We are in the thick of it. Cheesy Christmas movies about finding love or overcoming odds to bring everyone together for the holidays flood the airwaves on an almost nightly basis. For the next few weeks, every station will show movie after movie that would usually cause us to turn the channel. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, but this is our of hand. With every “new” Christmas movie I wonder how long the insanity can continue.
Actors phone in performances, writers combine stereotype after stereotype, and studios invest as little money as possible to cut a profit. In spite of all of these faults, America can’t get enough. Of course, we wouldn’t put up with this under normal circumstances. No one would pay money to see something like this at the movie theater (though plot predictability is becoming increasingly pervasive.) And yet during Christmas and Valentines, all the rules are suspended as the idealism of Hallmark takes over.
The popularity of these movies tells us more about ourselves than we would like to admit. When we consider the sheer volume of our consumption, it becomes clear that we are searching for something; something that we are lacking.
We cannot miss the irony of Americans feeling that we lack something. America is perhaps one of the wealthiest societies in human history. Most people throughout history would give anything to have what we take for granted. And yet, in the midst of our material excess, we turn on movies to escape.
For ninety minutes we can escape to a different world, much like our own but very different. This world is an idealized one where, at the end of ninety minutes, everything is made right. As much as the setting resembles our world, the world itself is quite different than our own. In our world, the story doesn’t play out along predictable storylines, life doesn’t stop when two people fall in love, and happily ever after is a pipe dream.
These stories, though painfully predictable, appear to provide what all of our material goods cannot, fulfillment. Regardless of how much technology afford us in the way of connectivity, we still want to have in-person contact with people that is not impeded by technology. For everything that we have bought with the implied promise that it would offer some fulfillment, we have experienced the inevitable letdown when it doesn’t.
All the presents under the tree ring hollow if they are just more gifts that will get old and break in the course of time. Into this emptiness, C-List movies step in and remind us that there is more to this season than bows and bells. While commercials flood our screens telling about the next “great” thing, these movies point beyond the thin veneer of materialism to the shadow of substance.
And yet, their promises ring hollow because we all know that they aren’t reality. These movies offer us an escape. They are the ideal of how we wish things could be. As we come face to face with the Hallmarkification of Christmas, we come face to face with our discontent because the things in which we have sought happiness cannot ultimately deliver.