While most Americans are gathering around the television for their annual binge of Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, the left has been busy trashing the outlet for a too-white holiday lineup.
The assault on the popular holiday tradition started this month with Salon.com’s report. The article is entitled “A super white Christmas: The Hallmark Channel gives us TV’s most homogeneous view of the holiday; Hallmark’s white Christmas tales have hooked holiday viewers while leaving minority actors out in the cold”:
Unless you’re a holiday die-hard or a regular Hallmark viewer you may be wondering why this matters. Let’s begin with the obvious statement that holiday-themed viewing plays a huge role in the annual traditions of all kinds of families. So, yes, this is a cultural representation issue and one made especially disheartening when you take into account the way these movies sell a nostalgia for a false, if durable, vision of an America that never existed. But it’s also a problem of hiring and economics.
Sugar-spun traits of “real” America dominate Hallmark’s movie plots through the year, in fact. Plots typically involve characters from or living in the mythological small towns of “real” America, melting the hard hearts of big-city folks or bah humbug grinches with their honest optimism and pure, decent values.
After watching a few of Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas films, the network’s burgeoning red-state appeal comes into focus. As much as these movies offer giddy, predictable escapes from Trumpian chaos, they all depict a fantasy world in which America has been Made Great Again. Real and fictional heartland small towns with names such as Evergreen and Cookie Jar are as thriving as their own small businesses, and even a high school art teacher (played by Trump supporter and the face of Hallmark, Candace Cameron Bure) can afford a lavishly renovated Colonial home. They brim with white heterosexuals who exclusively, emphatically, and endlessly bellow “Merry Christmas” to every lumberjack and labradoodle they pass.
They’re centered on beauty-pageant heroines and strong-jawed heroes with white-nationalist haircuts. There are occasional sightings of Christmas sweater–wearing black people, but they exist only to cheer on the dreams of the white leads, and everyone on Trump’s naughty list—Muslims, gay people, feminists—has never crossed the snowcapped green-screen mountains to taint these quaint Christmas villages. “Santa Just Is White” seems to be etched into every Hallmark movie’s town seal.
Not to be left out of race-baiting holiday fare, National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed staffer Linda Holmes, who confessed she loves the Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. But Holmes was challenged by the NPR host: “This has now gotten political because the other thing about [Hallmark Christmas movies] is that they are predominantly white people playing these characters.”
“Well, as you say, overwhelmingly, they are about white people,” Holmes said. “And there have been little tiny steps. They made one this year with Alexa PenaVega and her husband, Carlos PenaVega. And they were explicitly written in the film as a Latino family. But for the most part, that’s not the case.”
“And I think the thing that’s funny about that is one of the main demographics they’re trying to appeal to – a lot of it, I would generalize is somewhat older religious people,” Holmes said. “A lot of older religious people are black people and Latino people and all of that. So it’s funny to me that they haven’t made the decision – hey, you know, we’re leaving a lot of money on the table.”
Eric Deggans, NPR’s television critic, chimed in, saying Hallmark’s Christmas movies are “way too white.”
But Business Insider reported that Americans love what Hallmark Channel has to offer during the Christmas season:
In 2016, Hallmark movies attracted over 2 million live viewers, though by November and December those numbers spiked to 4 million, according to Nielsen. The rating record was set by Candace Cameron Bure’s “Christmas Under Wraps,” in 2014, and it actually just added a third cable network, Hallmark Drama, on top of its core network and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries – all part of the Crown Media Family Networks division of Hallmark Cards.
Crown Media president and CEO Bill Abbot chalks the success up to a commitment to the formula.
“The business has been so driven by trying to hit the home run, trying to replicate the success of ‘The Walking Dead,'” he said. “Hits are very hard to find. That’s a very risky strategy. And it’s detrimental to the cable industry.”