Soraya Roberts, at Walrus, on the other hand, is repelled by the coziness of it all, and offended by the fact that Hallmark movies are typically not about her.
Watching a Hallmark movie is like taking half a benzo in an Ikea showroom in the middle of Stockholm. It is a mild, innocuous soporific propped up by a staged, suburban, pseudo-elegant scene populated by a large number of nice-looking white people. I was disturbed to find myself moderately engaged by Switched for Christmas, the most-viewed Hallmark telecast in history (5.8 million viewers, including me), which stars Candace Cameron Bure as a pair of barely human twin tropesâ€”city slicker, country bumpkinâ€”who pull a Parent Trap for the holidays. â€œOur lives couldnâ€™t be more different,â€ oneâ€”it barely matters whichâ€”exclaims as their interchangeable, white-as-snow narratives are mildly shaken up like a marked-down snow globe.
Here, the houses are cut out of catalogues, the kids look like young Republicans, and Happy the dog gets top billing. Thereâ€™s even a flour fight during a baking scene, all of which adds up to a series of vaguely animated stock images you may find by googling the word â€œwholesome.â€ Everythingâ€”the acting, the set, the storyâ€”is as flatly palatable as, well, a Hallmark card. â€œWe are a place you can go and feel good,â€ Bill Abbott, the CEO of Crown Media, which owns the Hallmark Channel, recently told the Washington Post. But Abbott, it seems, has mistaken sedation for pleasure.
This particular tranquilizer is designed specifically for a white, conservative audience, enveloping the parade of Pleasantvilles in a sinister frame. Its audience loudly touts traditional family values and charity while less loudly opposing multiculturalism, gender fluidity, and homosexuality. According to the Post, Hallmarkâ€™s ratings surged in 2015 when Donald Trump arrived on the political landscape and have continued to soar since, with a number of husbands joining the predominantly female demographic. While every other channel is losing viewers to Netflix, Hallmarkâ€”which calls itself â€œthe heart of TVâ€â€”is commanding almost as much attention as the news.
â€œItâ€™s clean and I just donâ€™t enjoy cussing,â€ a Georgia grandma told E! News in October. The sentiment was echoed by a North Carolina senior who said, â€œThere is no profanity nor any offensive sex acts in any movie I have ever seen.â€ A middle-aged Minnesotan added, â€œThere are no politics, there is no crime, no hate, no war.â€ (Even Netflix appears to be attracted, releasing its own Hallmark-style fare this year in the form of A Christmas Prince and Christmas Inheritance.)
This brand of good, clean fun, however, is not for everyone. These films are relegated to the lives of upper-middle-class white folk, the implication being that swearing and sex and strife is the province of the misguided, the folks of colour, the poor folk, the un-Christian folk. With Christmas marketed as the ultimate aspirational holiday, itâ€™s no wonder that Hallmark responds with such anemic offerings.
In other words, white people should not be permitted to watch things that white people like. They should presumably instead be watching more edifying films chronicling the travails of the sexually dysphoric and airing the grievances of persons of color.