When it comes to the holidays, it’s sugar, spice and everything nice.
But there’s one equation that has a bit more detail, and it’s at the heart of every holiday Hallmark movie. With this year’s lineup in full swing, I wanted to take a look at the boxes a film has to check off to be considered an instant Christmas classic.
First, the story begins with an unfortunate circumstance. The exposition is meant to set up some sort of disaster for the exceptionally beautiful main character, who is usually a white woman in her early thirties. Often she’s wildly successful in either marketing or advertising. Apparently, there are very few career options for Hallmark characters.
Whether an elderly relative has passed and left her an estate or she embarks on a penultimate business trip only to be stranded due to car trouble, there must always be the initial trigger that lands our poor heroine right in the middle of Christmas Town, USA.
This snow globe town may be the place our lead is running from, where she’s probably left behind a very handsome first love who cuts down Christmas trees for a living and is mysteriously still single after all these years. Or perhaps her car happens to break down in the one-mile stretch these people call a town. Either way, there’s a cookie cutter man waiting to save the day.
However, she most likely has a (seriously creepy to all who are watching) corporate boyfriend she intends to marry, who will later on surprise her at her stranded location solely to stir things up before the resolution. This will be days later, of course, because the selfish jerk is usually too tied up in his own business endeavors to come rescue the supposed love of his life.
The first half of the movie is centered on the leading lady pushing back against the constant stream of hot cocoa, kind gestures and nauseatingly perfect moments being forced down her throat. No life can be this perfect, but Hallmark’s goal is to make you wish it was.
Eventually, the handsome new love interest convinces our main character that the incredibly successful lifestyle she has poured her soul into is actually nothing compared to zero cell service and having everyone in a two-mile radius know all of your dirty laundry. Oh, and true love. And don’t forget to add in the spirit of Christmas, which the audience watches the characters slowly begin to believe in as the minutes pass.
By the time the pesky current significant other pulls into town or the bank threatens to take away grandma’s failing business that she willed to a grandchild who hasn’t visited in years, the main character has had a massive change of heart. She somehow rallies the town together to fight back against her corporate lifestyle (who is probably trying to buy her business or take her back to the big city she actually lives in) and win the hearts of everyone.
The finale comes in the form of a kiss with her small town soul mate, which must be saved until the last scene.
As someone guilty of binge-watching Hallmark movies once Thanksgiving passes, I’ve seen this plot play out countless times. The reason Hallmark is able to make the same movie year after year is because there are people in the world who cherish these predictable and safe stories.
Maybe it’s because we know by the end everything will be wrapped up in a bright and beautiful Christmas bow. The bad guys will have lost the battle and our beloved main character will finally seal her happy ending with a kiss. It’s a tale as old as time surrounded by snow and mistletoe.
If the goal of these films is to spread a little joy and Christmas cheer for those who, like me, are willing to suspend their disbelief long enough to make it to the credits, then it seems this equation has just the right components to equal success.