The Hallmark Channel recently had the top-rated show on a Saturday evening with 4.6 million viewers. The show was the movie “Christmas at Graceland.”
I didn’t see this particular movie but I’ve watched quite a few of the Hallmark Christmas movies over the past few years. Frankly they’re bad. Corny and just bad. Usually not well written and not very well acted, although it’s hard to fault the actors given what they have to work with. You have to laugh at the constantly recurring themes:
A city woman returns to her home town, often called Christmas Village or something; she meets a guy and they butt heads at first, but eventually see the good in each other; the family home is about to be sold but she decides to buy it and move back home; it’s a lifestyle downgrade, but she takes a job at her father’s company or takes over running the family business. Sometimes it takes place in the big city, but it still involves a big city sophisticate of some kind, who realizes she needs to shed her tough outer shell, stop being so ambitious, and let Christmas soften her heart. There’s never a scene that doesn’t include Christmas decorations, whether indoors or outdoors, and no matter what room in the house. And there’s always a climactic kiss near the end.
So why do so many people watch them?
I have a nephew who is a partner in a Big Four accounting firm, and he says he loves them, simply because they’re clean and wholesome and always have a happy ending. I started watching them because my wife enjoyed them and they were fun to watch with her, but I have to admit that I started to enjoy them too. They’re not my favorite thing and they can get monotonous. But my nephew is right, their clean-and-wholesomeness is appealing.
I think the nub of the matter is that they take Christmas seriously. Granted, the vast majority of them make no mention of Jesus. Some do mention God and prayer, and they don’t shy away from explicitly Christian carols like Silent Night and O Holy Night. Characters often wear crosses around their necks. But apart from the religious aspect, they take Christmas seriously in the sense that they don’t treat it ironically. It’s not the generic “Holiday,” nor is it Santa and His Elves Day. They don’t wink at Christmas, as though assuming that sophisticates like us know better than to take it seriously. It’s Christmas straight-up, imbued with power and beauty and goodness, a thing we need deep down in our souls.
A lot of people are tired of the constant barrage of irony and cynicism with regard to Christmas. We’ll put up with corniness because we crave earnestness.