Halloween is over, which means that Christmas is officially here (at least according to Dublin City Council, who already have the Christmas lights up). With the Christmas season comes the inevitable slew of terribly-written, badly-acted Christmas films that we all seem to end up watching despite the vast quantity of better things we could be doing with our time.
Let me specify what kind of Christmas films we’re talking about here. You know the ones: they have Christmas in the title, so they’re easy to identify. They’re cheesy to the point of physical cringing, starring a mixture of fresh-faced young bloods and veteran teen-drama actors who can’t get any other work and are trying to stay relevant. These films can be found in various places, but they are mainly made by the Hallmark Channel, Lifetime and Netflix. They’re often some of the most popular films on these platforms, and it’s now become the norm that a huge number of them are churned out at an unbelievable rate each and every Christmas season. And why exactly is that, you may ask? Well, quite simply, they make a tonne of money.
In 2017, 17.6 million people watched the opening weekend of the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas season, while in 2018, their Christmas programming (‘Countdown to Christmas’) pulled in almost 70 million viewers (and that’s without counting how many people watched ‘Miracles of Christmas’, on their sister channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries). With each Hallmark Christmas film costing approximately $2million to make, the profit Hallmark is making from ad revenue and product placement from these films is mind-boggling. Similar figures aren’t available from Netflix, who keeps schtum on anything related to their viewership and money, but given their Twitter account’s 2017 callout to the 53 people who watched ‘A Christmas Prince’ for 18 days in a row, it’s safe to assume that their numbers are around the same.
To put it bluntly, these Christmas films are nothing but a cash grab. They’re all the same, with no artistic merit to them whatsoever. Typically, they follow a good-looking girl with an unsatisfactory life and at least one dead relative, who is given a big Christmas-related opportunity that will change her life. In the midst of this, she meets a boy, who is usually some sort of rival at first, but over the course of about a week they’ll fall in love, until girl messes it up. Following a heart-to-heart, some tears and soul-searching, boy eventually forgives girl with a big romantic gesture just in time for them to enjoy Christmas together. Throw in fake snow, a soundtrack consisting exclusively of songs with the word ‘Christmas’ in them and some of the worst dialogue ever known to man, and you’ve got yourself a Netflix Christmas film. Every single one of these films is some sort of variation of this, with usually the only difference being a prince or a princess of some fake-sounding country replacing a main character. The acting is subpar at best, the music is average, and the sets are nothing special either. Even the actors in them are aware of how stupid they are, with Rose McIver, star of ‘A Christmas Prince’, posting a picture on Instagram of a review of the film’s sequel that called it “Beautiful, royal garbage”, with the caption “Awww they called us beautiful!”. It seems the actors themselves only sign on to these films for the salaries, not because they feel a connection with the script. In the end, it’s just about money. These films are all so generic, it’s genuinely hard to differentiate them. Although the optimist in me hopes that they’re being made due to people’s passion for film-making, the realist in me knows that they’re made purely for profit.
However, although these films give you second-hand embarrassment, they’re not totally unwatchable. If anything, sometimes they’re fun to watch just to laugh at their ridiculousness. They’re easy to watch, which means that for a brief moment, you can escape the stress of your daily life by watching stupid, gorgeous people fall in love at Christmastime. However, watching these pointless films leads to companies like Netflix, making more money-grabbing Christmas films, which results in the quality of their films generally getting worse; it doesn’t give much hope for the future of the film industry. Imagine a world in which all films weren’t made for the sake of art, but solely for profit, with just enough effort thrown together to make a film that’s barely watchable. It’s a bleak thought, to be honest.
For the sake of film-making, we should be strong and hold out for a decent Christmas film, instead of “A Christmas Calendar”, which made me feel hollow for wasting an hour and a half of my life watching it. They may be easy to watch, but they’re not worth it. Don’t settle for “A Christmas Wedding Planner”, hold out for another “Miracle on 34th Street”. I promise you won’t regret it.