A century after Hallmark captured the imagination with its endearing (and some might say sappy) greeting card sentiments, they have done it again by way of an endearing (and some might say sappy) phenomenon known as the Hallmark Channel. The appeal to women is stunning, especially at Christmastime.
Even as we poke fun at ourselves falling for the mush, we fall every time. And I’m right there with the rest, getting into my jammies, cocoa in hand, to watch the cynical corporate woman who once hated Christmas pack it all in for the guy who owns the pumpkin farm or the over-worked wife and mother who questions her life choices, then wakes up in another life, eventually realizing what she’d had all along.
Sometimes, it’s the struggling seamstress or the hotel maid who, through one fortuitous circumstance or another, ends up in a far-away castle where the handsome prince will choose her over the haughty duchess. On and on and on, and we just can’t get enough of it even though it is endlessly predictable and there is no doubt how it’s going to end–there we are entranced, wistful, perhaps with even a bit of longing.
“Corporate” isn’t held in very high regard in the Hallmark Channel world, where enlightened marketing execs eventually trade in their suits and ties for a tool belt and a pick-up truck. It’s about the drifter who turns out to be an accomplished chef or the architect who finds fulfillment at last as the town handy-man. There might even be a secretly wealthy former hedge fund manager from the big city who now owns the small country diner and spends his time volunteering at the dog kennel.
It’s obvious that the word has gone out to the leading men: “Look, you’re allowed to do woodworking, repair musical instruments, teach art or be a successful author or firefighter, stuff like that, but under no circumstance can you hold a job in one of those big crowded cities where nothing good comes of anything.” And there’s not a single female who can resist such a man—eventually she will come to her senses and cave.
Time after time, we blissfully accept the premise that the beloved old library is about to be torn down for a dastardly shopping mall, and that the days are always numbered for the family tree farm, the family pumpkin farm, the family tulip farm, and the little family book store. Something’s got to be done to save the children’s hospital, the historical landmark or Aunt Victoria’s bed and breakfast. And there is simply never going to be enough money in the budget for the school’s music program.
If they can only sell enough sugar cookies, they might be able to make the two million dollars they need by Thursday. But wait. Aha! One of those big awful corporate CEOs in one of those big awful cities will miraculously have a change of heart and come to the rescue by…well, you get it…because all is never lost at the Hallmark Channel.
When you have cared enough to send the very best for a hundred years, then what else can we expect except the most perfect of outcomes. Everything is saved, everyone is redeemed, everyone loves Christmas once again, and, finally…finally, the moment we’ve been waiting for–the big kiss. And not just any big kiss. This is Hallmark, for heaven’s sake. It’s got to be the kind of big kiss that we who are sitting there in our jammies sipping our cocoa will swoon over.
So, for starters, there’s got to be a crowd around. Hallmark’s big kiss requires a big crowd of onlookers. That’s why it will take place at the Christmas parade, the town festival, the holiday concert, the cookie judging event, the big dance, sometimes even at the boarding gate at the bustling airport—so that everyone around will see the big kiss and applaud and cheer. I can’t imagine why someone would actually applaud two people blocking the gate. Every now and then, just as a reality check, I’d like to see someone in the line yell out, “Hey, this flight we’re all trying to take to get home for Christmas is not about you.” But they never do. They applaud and cheer with the rest. And I have to muse, wistfully, that if there is ever again a big kiss in my future, I’d like to have a lot of cheering and applause. Change is good.
But even that’s not all. Remember, it’s winter. It’s Christmas. It’s Hallmark. So, we’ll have the big kiss and we’ll have the rousing applause. And then, having saved the best for last, we shall have snow. At the very moment their lips meet, the snowflakes will fall, and they appear to get larger with every passing season. Soon, I imagine they will be the size of hubcaps (the snowflakes, not the lips). By now, and probably long before now, if there’s a man in the house, he’s already gotten out of there—he’s even opted to do the dishes or take out the garbage without being asked. Not us. We smile. We cry. We’ve recorded it. We will watch it again…and maybe again. Eventually, it will become a movie to fall asleep by because it beats Jimmy Fallon and The Walking Dead. It beats network news and anything with forensics in it or yellow crime scene tape. It almost beats the shopping channel. And in the end, it is the only thing captivating enough to push The Golden Girls reruns off the air. We care that much.