After the childhood happiness that the holiday season evokes, I wasn’t super about it. There’s the extreme commercialism and this idea that my love is now measured by how great of a gift-giver I am. In an ideal situation, I’d consider myself a thoughtful person, but add in my habitual procrastination and it’s whatever catches my eye at Target on December 23rd. Note: I am a Christmas celebrator but I do not discriminate in my television choices.
Given that, I am not sure why in recent years I’ve grown to enjoy the season a little more. With 2015 being my first in a few without a portfolio looming over me, I was so ready to consume way too much television and all the made-for-TV movies out there.
Hallmark was my go-to. I’d heard the rumors that come Halloween, all they played were these not-so-cinematic, poor acting films, and I was ready to eat it up. With every new movie I consumed, I was quickly noticing something was off. There was the fact that I hadn’t left the couch in hours and my legs were starting to go numb. But there was also something looming over me about what was – or rather, what was not – pouring from my television screen. And those, my friends, were people not of the White, heterosexual, Christian variety.
That’s right, not a single non-Christmas movie. No gay characters. No people of color. How is it possible that in 2015/2016, we don’t have any diversity in our made-for-tv movies? Now we can go into a long-drawn out discussion about how shitty Hollywood is to folks from underrepresented groups, #oscarssoWhite (and we probably will at some point during the life of this blog) but for now I’ll focus on the loveliness that is Hallmark. 2015 was the year that the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage constitutional. It was a year #BlackTwitter dropped knowledge on all of us and called us out for being complacent in the oppression of others. While it was also a year that saw the murder of too many folks of color and too many non-indictments and one-super racist, fascist presidential hopeful, there were so many media outlets trying to say “no, not me.” And if you’re saying “it wasn’t me” then wouldn’t you try extra hard to not be ignorant and to tell more diverse stories? Because let’s be real, most of these Hallmark movies were made in the year leading into the winter season. They’re not-made with multi-million dollar budgets, A-list celebrities, or infinite access to the best sets. At their core, they are all a rendition of the same story but just set in a different city. So, forgive me for thinking it would be sooooo easy to cast more folks of color or to add a same-sex couple.
Now I don’t know much about Hallmark and to be honest, I didn’t do any additional research about the channel for this blog because you learn someone’s / a company’s / an organization’s values by what they do, not what they say. And Hallmark said a lot through their choices this holiday season. So my guess is it’s run by a bunch of White, Christian, hetero-sexual males.
Why men do I think? Well, one, isn’t everything? And two, let’s talk about the horrendous way women are portrayed in these Christmas movies.
We are seen as some add on – only there for the straight man’s gaze.
There was actually a movie called “A Family for Christmas” or something ridiculous like that. The main character, played by Lacey Chabert, or Gretchen Wieners for the Mean Girl fans out there, made her career a priority for years and was living the life in the city. And one day, she gets a Facebook friend request from an ex. And then, Santa gives her a miracle and she wakes up married to this White man with two children. After all, that is the American dream. No White-picket fence, but there should have been.
At first, she is totally caught off guard – as one would be who woke up not in their own bed with a near stranger in the burbs. But throughout the course of the movie, she comes to enjoy this life and her sticky-hand children (in my experience, children are always sticky). And one day, the miracle comes to an end.
This is where I begin to think, “Come on Hallmark!” And I pray that she wakes up and thinks, “thank goodness that’s not my life. I love my career and I love my life.” Not that there is anything wrong with wanting or having a family. I’m just tired of the societal shame aimed at women who choose not to (or can’t) have a family. And for the protagonist to have any other reaction would be to insinuate that her life is somehow less than the one forced upon her by Santa.
But alas, that same thing happens and she drives to the burbs and scares the crap out of a random stranger living in the house she believes belongs to her and her dream of a family.
She promptly hunts down Santa pissed off that he took her family from her. And he tells her that he cannot change the decisions she’s already made and the false-reality was just to show her what her life could be if she made different choices moving forward. So, she responds to the cutie’s Facebook friend request.
I suppose he was cute enough but not so cute to make me throw away my whole life – no one is that cute.
And Hallmark once again shames women who have made their career a priority. We are selfish creatures. Because as you should know, we were placed on this earth to procreate. To be the pot for someone else’s seed and to care for those offspring while our men go out and work, chasing their dreams.
I did not sign up to be someone’s sidekick. I will be the star of my own life and if a family happens later, I will not resent the time I have spent chasing my dreams. Nor will I stop doing so. But I also anticipate that if I choose to enter into a partnership and we jointly decide to have children, my partner will know my ambition and never dream of asking me to give that up. And should I choose single-parenthood, I will be an example to my child that ambition is never a bad thing. And also, I will block the Hallmark channel on our television set.