Why you might love Hallmark holiday movies even though they’re cheesy

In October, Jenna Golden embarked on the same ritual she’s used to mark the holiday season for the past three years: watching all of Hallmark’s holiday movies in order and writing concise reviews, which ‘she tweets.

This winter, the channel best known for its gift-wrapped romances released a record 41 holiday movies, and Golden is committed to watching them all. When people who know her find out that she does this, they are surprised, she said; she generally watches more sophisticated prestige programs.

Golden, a 37-year-old media and political strategist based in Washington, DC, is Jewish and does not celebrate Christmas. But stereotypical accounts of a woman from a big city returning to a small town in time to save a Christmas tradition and find herself – and love – still appeal to her, she said.

When she first started watching them five years ago, she did so with irony. Golden thought she would be “able to laugh at them.” It will be fun, it will be light and it will be easy, ”she said. “And it was all true. But at the same time, I think there was a part of me that started to be like, “I actually kind of like it. “”

Now she describes her viewing and column as “very dedicated”. As much as she enjoys movies – and some much more than others, she said – she is also studying the genre as a cottage industry, as competitors like Lifetime, Netflix and Hulu have jumped in to the fray for trying to take advantage of the holiday movie. .

She said she watched the Hallmark Channel with approval as it tried to increase diversity with black, Asian and gay characters, following long-standing criticism of its lack of on-screen representation. This has been especially true, she said, after her parent company, Crown Media Family Networks, appointed Wonya Lucas, a black woman, as the new chief executive this year. Former chief executive Bill Abbott left the company in January after the company faced backlash for removing an ad featuring a same-sex couple.

Golden is not the only one. Social media is constantly discussing the best vacation movies across networks and platforms. And Baltimore Ravens football coach John Harbaugh recently said he was “a Hallmark movie guy” at a press conference.

There are actually psychological foundations that some of us may crave silliness for, experts say.

“There’s a lot of dopamine and oxytocin that is released by watching these things,” said T. Makana Chock, a media psychology researcher at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. “They can be very stressful. They make you happier.

There is also the common thread of family and community ties in the storytelling that as humans we are wired to aspire, Chock said: Usually the heroine or hero has been ‘isolated from the group’ and is left to pursue a career. When they come back and “end up saving the farm from the Christmas trees” or whatever, it can be compelling to viewers, she added.

“It’s basically stories about other people with small-scale dramas that aren’t big, going to war in a way. These are romantic dramas, these are family stories. We want to know how other people engage, and that really appeals to our core motivations, ”she said.

Like Golden, Lauren Locklear began to watch vacation movies with irony. In her early 30s, she was single, lived in Colorado and away from family and friends, she said, some of whom were moving into married life with children. “I just needed a bit of the comfort food equivalent, where there is always a happy ending,” she said.

Then, last year, Locklear moved to Arlington, Virginia, and the pandemic further accentuated his demanding work schedule. That’s when she really increased her audience, she said. The options available on streaming platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime “are more targeted to a younger audience, they’ve almost become, like, ironically cool,” she said.

“I think a lot of people like them just because they’re so weird,” added Locklear, who is now 34. She watches a movie with several of her friends in a group chat every other Monday, she said.

For Ebonie Hill, friends were also a big part of her foray into the Hallmark films. Three years ago, she said, she got divorced and a friend of hers recommended that she watch the movies as a way to cope with that first vacation as a single parent with two children.

“The winter has been very hard. There was financial strain, there was emotional strain, ”said the 35-year-old Honors College program coordinator at Oklahoma State University.

She had never watched anything on the channel before, but she tuned into “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” a 2008 film starring Brooke Burns and Henry Winkler.

“I remember sitting there watching him in the middle of my living room, sobbing because it was my first Christmas (alone), trying to figure out how I was going to make it work for my family for me,” a- she declared. “And during those two hours, I was like, ‘This is great. “”

After that, she got hooked. Hill is black and Hawaiian and didn’t expect to see someone looking like her in the movies, she said. But she continued to watch them diversify, which she appreciates. She and her friend always make it a point to watch movies together, even on Zoom, she said.

Even though that first Hallmark movie was cheesy, she said, it was the balm she needed. She remembers thinking, “There is a happy forever, and I need a happy forever in my life right now.” “

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