Christmas Warmth is not Always Romance

I just feel like I have to rant a bit.  I am honestly tired of the Hallmark Channel making Christmas all about romance.  I really am annoyed with that.  It doesn’t even address rekindled romances with married couples who aren’t separated or divorced (as the movie The Bishop’s Wife does).  Most of us really enjoy watching stories about folks in situations like our own, and they aren’t delivering.

That’s the appeal of The Christmas Story, and that’s why it can play for a whole 24 hour period, knowing there will be a large enough audience for each hour of airtime. In that movie, Dad and Mom are quirky, but they seem to have a real affection for each other, and their kids, with an enthusiasm for life.  Add some holiday twists to their situation, and there you go!  It turns into something iconic for the season.  Even if we’re single, we don’t end up feeling lonely and left out, like a romance story can do.  We were once kids ourselves, and the story is told from the oldest child’s point of view.  So we become a bit nostalgic – and most of Christmas is about nostalgia. We can see how our parents may have been like his parents in some ways, and we snicker.  Or we just feel the warmth of remembering our parent’s enthusiasm for filling in their family roles.  If we’re parents now, we may see ourselves in his parent’s actions and cringe with a blush – but it’s all in good fun and utterly warmhearted.  These parents aren’t brutish or crass, but they are imperfect – the thing is that they are present and accounted for come what may.  Even if a pack of dogs eat the turkey – someone remembers the Chinese restaurant is open and gets the family there for dinner. That’s all any kid ever needs to feel solidly loved and good about who they are. To have parents who are present and don’t bail.

With every Hallmark movie turning into a romance story, they are turning many of us away in droves.  Young kids don’t want romance.  To them, the opposite sex is viewed with some suspicion.  They are either an utter bother, or they can be acceptable playmates – until they aren’t. So, all of those romance movies are not usually good for family viewing.

Some of us are happily single, or just not drawn into the fiction of romantic dialogs that no one can match in real life without a script (that’s another blog for another day).  I’m not too old for affectionate relationships with family and even good friends who I adore.  I just don’t enjoy watching a young couple I don’t know working out their romantic complications. I won’t enjoy their romance story in a vicarious way at all.  I have many friends who are my age who would push me away and say that they love a good romance; but Hallmark is cranking them out so cheaply that they aren’t even putting out GOOD romances.  So even these friends are sighing in discomfort and wishing there was better stuff to watch.

My point is that most of the world doesn’t revolve around romance, though there is a market for it if it is done well and in the right places.  You need a real story to go with the romance that caters to the rest of us,  – like Miracle on 34th Street did or as they did with The Lemon Drop Kid.  Or even as It’s a Wonderful Life worked.  There’s a romance in It’s a Wonderful Life, but the story is about how lives are valued. Since Christmas is an easy crisis point for anyone’s life – it’s become iconic and is watched and enjoyed by folks of all ages and stages.

You get something like White Christmas produced as a movie, with all of the over the top pageantry and a distinctively appealing song that wasn’t about romance, and that becomes the formula for success that keeps the family watching it over the years (though kids can be bored with the story, which makes it a good bedtime movie).

Some think they can’t make ‘em like that anymore “because the age of the musical is over”.  Tell that to the folks counting the revenues from Dirty Dancing and High School Musical (both 1 and 2).  There’s an audience, if the story is worthy, the production solid, talent pool dug deeply enough, along with the tunes being catchy and applicable to our lives.  Again, those were centered on romances, but there were enough other things going on to confound or enhance the romance angle that they could draw in those of us who aren’t drawn into romances.

There’s no real explanation for the attraction for A Charlie Brown Christmas beyond the need for something that draws us out of the clamor of the season. It reminds us that we don’t have to be perfect, or drawn into overspending thanks to smooth marketing, or even gathered in a group, to enjoy the holiday’s appeal.  If there’s anything else like that one out there, I don’t know what it could be.

What makes this all a bigger sore point for me, and the reason I am taking Hallmark to task more than the other producers of “Holiday Specials for Family Viewing”, is that I used to enjoy Hallmark’s television specials and looked forward to them every holiday season.  That was long before they had a channel all their own, though.  Now, I don’t even bother turning any of them on without checking to see what the story line is, first.  And every time I check these past few years – it’s some shallow storyline that is poorly produced and always just about a complicated romance – with no strong talent pool performing the script.  Even the commercials for these movies aren’t alluring.

Hallmark – are you listening?

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