by Lou Aguilar
Hollywoke may be spearheading the War on Christmas, but three cable channels are mounting a far more effective counteroffensive, running traditionalist Christmas movies 24/7. And one of them, Lifetime, is a surprising beachhead. While HBO Max is showcasing the insufferable Seth Rogan’s latest bomb, Santa, Inc. (angry elf girl wants to succeed white male Santa Claus), the once male-bashing Lifetime “for Women” now boasts such romantic “heteronormative” fare as My Sweet Holiday, A Sweet Christmas Romance, and A Christmas Village Romance. Lifetime has joined the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries to reflect a realistic rather than fantastical vision of and for women, and their genuine desire for true love over a feminist-fueled man-light career pursuit.
Some Grinches criticize the films as bland, corny, and predictable. They’re certainly not on par with Yuletide classics by Ernst Lubitch (The Shop Around the Corner) or Leo McCarey (An Affair to Remember), and they do stress a secular more than spiritual Christmas magic. But normal viewers gleam from them values no longer found in the tiresomely “dark, edgy” mainstream series and feature films, such as beauty, sensitivity, warmth, uplift, and niceness.
Start with beauty. The movies are gorgeously photographed to resemble, yes, Hallmark cards. Many depict Robert Frostian villages and valleys in holiday winter, but even major cities like San Francisco in A Christmas Village Romance, Chicago in A Kiss Before Christmas, and New York in the majority appear as lovely metropoles instead of the crime-ridden progressive hellholes the Left has made of them.
But the ultimate beauty can be seen in the women, externally and internally. The heroines are classically pretty, fashionable, pleasant, feminine, and pro-male — nothing like their deglamorized, shrill, strident, mannish Hollywoke counterparts. They’re perfectly made-up like old-time movie stars, or present-day “transgender” cover models, making them attractive to both sexes if anathema to studio casting directors. These virtues extend to their job in the story plots. Uncoincidentally, at least three of the protagonists are romantic fiction writers (A Christmas Village Romance, A Castle for Christmas, The Mistletoe Inn), a red light in mainstream entertainment. Whatever their limitations, the screenwriters respect this aspect of them.
In a touching scene from the otherwise standard A Christmas Village Romance, a middle-aged male fan (Tim Progosh) tells romance author Diana (the strikingly radiant Jeni Ross) the non-woke reason for his admiration. His late wife loved her books, and when she went blind from cancer, he read to her aloud from them and grasped their importance. “Thank goodness there are stories like yours that we can all escape into. It’s those little escapes that give us the strength to face another day.” And that’s another element these Christmas movies offer that has vanished from modern Hollywoke product — untortured nice people.
The films are basically adult fairy tales with actual Prince Charmings. They feature more European princes than there are European kingdoms. These include the romantic male leads of Christmas With a Crown, Crown for Christmas, A Princess for Christmas, A Royal Christmas, Christmas at Castle Hart, and A Royal Queens Christmas. What can account for the royals’ popularity, when even the studio that bottled them, Disney, now disdains them as patriarchal relics for silly, naïve girls, and has remolded Disney Princesses into loveless, independent — and deathly dull — amazons (Brave, Frozen)? The answer speaks to the unquenchable romanticism of the female heart despite relentless progressive propaganda. As author Faith Moore asserts in her indispensable book, Saving Cinderella: What Feminists Get Wrong About Disney Princesses and How to Set It Right, it’s not about girls pining for a prince to rescue them, it’s about their being fulfilled enough for the prince to fall in love with them. And this is something all the Christmas movie protagonists achieve. Hallmark became a multi-billion-dollar corporation by celebrating that truth. So did Walt Disney, only much to his puny woke successors’ shame.
There’s a good reason for men to enjoy these Christmas movies along with women. They get to watch old favorite actors demonstrate what made them favorites — apart from great looks in the case of Bond Girl Teri Hatcher. A Kiss Before Christmas reunites Hatcher with her Desperate Housewives costar, James Denton, in an It’s a Wonderful Life-type fantasy about first choices and second chances. Denton plays a struggling businessman, husband, and father who questions his early marriage to Hatcher in a moment of doubt then gets to live the alternate reality as a bachelor tycoon. Hatcher is now the crusader lawyer challenging his company’s removal of an orphanage. Gradually, Denton convinces her that he and she have a different existence and that he has until Christmas Day to reenter it or become the new incarnation forever. Hatcher’s performance in the climax as Denton starts to lose all vestige of his old self is quite riveting.
Eighties hunks Peter Gallagher (Summer Lovers) and Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead II) similarly elevate the formulaic One December Night, as a bitterly separated former rockstar team being reunited by the son of one and daughter of the other for one big network special. Apart and separate, the two pros dominate their scenes, especially one where Campbell reveals a heavy secret to Gallagher.
The Hallmark-Lifetime Christmas films vary in quality, with none reaching any spectacular height. But all of them provide an uplifting respite from everything else on television, factual or fictional, and for most women, an always welcome dose of romance. Men who wish to be in their best graces this Christmas still have time to order for them my new hauntingly romantic Christmas novel, The Christmas Spirit, and enjoy a merrier holiday.
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Lou Aguilar is a published novelist, produced screenwriter, and arts culture essayist. His latest novel, “The Christmas Spirit,” a Yuletide romantic ghost story, and two earlier books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and great American bookstores.