Whether it is from Hallmark, or the latest offerings on Netflix, there is no shortage of holiday fare to consume on our various screens. Increasingly, however, it seems to become difficult to tell these movies apart. Is it a time travelling knight, a prince in disguise, or the disenchanted big-city lawyer who will win the heart of the woman who is inevitably at the centre of the film? Will they meet over hot cocoa or at a skating rink? In many ways, it doesn’t matter, as the formulaic nature of these films means that the various parts are largely interchangeable. The closest thing to a villain in any of these films is a rival love interest, who graciously steps aside to allow true love to flourish.
Yet, despite the seemingly obvious plots, and easily predicted outcomes where the charms of small-town life will always trump anything the big city has to offer, these films are remarkably popular. What began as a form of promotion for Hallmark has become big business itself, with various streaming platforms ramping up their own holiday productions, even shifting from Christmas into other holiday season celebrations, including Hanukkah.
The appeal of these films seems obvious. The holidays, as much as we look forward to them, are also a stressful time of year. Amid seasonal preparations, whether it is wrapping, cooking or planning, these easy-to-follow narratives provide an ideal distraction.
The resolution is guaranteed to be as happy as it is predictable, and no viewer needs to watch carefully for unexpected plot twists.
For our students at Trent Durham GTA, and elsewhere, these types of films are a great accompaniment to the added stress of exam season. They represent a welcome break from hitting the books, without further stressing overtaxed minds. Holiday films, like holiday food, are easy to digest, fun and indulgent. They are the perfect break from the stress of everyday life.
Enjoy them while they are here, and from all of us at Trent Durham, may your own holidays be as charming as those on our screens.
This article was written by renowned pop culture expert Dr. Scott Henderson, dean and head of Trent University Durham GTA. It was originally published in Durham Metroland.