Hallmark’s sexist tropes are getting boring

If you’ve seen Hallmark Christmas movies, you already know the general storyline.

A woman with a thriving career in a big city is called back to her hometown, where she falls in love with a man and decides to give up her career and the city forever.

That’s what happens in the 2016 Hallmark Movie “Christmas Cookies,” where a woman goes to a small town to shut down a cookie factory — until she falls in love with the factory owner. Or “Christmas Joy” from 2018, where a New York City market researcher on the verge of a promotion is called back home. There, she participates in a “cookie crawl” and falls in love.

Presumably, she never thinks about that silly promotion again.

This year, Hallmark shows like “A Perfect Christmas” (in which an extreme sports reporter returns to her hometown) and “Christmas Town” (where a woman gives up her life in the city of Boston and finds Christmas magic in a small town) will serve up similar helpings of holiday “magic.” Unless your idea of magic is a thriving life in the big city.

Or having a same-sex partnership. Last week, Hallmark found itself in hot water with LGBTQ groups like GLAAD after pulling an ad from the wedding company Zola, in which a lesbian couple kiss at their wedding. A spokesperson for Hallmark said “public displays of affection” went against the channel’s policy — but that’s a little hard to believe when just about every Christmas special ends with a heterosexual couple kissing.

Hallmark executives have since apologized, claiming they are, “and always [have] been, committed to diversity and inclusion.”

Great. Prove it.

Look, Hallmark’s traditional plots are fine. Indeed, they’re fun, nostalgic brain candy for a lot of people. BuzzFeed reported that as of early December, Hallmark had a record-breaking 40 million unduplicated viewers. In past Christmas seasons, these movies have made Hallmark one of the top cable channels watched by women ages 18 to 49, according to Vox. But after 10 years of Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas movies, a tradition that began in 2009, couldn’t they add a little variety?

Hallmark constantly reminds viewers that perfect bliss can be achieved only by forsaking an urban environment for a rural one. If you’re a woman, you should also value marriage over your career. And, as zero of the 40 Hallmark movies being released in 2019 feature an LGBTQ romance as the leading storyline, it goes without saying that marriage should be a heterosexual one.

Well-educated women with good jobs don’t need to give up their lifestyles to enjoy Christmas.

For a lot of us, giving up our jobs and moving away from our city to live in our hometown would mean that something disastrous had happened.

According to CityLab, research indicates that for the past three decades, young adults (ages 25-34) have preferred to live in cities (unlike Baby Boomers or the Greatest Generation).

A paper published in the journal Regional Studies found “rural Americans are becoming less happy relative to urbanites,” and that millennials in particular — the age group that describes the heroines of most of these Hallmark movies — are happiest in cities with a population over 250,000.

Meanwhile, “The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children,” said London School of Economics professor Paul Dolan earlier this year at the Hay festival in Wales.

Shouldn’t there be a Christmas movie for that group of people, too?

Hallmark had better watch out, as Netflix begins increasing its cache of holiday movies with offerings like “A Christmas Prince” (2017) and “Holiday in the Wild” (2019), which are, alas, not much more in keeping with modern women’s tastes, but at least are set in foreign locales like Europe and Africa. In 2017, Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming, told E! Online, “We own Christmas and we are going to do it in a bigger way and a better way and really speak to the spirit of the season that I don’t think any of our competitors do.”

If Hallmark really wants to speak to the spirit of the season, maybe they could make one out of their 213 Christmas movies one that celebrates rather than shames the non-rural working women among us.

I’d love to see one about the businesswoman who works with distressed companies, who bails that small-town Christmas cookie factory out of debt while sitting in her New York penthouse enjoying a glass of mulled wine provided by her admiring partner.

Oh, and in my version, she’s a lesbian.

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