In 2014, the University of Michigan conducted a study that linked the media we consume on television to the information we adopt as factual. 625 college students responded to survey questions after “exposure to three romantic screen media genres.” Results showed that watching romantic-themed films for longer time periods led to a higher tendency of believing that “love finds a way.”
Consuming various content can give us insight into different perspectives, encroaching upon our outlooks that shape our own romantic ideals. But is this always a negative thing? Many rom com experts (AKA me) don’t think so.
Perhaps the most polarizing of romantic content are Hallmark films. To date, the Hallmark Channel has accumulated 39 total Christmas movies and one Hanukkah flick. According to the Hallmark Channel, it is always Christmas after people have removed their rotting jack o’lanterns from their porches in early November. If avid enjoyers of the channel’s originals, such as my unapologetic self, made a Venn diagram of the tropes and characteristics present in each film, all would lay in the overlapping section. For over a decade, Hallmark Christmas movies have been a staple during the merry season, offering us familiarity through their predictable outcomes.
Fan favourites such as Mean Girls alum Lacey Chabert (who is still trying to make “fetch” happen) and Ryan Paevey of General Hospital are signed to iron-clad contracts to regurgitate the same role over and over again. The love-to-hate, hate-to-love channel pumps out film after film where romance is always in the air. Profound romantic gestures are seen as common, emotions and feelings are readily talked about, and rejection is bittersweet as every side character’s acute job is to bring happiness to the heroine of the story. The main female always has curled hair, she applies makeup at the crack of dawn, and her outfits are always in season. The characters endure no trepidations, missteps, nor confrontations. Love is easy and comes without delay. The kind and handsome coffee/flower/bakery shop frequently almost always becomes the male love interest. Already loved by the film’s 700-person town, he succeeds in winning the heroine’s heart, all while she realizes the gruffer, slightly obtuse nominee may not be as well suited for her heart as she thought.
Everyone loves the promise of new beginnings. Equipped with the merry season, Hallmark delivers feelings of better days that warm our hearts. Commodifying familiarity, Hallmark films present themselves as more than entertainment. Their predictable plot lines and repetitive character tropes provide viewers with comfort during the often-stressful holiday season.