Morris: A Bit of Hallmark Christmas Brightens this Old World
by Leo Morris
I have a confession. It’s not exactly a guilty pleasure, but something I am a little embarrassed to admit in public. I am hopelessly addicted to Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.
If you’ve ever seen one of them, you’ve seen all of them. You can tell 10 minutes in exactly where the movie is going and how it’s going to get there. You can stop watching anytime and go do something else for as long as you like, then come back and find you haven’t missed a thing.
There is always a plucky but horribly misguided heroine who has somehow lost the magic of Christmas. She has an arrogant, self-involved jerk of a boyfriend or fiancé who is absolutely wrong for her, which everyone else in the world can plainly tell. Through some improbable circumstance, she meets another man and instantly dislikes him because he is such the opposite of the one true love she always felt destined for. But events force them together, and it is clear – to everyone but them – that they are gradually falling in love.
About three-quarters of the way in, there is a dismaying (to them) but completely predictable (to us) setback. There is a horrible misunderstanding leading to hurt feelings, perhaps due to the jerk’s last-minute attempt to win the woman he’s been awful to for the whole rest of the movie. Finally, though, the magic of Christmas takes over, and the two people we knew should be together end up together.
The Hallmark movies are just awful, they truly are. The acting is amateurish, the direction non-existent, the dialogue juvenile and silly, the plots preposterous or shamelessly stolen from better movies or both. Even the sets look cheap and shoddy. There is usually snow so obviously fake you can almost see the desert heat shimmering at the edges.
But there I am in front of them whenever I have the time to spare, and sometimes when I don’t. They’ve been running non-stop since before Thanksgiving, and today I find myself so immersed in a parallel universe of such treacly sentimentality and pathological optimism that it will likely be months before I am of any use to anybody in the real world.
I suppose it is the movies’ utter predictability that attracts me as I try to recapture the sense of certainty from a couple of childhood experiences. One was sitting with my father as he watched his beloved professional wrestling matches, cheering for the hero who would always win and hissing at the villain who would always lose, no matter what dastardly tricks he pulled. The other was reading paperback Western novels I borrowed from my older cousin. It annoyed my brother mightily that I would always go to the last chapter and read it first. The reason, I explained patiently to him, was that in a Western, the good guy is supposed to get the girl and ride off into the sunset at the end. If that wasn’t going to happen, then I wasn’t going to waste my time on the stupid thing.
Since childhood, I have spent a career living in and writing about the realm of politics and politicians, where nothing is as it seems, you can’t trust what anybody says about anything, and the endings that unfold just as you knew they would are never guaranteed to be happy ones.
It’s been on the whole a rewarding life, and I don’t regret immersing myself in the messy, sometimes unpleasant swamp of the real world in search of a few good paths through it. Humankind is poised today, Charles Krauthammer has written, both on the brink of wondrous breakthroughs and at the edge of horrific missteps. Getting our politics right is the only way we have of finding the wonder and avoiding the horror.
But it can surely wear a person down and make him despair a little for the human race. I think we can all use an occasional break in which we embrace the fantasy of knowing 10 minutes in that everything will unfold just as it is supposed to, whether we’re playing close attention or not.
Leo Morris, columnist and Christmas elf for The Indiana Policy Review, is this year’s winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.