Christmas movies have long been a staple of the holiday season. In recent years, however, many of the newly-released holiday movies have followed a similar formula: a female protagonist sets out on a Christmas-themed endeavor, and in the process, she predictably ends up falling for the unlikely male love interest, and they end up together on Christmas Day. While this plotline is by no means original and in many ways quite antiquated, each year, production studios produce new variations of this same motif. Just a few recent examples include Hallmark’s “A Christmas Detour,” ABC Family’s “The Mistle-Tones,” Marvista’s “A Dog Walker’s Christmas Tale” and even Netflix’s recent release “A Christmas Prince.” The fact that studios continue to invest money into creating essentially the same movie in different forms year after year suggests that each time they have, their investment has paid off. This, in turn, means that there is still demand from viewers for these types of stories. While on the surface this might seem strange considering the cliché nature of the genre, it is not difficult to see why the appeal of these movies has not faltered.
It is not surprising that romance is a central theme in these Christmas movies, considering the extent to which romance is already incorporated into other genres. Even movies that are not primarily about romantic relationships often have underlying romantic subplots. In a study of classical films from the beginning of cinema through the 1980s, well renowned film theorist and historian David Bordwell and colleagues concluded that in classical movies, “almost invariably, [at least] one [line] of action involves heterosexual romantic love.” This unfaltering trend can be partially explained by the fact that we all crave closeness, and if that human connection is left out of a story, the story runs the risk of appearing empty. The importance of family, friends and community is only heightened during the holiday season, when most people are thinking of going home for the holidays or exchanging gifts with loved ones. The notion of falling in love during the holiday season touches on not only the romantic aspect of some relationships, but also the potential of a new family in the future. So naturally, holiday movies tend to place these relationships at the center of their storyline.
For many people, the holidays are filled with family or religious traditions and sacred childhood memories. Because this season is so deeply personal, people seem to stick to the familiar. Since romantic Christmas movies have been around for so long, many consumers may be hesitant to cut these cliché storylines from their holiday traditions. Newer movies that still follow antiquated plotlines continue to satisfy the demand of some consumers as a result.
While a number of Wellesley students do not participate in the consumption of these Christmas movies, some do.
“I know they are not exactly great cinema,” said one member of the class of 2019. “But sometimes it’s nice to not have to think about your entertainment too much, and just let a cute Christmas story be a cute Christmas story.”
I believe this idea gets to the heart of why movies like “A Christmas Prince” may appeal to some Wellesley students. At Wellesley, we are constantly encouraged to question the world as it is presented to us, to look for new ways of seeing it and to analyze the effects of certain choices on the various facets of society. But for the holidays, which are a time to enjoy the company of those closest to you, it might be nice to simply enjoy the cheesy cliches of a “cute Christmas movie.”
While it is unlikely that any of these holiday movies will become Hollywood blockbusters, their comical plot lines and simple happy endings will likely continue to entertain consumers for many years to come.