The Hallmark Channel's Christmas movies play back-to-back these days to invite binge-watching.
When one of them ends, the network instantly introduces another, as if to ask, "Are you ready for another happy ending based on a plotline evident after five minutes, concluding with yet another close-mouthed kiss by a wholesome man and a wholesome woman caressed in virtue beneath mistletoe?
"Sure, you are. Put another crackling, aromatic log on that mellow fire. Get yourself another mug of steaming cocoa. We're going to make you feel good all over again."
Hallmark Christmas movies present blissful high-definition imagery--mostly shot in Vancouver in the spring, I'm told--that brings a greeting card to life, with pure fake white snow and glistening lights in Edenic small towns, and with strong senses of community gathered at the gazebo for the tree lighting, with cherubic Bart Hester-looking characters being delightfully square.
In Hallmark's world, this is the season to meet a girl or a guy around Thanksgiving, sense a spark, encounter an easily overcome romantic impediment along the way, and engage in only-implied sexual relations by Christmas Day, after, of course, the delivery of gifts by Santa--who is real in about 10 percent of these movies, a little less often than an actual angel appears, and much less often than a precocious child manipulates hapless adults into the unadulterated joy they were too blind to see themselves.
The other morning Shalah shouted that I ought to click on NPR because it was airing a segment on Hallmark Christmas movies. The piece was explaining the entertainment formula and noting the increasing popularity, to the point that, just the other day--during an afternoon, I'd wager--Hallmark was No. 1 in the ratings.
Why would Shalah shout out to me to tune into that?
Here's why: In the two Decembers since Donald Trump became the preposterous second-place president and defiled America and came to dominate the obsessed cable-news networks with his valueless trash, I've sought holiday-season refuge.
I've found it by clicking the remote from CNN and MSNBC to these soothing images of happy towns with happy Christmases and stories that, I can be assured, will end well.
It's like what Hillary Clinton said when she was here in November for the 25th anniversary celebration of Bill's election to the presidency. She said that, after losing the presidency, she began reading detective stories because, in those, the bad guys always get found out in the end.
But, in recent days, liberal sources like Slate have taken note of Hallmark's growing Christmas-season viewership and declared the phenomenon a right-wing retro-Trumpian thing about making America great again, saying "Christmas" again and celebrating vanilla-white people instead of the country's diversity.
Imagine: A man uses Hallmark movies to escape Trumpism only to be told he's immersed in Trumpism.
Indeed, there are very few black people in these movies. I haven't run across any gay ones. These are updated, glossier, colder, snowier Mayberrys.
Alas, I must add fresh fatigue over our tired culture war to my debilitating Trump fatigue.
I actually already intended to stop watching Hallmark Christmas movies, but not because of the politics. It's that I fear I may be moving from the phase of relaxing my mind into that of rotting my brain.
It's not that I think I'm getting brainwashed by Trumpian propaganda. That only happens when the guy named Boris comes on the Channel 7 news.
Every character I've seen in more than a dozen of these Hallmark movies has been infinitely more redeemable than the human atrocity that infests the Oval Office.
And, sometimes, the political implications of these stories can be nuanced. An occasional Hallmark subplot is that the blissful downtown is at risk of cynical outsider developers who would destroy the café or gift shop that is the heart of the Eden that Hallmark's art-direction staff has constructed.
Cynical outsider developers bringing their tax-cut manna to Main Street to destroy local small business--that's a liberal narrative against conservatives, for heaven's sake.
Maybe the moral is that sometimes it's all right to relax by suspending any political judgment or alliance, or even much thought. If a Christmas cliché and happy ending calms you after a childish presidential tweet, then what's the seasonal harm?
Just watch, then watch again. Quit only when you start to sense the transition from mind-relaxation to brain decay.
For me, it's time to wean.
I've grown weary of watching in-love characters chop down full and shapely Christmas trees that then appear in living rooms perfectly straight and gloriously decorated without any mention of the interim process of getting them in the house, positioning them to stand erectly, finding and replacing the faulty bulbs in the hard-to-untangle strings of lights, then trying to sweep up elusive pine needles that escape into the hardwood flooring's grooves.
The profanity blurted during that process--now that's what's Trumpian.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 12/21/2017
Print Headline: Haunted by Hallmark