Hallmark is well known for its simplistic, predictable and lighthearted romance movies, especially its countdown to Christmas, where Hallmark documents the joy, love and spirit of the Holidays by releasing 40 new Christmas movies each year.
While Hallmark has been accused of creating largely white and heterosexual content in the past, it appears that the Crown Media Company is finally trying to get with the times and releasing LGBTQ storylines in their 2022 countdown to Christmas.
In 2020, George Zaralidis, the vice president of programming publicity at Crown Media Company, said that diversity was a priority for the company. “We are committed to creating a Hallmark experience where everyone feels welcome.”
Now two and a half years later, and Hallmark has a grand total of only one movie with a gay couple as the lead in this years annual countdown to Christmas.
There seems to be a pattern: since 2020 Hallmark has released one Christmas movie with a queer character each year. In 2020 Hallmark released ‘The Christmas House,’ which follows a pair of twin men who are home for the holidays. One of the men, Brandon, is gay and has a husband. Then the next year Hallmark released ‘The Christmas House 2: Deck Those Halls;’ featuring the same cast and characters as the original, with the singular queer side-character. That brings us to now, and Hallmark has still stuck with their theme and has released ‘The Holiday Sitter’ on Sunday, December 11th.
‘The Holiday Sitter’ follows the same Hallmark norms as most of their Christmas movies: A classic love story following traditions such as family dinners, holiday fairs and the sought for happily ever after. The only real difference is that instead of the heteronormative boy meets girl, they switched it up so the film follows a gay man looking for his holiday hubby. It was just as entertaining as every other Hallmark movie, which is to say, entertaining enough. It even made me chuckle.
Technically, Hallmark has two movies coming out this Christmas with LGBTQ characters in the story. ‘Our Italian Christmas Memories’ includes a grandaughter who is lesbian but she is not a main character and doesn’t have much to do with the actual plot.
While Hallmark has incorporated more diverse casting and inclusive scripts, the company is not always great at representing cultures authentically.
Maria, a 46-year-old Italian woman says she watches Hallmark movies constantly. But when she saw Hallmark’s film ‘Our Italian Christmas Memories’ she wasn’t particularly impressed.
“I didn’t feel it was an authentic representation of the Italian traditions I know, the material itself was a bit dry and boring. It’s not one of my favourite hallmark movies.”
Maria said that due to improper pronunciation and odd supposed “traditions” she had never even heard of, this Italian family didn’t seem especially Italian to her, though the movie was in her opinion, a good representation of a modern family in general.
In recent years Hallmark has shown improvement in representing diverse ethnicities in their Christmas movies. People of colour have been represented in many movies, including ‘All Saints Christmas,’ ‘Inventing the Christmas Prince,’ ‘Christmas at the Golden Dragon,’ and ‘A Big Fat Family Christmas.’
It isn’t all that hard to see why Hallmark might be reluctant to release a lot of films with LGBTQ leads. According to a National Media Spots report 70% of Hallmark’s audience is over 50 years old.
As a 75-year-old woman, my Nonna is definitely Hallmark’s demographic, and indeed, she loves Hallmark movies. I asked her to watch ‘The Holiday Sitter’ and share her reaction.
“It’s okay,” she told me. “But I didn’t grow up with this as something people showed. It was taboo so, I prefer my regular movies.”