Muse Reporting on the arts and culture

A very Hallmark Christmas

Arts | ’Tis the season for family-friendly flicks
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 11/23/18, 03:50 pm

Christmas is still a month away, but the Hallmark Channel’s season started on Oct. 27. This year, the cable network produced a whopping 33 original Christmas movies in response to overwhelming demand for the heartwarming holiday romance tales it has reliably delivered each year for the past decade.

“We have 82 million people come and watch the channel at least once during the Countdown to Christmas and Miracles of Christmas events,” Hallmark executive Michelle Vicary told USA Today. “We are No. 1 all fourth quarter.”

The movies, which air on the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, all follow a romantic comedy formula in which the main characters meet early on and find love amid the traditions of the holidays. Viewers are almost guaranteed the lead actors will ice skate, build a gingerbread house, or wrap presents—maybe all three at some point during the movie.

Hallmark has made its Christmas movies as much of an icon in American holiday culture as sugar plums, silver bells, and sleigh rides by delivering wholesome, happy content to the underserved market for family-friendly TV. On the major broadcast networks, family-focused series such as Last Man Standing and This Is Us are some of this season’s most successful shows. They’re just now figuring out what Hallmark has known all along.

“As an actor, I am leaning into Hallmark because it’s fun to sit with my seven-year-old and show him what I do for a living,” actor Kristoffer Polaha wrote for The Hollywood Reporter.

One thing you probably won’t see Hallmark couples doing as they celebrate Christmas, though, is going to church. The movies rarely if ever mention religion or faith. They still at least use the word “Christmas,” but Hallmark defines it as the season of snow, bows, ornaments, and turkey dinners without referencing a humble birth in a dirty stable.

For Christians looking to balance Hallmark’s sugar with some substance, two movies stand out among the crowd of Christmas classics old and new. The Nativity Story (2006) captures the personal cost to Mary and Joseph of becoming Jesus’ parents while bringing home the significance of Christ’s birth to the entire world. And A Charlie Brown Christmas teaches that the hope of Jesus brings joy in a way presents and pageantry can’t.

The Queen of Soul praises the King of Kings

In 1972, Aretha Franklin spent two nights at a church in Los Angeles recording one of the best-selling gospel albums of all time, and she let director Sydney Pollack document it on film. But Pollack flubbed aspects of the production, Franklin objected to its release, and Warner Bros. shelved the film.

Three months after the Queen of Soul’s death, her family viewed the documentary Amazing Grace and agreed to let producer Alan Elliott release it. Franklin was 29 and at the height of her fame when she recorded the album of the same name. She sang from the pulpit at New Missionary Baptist Church with a gospel choir behind her and a congregation of fans in the seats.

“This film, it’s going to take you to church,” said Franklin’s nephew Vaughn Franklin. “You know, I expect to see people up on their feet, tears coming down and holding hands and laughing and joking.”

Elliott showed the documentary earlier this month at the American Film Institute’s annual festival, where reaction to the film was “rapturous,” Deadline Hollywood reported. Amazing Grace does not have a distributor yet, but Elliott plans limited runs in New York and Los Angeles before the end of the year, with hope of wider distribution. —L.L.

Associated Press/Photos by Petros Karadjias Associated Press/Photos by Petros Karadjias A rare mosaic depicting Saint Mark on display at the Byzantine Museum after its return to Cyprus

Ancient portrait

A rare, 1,500-year-old mosaic depicting the Gospel writer Mark has returned to Cyprus after it disappeared four decades ago amid political unrest. An art dealer stole the Saint Mark mosaic and several others from an Orthodox church in Cyprus about four decades ago. A Dutch investigator tracked it down in Monaco and handed it over to the Cyprus Embassy in the Netherlands last week.

Few early Christian works survived the iconoclastic period in the eighth and ninth centuries, but the Church of the Virgin of Kanakaria in Northern Cyprus, home of the mosaics, escaped the Byzantine Empire’s crackdown. —L.L.

Obama best-seller

Michelle Obama’s new memoir, Becoming, sold more than 1.4 million copies in its first week. Crown Publishing said Wednesday the book was the No. 1 adult nonfiction title in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The former first lady levels pointed criticism at President Donald Trump in the book, but Trump brushed it off, telling reporters, “She got paid a lot of money to write a book and they always expect a little controversy.” —L.L.

Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  • Janet B
    Posted: Sat, 11/24/2018 09:35 am

    I beg to differ regarding Hallmark Christmas movies.  There have been quite a few where folks are shown going to church, or singing traditional Christmas carols/hymns that tell the story of Christ's birth.

    Plus, there is never nudity, bad language, or sex.  It really is a station you can watch with your children.

  • Bob R
    Posted: Sat, 11/24/2018 01:11 pm

    I agree.  Church is often a common occurrence in Hallmark films, even discussing trusting God (Signed, Sealed, Delivered), and characters trusting that Jesus will help us (A Christmas Wish), though admittedly, Santa is the real hero as a rule.  As for Last Man Standing, I’ve stumbled across an episode or two, and the only thing “family” about it is that there are two parents who are not divorced.  The “humor” is often crude and suggestive at best, and generally not a lot of respect for the father.  

  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Sat, 11/24/2018 03:55 pm

    Just a note from an old cermudgeon.   We (the wife and I) have quit buying Hallmark cards because some (many?) of them are so off color.  We try to find good cards with a scripture message in them.  The movies are OK I guess.  Interesting that we often are happy with a movie if it only wastes our time instead of attacks our Faith.  Still movie products from Hallmark have always been a cut above the run of the mill.   We watch 'em sometimes.


  • Laneygirl's picture
    Posted: Tue, 11/27/2018 03:30 pm

    Hallmark has closed many stores since people are buying less cards. It seems that producing clean, romantic movies is their new direction. I've wavered between enjoying the Christmas movies for what they are, and seeing the embedded secular messages at their foundation. In one of the 2018 movies, the characters marvelled at the stars while praising America's newest god : the Universe.