A Hallmark Christmas: Santa’s Diversity Dilemma

Risha Inaganti image
Risha Inaganti
December 20, 2023

The brisk air pushes around the frosty snow as the blizzard storms on. Luckily, you’re cozied up inside enjoying the perfect mid-December evening: a steaming cup of hot cocoa, the fuzziest blanket known to mankind, and of course, that one Christmas movie about falling in love during the holidays.

Hold on. What’s that movie called again? “A Princess for Christmas”? Or maybe it’s “Road to Christmas”? No wait, it has to be “Good Morning Christmas!” 

That’s right. We’re talking Hallmark movies. 

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The Perfect Plot

One of the biggest joys of the holiday season is binging on iconic Hallmark movies. Yet, year after year, all we get is the same story with a different title slapped onto it.

Though I’m hardly complaining. Give me some festive socks and comfy pajamas, and I’ll be there watching. Every. Single. Year. (Don’t judge. In 2021 it was estimated that over 80 million people give into the Hallmark Christmas movie temptation each year, so I know I’m not alone.)

Since the first Hallmark movie in 1951, the company has mastered the cheesy, feel-good love story. And despite the deserved judgment on the questionable acting and poor quality, people keep going back to them. 

It’s undeniable that people love nostalgia, and Hallmark absolutely takes advantage of that. The holidays in general thrive on good memories and happy feelings, and Hallmark movies provide just that. Busy single girl goes home for Christmas. Girl meets handsome Christmas tree salesman. Girl gives up her big-city career to be with handsome Christmas tree salesman and lives happily ever after. The predictable plot lines filled with clichés are ingrained in our brain, and every time we see one, we get another small boost of happiness. 

The predictability makes the movies almost stress-relieving to watch. Every time a person turns on a Hallmark Christmas movie, they can expect the same thing: a small town unexpected love story that leads to a lesson on the meaning of life.

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This simple formula has proven successful for decades now, and although it has become a bit repetitive, why fix what isn’t broken?

A Glaring Issue 

There are actually quite a few answers for that question, the biggest of which is the lack of diversity presented in these movies. 

As a South Asian, queer woman, I’ve constantly wondered why none of these movies felt relatable to me. Yes, the ridiculously unbelievable plot lines may be a part of that, but it’s always felt like something more.

Hallmark movies overwhelmingly show heterosexual, able-bodied, white characters. Although any lack of diversity in media is already damaging enough, this issue is worsened when used in movies that are supposed to represent an idyllic norm, such as a classic Hallmark Christmas story.

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When Hallmark movies, which are are intended to trigger warm and fuzzy feelings we’ve experienced before, continuously feature straight and white characters, it pushes the idea that this is what a “normal” family is—a notion that is obviously not accurate to the world. 

The list of people that do not see representation in Hallmark movies is endless: those in interracial relationships, LGBTQ+ members, people of color, individuals with disabilities, and more.

Not only does this prevent appeal to those who don’t fit the Hallmark company cookie cutter mold, but it also in many ways defeats the root purpose of the movies. For an organization that aims to create nostalgic, feel-good movies, they are keeping their viewers to a narrow demographic. 

A Happy Ending?

To answer the question on  everyone’s mind—yes, I unfortunately will still be watching Hallmark movies this holiday season. I know, I know, a disappointing answer. But hey, I’m an embarrassingly hopeless romantic… what can you expect? Besides, if people like me aren’t sitting down to watch these and complain loudly about it after, how will Hallmark ever progress? Because clearly, I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

This year Hallmark plans to premiere 31 new holiday movies. Of these films, six will feature a lead character who is a racial minority, one will feature a Jewish storyline, and one will focus on a queer couple, so someone must be listening. 

Granted, eight out of 31 films is still a small percentage that remains inaccurate to the real world, but this first step has promise of more improvement in the future.

So as I (and many others) tune in for some classic Christmas joy this year, I’m looking forward to seeing more people who look like me, and hoping these movies start to feel a bit more relatable. 

My Christmas wish? Years ahead with tastier cocoa, warmer blankets, and increased diversity.

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