Is the Hallmark Channel Ingenious or Unoriginal?

I do not enjoy Hallmark Christmas movies, on principle. Please do not misunderstand: I love everything about Christmas and I am generally a fan of the happy ending. However, as a self-proclaimed glutton for drama, heartbreak and generally melancholic books, television and movies, my endeavour into the Hallmark vault of Christmas classics was motivated purely by scientific interest. I thought I knew what to expect: cliche-laden plots, meet-cutes in quaint towns, inexplicably perfect Christmas decorations, and last, but certainly not least, the compulsory kiss just before the credits begin to roll. So, when I began my investigation with Hallmark’s 2017 masterpiece, Home For Christmas Day, I was not surprised that the plot revolved around inseparable mother-daughter duo Jane and Betsy, whose two love stories unfolded simultaneously in their town’s local diner. Betsy begins dating active-duty soldier Tyler, and Jackson, the scruffy diner owner and Betsy’s pseudo-father figure, predictably falls for Jane. (Sounding familiar to anyone? I would guess that these Hallmark writers had probably watched their fair share of Gilmore Girls, but I digress.) 

I was not surprised when Jane and Jackson shared their kiss under the mistletoe, nor when false news of Tyler’s death overseas tormented the lovesick Betsy.  I was not even surprised when Tyler returned on Christmas Eve, alive, and merely injured after his deployment. But what I did not expect, was that I cared. I suddenly cared whether Tyler was really dead, or if Jackson finally worked up the courage to profess his feelings for Jane, or if Betsy could have the love story she had always imagined. I do not like Hallmark movies, I had to tell myself. The stories are unimaginative. The plotlines are pointless. I repeated what I knew to be true, but inexplicably, I began to wonder: might I actually like Hallmark movies? With this horrifying suggestion, I decided I must continue on with my journalistic duty: research. After all, my visceral reaction to Home For Christmas Day could have been caused by some moment of weakness, some unexpected pitfall in my scientific venture. As Ebenezer Scrooge suggests of Marley’s ghost, I convinced myself that my initial reaction was “more of gravy than of grave.”

The next two movies were two of the forty “new” 2020 premieres, Christmas On My Mind and A Little Christmas Charm. Yes, both were repetitive and at times, almost painfully unoriginal, following the same formulaic plot and ending with the obligatory Christmas kiss. Yet, once again, I felt strangely invested in the happy endings and the holiday romances. I began to realize that the very same repetitive unoriginality I had previously committed to hate, was what inexplicably drew me to the movies. This, I decided, is why audiences love Hallmark Christmas movies. Each movie features relatable themes, happy endings and uplifting romances.  As Hallmark star Lacey Chabert phrases it, “they’re like comfort food for the spirit.” There is something innately human about finding solace in familiarity, and Hallmark movies ingeniously capitalize on this human propensity during the most nostalgic season of the year: Christmas. 

Soon, I found myself looking forward to Sunday nights when new Hallmark movies would premiere. Yes, every Hallmark Christmas movie seems to have a cliche-laden plot, a meet-cute in a quaint town, and a perfectly-timed kiss just before the credits begin to roll. But even for this jaded reporter who was determined to hate every minute of this experiment, I must admit that Hallmark movies have now become one of my beloved Christmas traditions.