The following admission should embarrass me. Fortunately, I have reached the age where personal quirks more often bring amusement than shame.
Here’s my confession: I’ve begun watching Hallmark movies. Recently, I even spent two evenings with a Candace Cameron Bure film from the Great American Family. Yep, here I am, a guy in his early 70s, all alone and happily watching sappy movies.
So, how in the name of all that’s manly did I start watching Hallmark movies?
About a month ago, on the recommendation of a friend and my son, I brought home the DVD of Fury from the public library. It’s a war movie starring Brad Pitt as a tank commander at the end of World War II. The film begins with Pitt attacking and stabbing to death a lone German officer who’s casually riding by Pitt’s disabled tank. The swearing and obscenities of the tank crew are relentless. When these veterans treat a rookie replacement like something they’d scraped off their boots, I was done. Back to the library with that one.
Next up was Force of Nature, a 2020 film starring Mel Gibson. As a hurricane smashes into Puerto Rico, two police officers are dispatched to rescue some laggards from an apartment building, some kind of big cat practically kills his owner, and a bunch of murderous thieves are on the prowl in the same building. Within minutes, this disaster about a disaster was back in its box and ready for return to the library.
At this point, I asked myself, what do you want to watch?
I was sick and tired of cinematic violence, vulgarity, and general weirdness. These are available any day of the week from the headlines and articles I read online. Instead, I wanted films for my evening viewing where people generally behave like the people I encounter every day; where their struggles revolve around love, finance, or faith; where kindness is more common than contempt and hatred. In short, I wanted something that used to pass for normal in this country.
While thinking these thoughts and browsing the library’s DVDs, I stumbled across some Hallmark films. Gingerly, as if handling an explosive, I picked one up, slipped away to the self-checkout, and headed out the door.
Since then, five of these films have come home with me. Their titles and the names of the stars vanish from my memory as soon as I watch them, and the plots are all jumbled together in my head. The acting is only passable, the plots are creaky and cliched, and the costuming and appearance of the cast are too squeaky clean. Everybody, for example, has teeth so white that they’d glow in the dark.
But then there are the pluses. The men, women, and children depicted in these films seem real to me. Propaganda and politics are nowhere in sight. The storylines are simple and predictable—you know there’s a happy ending—but I watch these films after a long, hard day’s work. By that hour of the evening, I don’t need to be on the edge of my chair wondering whether the zombies are going to find the girl in the basement.
Backing me up on this front is The Federalist’s Kylee Griswold. In “Help! This Hallmark Hater Just Realized Her Life Is a Corny Christmas Movie Plot,” Griswold has a good laugh at her courtship and marriage which seemed scripted by writers from the Hallmark films she had long detested.
Later in her article, Griswold offers readers a more serious take, writing, “As hard as it is to get past the cheesiness and admit it, perhaps … Hallmark has its finger on the pulse of something the rest of our culture seems to be missing.”
She then asks, “Could it be that more and more of today’s women are sick of the radical feminist messages of independence that have promised empowerment but left them more miserable, alienated, intolerant, and confused?”
Griswold answers with a strong affirmative, noting that many women, particularly Millennials, increasingly desire what they find in Hallmark movies: a traditional marriage, community, and the presence of family.
In other words, what used to be the standard.
Sneer if you like, I don’t care. Someday I’m sure I’ll go back to detective flicks, shoot-em-ups, and searing dramas, but just for now, I’m a Hallmark Man.
In our age of lunacy, I’ll take normal wherever I can find it.
Image credit: Flickr-Wonderlane, CC BY 2.07 comments