After stuffing my face with approximately 1,000 times my body weight of turkey, sweet potatoes and ice cream last week, I spent the rest of my vacation “letting my food settle” by laying on the couch with my family watching copious amounts of Hallmark Christmas movies.
These are the polar opposite of the dramatic and “gritty” Lifetime movies that are so fun and pulpy. Hallmark movies usually end with the gigantic and exciting climax of a chaste kiss and are billed as “quality family entertainment.”
After watching way too many of these than I care to admit (around six) I was conflicted. You pretty much know what you’re getting with a movie like this – the female protagonist is having relationship/work problems and solves them by discovering the true meaning of Christmas while simultaneously falling in love with whatever generic looking man happens to be hovering around her at the time. Superficially this is great if you want to see cute winter fashions, lots of Christmas decorations and a cheesy relationship that’s totally not plausible in the real world. But also right on the surface of these movies is a really uncomfortable portrayal of women and what “truly matters” to them.
Without fail our heroine needs the help of a man to succeed either at work or personally, and then once she gets what she’s been working towards, she gives it up to be with our generic male lead, who she hasn’t even kissed once.
Is this an oversimplification? No.
It literally happened in the majority of the movies I watched. To the degree of the woman actually saying, “This is what I’ve been working for all my life” only in the next scene to give it up without a thought and whip out one of those classic lines like, “but then I discovered home is with you” or conveniently accepting a similar job in the same city so they could stay with their boring suitor. There’s no compromise, no real world conversations that would precede a big decision like this, just a woman giving up her life’s dream and a man blandly smiling back ready to be her hubby forever. Bonus points if he’s a sad divorcee or widower with a child under six. Then she gets a husband and family all in one move! Every woman’s secret dream!
This is not to say that family and love shouldn’t be valued or put first. That’s the beauty of feminism my friends, to each their own. It just gets a little tiring watching the same trope playing out over and over again. Clearly the message is that “true” happiness is found at home with a husband and kids and the ONLY way to get that happiness is to give up a career or lower your ambition at work. I’m sure this is the reality for many women and it’s an unfair choice that men aren’t expected to make.
I’d love to see a Hallmark movie about having it all – if we’re going to romanticize women’s lives, we might as well make them Martha Stewart and POTUS all at once and watch them flawlessly run the world in a dress and heels. To all you bosses out there balancing it all, I salute you and Hallmark should start doing so as well.