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Finding the magic in Hallmark movies

Tyler Vu

This past winter break, I finally had the chance to catch up on plenty of much-needed, stress-free sleep and mentally recover from a very grueling third semester. But more importantly, our family continued a long-standing tradition of watching oodles of Hallmark movies around Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. Many nights, after my mom had a hard day at work, we sat on the couch and powered through a movie or two, spending precious time together. Initially, I was incredibly confused as to why my mom, along with millions of other viewers, loved tuning in to this kitsch every year. If I did sit through a movie, it was typically for the sake of hate-watching and poking holes in the movies’ plots.

Over the years, as I matured and the production quality of Hallmark movies drastically improved, they started to grow on me. While these movies are far from perfect and some ridicule is merited, they do have some positive attributes.

It bothered me that, for the longest time, Hallmark movies always played it relatively safe. That is, they never made movies that seriously addressed real-world issues that many average Americans face. The closest they ever got was adding in a deceased or injured parent or a person who dealt with the aftermath of a bad relationship. While those are common issues people experience, that only scratches the surface and undermines these movies’ relatability. More problematically, these movies often fell short in representing the diversity of American society. Many times, I couldn’t identify with any characters on-screen because their identities were disparate from mine or they didn’t face similar challenges in life. It made these movies forgettable and hard to enjoy.

Fortunately, in recent years, Hallmark has made improvements by including a wider variety of characters in a positive light, particularly those of color and from the LGBTQIA+ community. They’ve also made efforts to tackle meaningful societal topics such as adoption and autism in their movies, which has significantly improved my viewing experience.

One notable example is “Romance in Style.” The movie follows a plus-sized fashion designer who advocates for a dying clothing magazine to include plus-sized fashion to reach a far wider reader base. For an industry that prioritizes starring skinny people, it was refreshing to see a movie featuring someone who didn’t look like a supermodel. Unlike older movies, this movie took a direct shot at the lack of body inclusivity in the fashion industry. But for the first time, I felt seen and heard with this movie; just like the main character, I’ve had struggles with my weight and feeling beautiful in my own body. To see someone like her portrayed in such a positive and empowering light made the movie unforgettable. These recent changes are a step in the right direction, and have only made Hallmark movies more enticing for me to watch.

However, Hallmark still has a ways to go—they could always improve their on-screen representation. And personally, I don’t always appreciate how cheesy and predictable their movies are. Sometimes it’s boring that two people will inevitably meet in the most unexpected way and fall in love, and every single problem will miraculously get resolved in a two-hour time period. And seriously, they could take a break from certain tropes and storylines; for one, not every movie has to have a character whose parent is deceased or have two people fall in love—what’s wrong with just being good friends?

On the flip side, the predictable happy ending and impractical storylines are what makes Hallmark movies so alluring. Let’s face it, the real world can be less than ideal sometimes. Life seems so fast and complicated. On top of the stress of college, many of us are cognizant of ongoing issues such as climate change, women’s rights and the outcome of the 2024 election. Plus, in the real world, problems aren’t solved so easily and bureaucracy often gets in the way. It is easy to feel discouraged that anything will change for the better.

For many, Hallmark movies are perfect because they provide a temporary utopian escape from all of the unlikeable aspects of the real world. We are forced to relax and focus on the positives because in the Hallmark universe everything always ends well. It is truly heartwarming and joyful to watch two people trust each other and fall in love while families grow stronger under adversity. Whenever I feel that nothing is going right, these movies challenge my pessimism and serve as a reminder that good outcomes are not always beyond the possible.

So next winter break, odds are high that I’ll be on the couch with my parents, enjoying more fantastic Hallmark movies.

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About the Contributor
Tyler Vu
Tyler Vu, Graphic Designer
Tyler Vu (he/him) is a second-year majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering. He spends his free time driving around Cleveland to find cool places to eat, going to the gym, losing to the elderly in pickleball or bothering his friends.

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