Let’s talk Hallmark Christmas Movies. Reading those words, you likely had one of two reactions. Either your insides went a little mushy, or you rolled your eyes so hard they nearly fell out of your head.
You’ve heard the criticisms: they’re shallow, poorly acted, and way too earnest. And of course, the most ubiquitous, damning critique of all: Aren’t those movies all the same?
In defense of these flicks, I submit to you a new perspective:
There’s a thin line between Hallmark Christmas Movies and Professional Football.
The HCM and the NFL: two epic quests for rings.
Let’s start with the charge all HCMs are the same. Sure, nearly all have snowball fights, hot cocoa, and a precocious child.
But people lodging this as a criticism are completely missing the point. That’s the game, baby. No one watches a football game and says, “Every game is the same. Why bother watching when all they are going to do is throw, kick, and catch the ball? And how predictable, they always stay inside the white lines. Why does every game end with one team winning and one team losing? And why are there so many damn commercials?”
(Okay, everyone complains about the commercials…but that’s another point in common, no?)
You see my point. Those reasons for criticizing a football game are ludicrous.
So to help your enjoyment of HCMs this holiday season, I submit to you that there are four types of movies, just like there are four types of football games:
- The Blow Out (Your Team is Winning): Everyone but Cleveland Browns fans have experienced one of these. Your team gets up early, and you can watch the second half without a knot in your stomach because you are sure of the outcome. While not the most common football game, this is by far the most common HCM. You want the heroine and hero to get together, you know they will, and you watch it happen. Voila! (See Christmas Festival of Ice)
- The Blow Out (Your Team is Losing): For Cleveland Browns fans, this is by far the most common type of game, but not so for HCMs. These are exceedingly rare, but they do happen. One of the most common tropes of the HCM is that the heroine starts off the movie with the wrong guy. We as the audience know it’s the wrong guy, and we know immediately, even if she doesn’t, when she meets the right guy. Every so often, I go rogue and decide I want her with the guy who’s clearly been designated as wrong for her. You know it’s never going to happen, but you can’t stop wishing for it anyway. (The best example is The Wedding Planner, not actually a HCM but you know deep down J. Lo would’ve been happier marrying that Italian guy instead of cheating Matthew McConaughey)
- Overtime: In football, typically the game ends when sixty minutes expire off the clock. In an HCM, the movie almost always ends when the hero and heroine simultaneously realize they’re in love and share their first kiss under the mistletoe or in front of lighted Christmas tree. But every so often, there’s overtime. After the declaration of love, there might be one more loose end to tie up…the heroine has to thank the mysterious Santa for granting her wish, an orphaned child finds a home, or the hero/heroine reconciles with estranged relatives. It’s short and quick…like winning the overtime coin toss, marching down the field in the no huddle offense and kicking the winning field goal. (Example: Christmas with Holly—Sure, Mark and Maggie fall in love, but the movie isn’t complete until Maggie gives young Molly the Fairy House. )
- The Nail Biter: Okay, you kind of got me here. There’s never any doubt that the hero and the heroine will fall in love. But there is sometimes a mystery of what they’ll do after they fall in love. Take A Royal Christmas. Of course Emily and Leo will get married…but will they live as Prince and Princess of Cordinia or go back to life as plain old Emily and Leo in Philadelphia?)
Now let’s talk heroines. The heroine is the quarterback of the movie, and as any football fans know, the quarterback is the heart of the team.
The first type of heroine is the career girl. You’ll know you’re dealing with a career girl because the opening scene of the movie will show her rushing into her office or pouring through papers on her desk, always with a cup of coffee in her hand to illustrate how busy and sleep-deprived she is. Nobody outworks her. She’s perfect but something is holding her back from the big win. She’s the Peyton Manning of HCMs. (See Miss Christmas)
Then we’ve got the doormat. She does everything for everyone and never thinks of herself. She lets everyone trample on her, always putting her team/family/office first. (See A Wish for Christmas) You’ll know her because in the opening scene her best friend, co-worker, or boss is piling their work upon her, ignoring her half-hearted protests. She is the quarterback who is always getting sacked despite his best efforts, because he gets no support from his offensive line. Think Ben Roethlisberger.
Finally you’ve got the hometown girl, who’s carved out a lovely life running a coffee shop/dress shop/bakery in an idyllic town with quaint Christmas traditions. She’s just waiting to show a stressed-out man from the big city the pleasures of small town living. (See Marry Me at Christmas) This is your Alex Smith, managing the game and minimizing losses until the right personnel shows up to take you to the big dance.
The similarities are endless. Shall I go on?
Hero/heroine realize they’re in love only to have it snatched away by a misunderstanding? That’s a holding penalty calling back a touchdown.
Hero and heroine about to kiss before a rude interruption? Blocked punt.
Jealous mother/ex interfering in a perfectly good romance? Pass interference.
Random group of people who sing Christmas carols and are never heard from again? Halftime show.
No steamy sex? Hey, you can’t rough the passer either.
Finally, no discussion of HCMs would be complete without Lacey Chabert. She never made ‘fetch’ happen, but she’s the undisputed queen of the HCM.
By my count, Chabert has starred in at least eleven HCMs. Chabert can play the career girl, the doormat, and the hometown girl. She always gets the win—whether she’s facing an arrogant business man who won’t hear her pitch, an oven that breaks down just before the big baking competition, or a prickly Queen who doesn’t want her son marrying a commoner, Lacey Chabert always gets her man.
Lacey Chabert is the Tom Brady of Hallmark Christmas movies. Love them or hate them, neither one is coming home this season without a ring on their finger.