roommate
Could be roommate, coworker, sister, friend from college, cousin, whatever. This person is the funniest and best human on Earth and is somehow not the star of the show. She does, however, make the heroine do stuff she doesn’t want to, so actually? No, I lied about her being the best, she’s out here making people **improve their lives** and shit who wants that? A friend who wants what’s best for you even if it makes you uncomfortable? Gross. I am kidding, I love every one of my friends who has made me a better person except for when it’s against my will like every time.
My personal favorite was a girl’s roommate who dunked on her for her attendance at a kids’ fundraiser for their music program – not because it’s bad to be there, but to pretend like she’s not there for the cute dude is just lies. Another one kept her friend from returning to her shitty fiancé who told her three weeks before they were due to get married that he wanted “to put a pin in it” re: the wedding. These women are Good People.
Both of their families
First, I have to point out that there is nearly always a tragedy of some kind that explains the absence of at least one family member. Probably only Disney has a worse track record of “the mom’s gone” because holy God why are all the moms gone???? And families can look any kind of way that they are but it is just like a weird removal of a person in a lot of these. This was a sad paragraph and I will stop. The guy and girl usually have their parents (or a parental-type figure) floating around somewhere. And by “somewhere” I mean “in the movie for a weird amount of time.” They are going to mention how proud they are of the hero or heroine “no matter what” at some point and while I don’t always buy it, it is always consistent.
There are also a lot of grandparents, and the grandparents are pulling some Benjamin Button shit or something because they are all like “oh my darling I missed you!” to the late-twenty-something main characters while looking like they just came from the spa and being born in 1970. Millennial grandparents are not young, stop lying to us, Hallmark, even people in their late twenties now look fifty because of this year.
The designated adorable
There is a character in the movie whose job is to be cute beyond all sense. Sometimes, this is a dog; it might be the guy’s dog or the girl’s dog, or just a dog that shows up whenever the spirit of Christmas needs a boost, or something. His name is probably Jingle. (This goes without saying, but I would die for Jingle and any other Jingle-esque iterations.)
The character could also be an elderly neighbor: this one is usually male, and they are consistently sunshine and do something like run a reindeer farm or harvest sugar cookies directly from the ground idk. They’re very cute but also make you anxious in a “let’s not ask for their opinions on Black Lives Matter or the whole thing is ruined” way.
But the most common and most popular designated adorable is a kid. Either the hero or heroine might have a smol angel as their offspring, but more frequently this is a kid or kids that they can just be like vaguely orbiting for festivity and Zuzu’s petals or something. They are usually just shy of “this is unrealistic and unbearable precocity” and are always well-behaved.
Okay, this one has some variation. There are some bigger cities that have been featured in these films: New York is the obvious one, but I’ve also seen Chicago and (I think?) Atlanta or another bigger Southern city. And I watched a movie this year that took place in Vienna. It was called “Christmas in Vienna.” It was Christmastime, and they were in Vienna. I wanna go to Vienna. *****vIeNnA*****
HOWEVER, nearly all of these bad boys end up in a flippin’ adorable small town in a quadrilateral-shaped state, and everyone in them is nice, cute, and well-moisturized (hashtag couldn’t be me) and I resent them all for having nice hair and glowing skin and apartments that are clean all the time even during the holidays. The whole place looks like Small Business Saturday, and it is somehow always snowing or has recently snowed (snown?), yet everyone can wear their coats open and their scarves unwrapped and just dangling from their necks like a fashion accessory rather than a hypothermia-preventer.
That last part is true of the big cities, too, and while I haven’t been to Chicago in the winter, New York in December is frequently just gray and sad and cold. Not always, it’s frequently gorgeous, but definitely not snow-globe pretty every day, and PEOPLE BUTTON THEIR COATS, DAMMIT.
*Tevye voice* exposition
There’s at least one, usually like a half-dozen, sometimes like twenty, things that the characters’ families do every year. And there’s a definite sweetness to it, like their grandma makes them an ornament every year because she loves them, or they have recipes that involve everyone, or they went to pick out the tree together and let the kids get one that’s like way too big for the house. Earnest, heartwarming, festive shit that I adore.
However, they do tend to get really specific with some of these, and the emotions associated are also specific and intense, and somehow the tradition replicates itself in the movie a lot? And it’ll be something like “we’d always drink hot cocoa with 4 (four) marshmallows and sit on the floor in the position of the cardinal directions at exactly 5:37 on December 12th and sing ‘Good King Wenceslas’ but not the right lyrics just ones we made up” and that’ll somehow happen in the movie so our hero and/or heroine will be in their feelings about it. In their defense, I’m in my feelings about everything all the time, it doesn’t take much, so I support this weirdly specific nostalgia.
The empty coffee cup/mug
JUST LEMME RAGE REAL QUICK ON THIS ONE
every. single. movie. has this: they get coffee or cider or hot chocolate from a stand on the town square or whatever and then they wave around the cup and it is so, so clear that there is nothing in that cup and it makes me so upset. Put something in it, anything, anything with mass, water, sand, the receipt for the film’s sweater budget, ANYTHING, PLEASE. Just make it look like a cup with something inside of it.
My anger at this one thing really sums up my experience with Hallmark Christmas movies: yes, sure, this wedding planner has to fly to Alaska to get her bride “jingle bell flowers” and gets stuck there but falls in love and saves the town and Christmas and I buy it like the last scarf in the store, but you’d better put some damn hot chocolate in that cup.