What does Wellesley College think about Christmas movies? We asked and 183 students answered. While 91.3 percent of respondents said they watch Christmas movies and 91.8 percent said they celebrate Christmas, these populations diverge more than these numbers would suggest: 12 respondents who don’t celebrate Christmas nonetheless watch Christmas movies and 13 respondents who celebrate Christmas do not watch Christmas movies.
Even those who don’t watch Christmas movies were not entirely down on the genre. Only two respondents (1.1 percent) admitted to unreservedly hating the genre on the whole while the majority of respondents — 72, or 39.6 percent — replied that they genuinely love Christmas movies. The remainder fell somewhere along the spectrum from cool to lukewarm, skewing positive overall. Admittedly, there is a decided possibility that this trend simply reflects who is most likely to take time out of their day to fill out a survey about Christmas movies.
As to what Christmas movies Wellesley students have seen, there was a two-way tie for the most-viewed film between “Elf” and “The Polar Express,” which each received 162 votes (89 percent of respondents). “Home Alone” came in second with 159 votes and the 2000 live-action version of “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” starring Jim Carrey came in a very close third with 158. When offered the opportunity to list Christmas movies seen not included among the 23 options listed in the survey, titles brought up by multiple respondents included “Frosty the Snowman,” “The Holiday,” “Arthur Christmas,” “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” “Four Christmases,” “Krampus,” “Christmas with the Kranks,” the sequels to “Home Alone” and “The Santa Clause,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Olive the Other Reindeer” and “Holiday Inn,” which turns out to be the name of a 1942 musical starring Bing Crosby and not just a hotel chain. Because it is Wellesley, multiple students made the case for Harry Potter films, specifically “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “The Goblet of Fire,” by merit of the Yule Ball. Several respondents also brought up the 2003 anime film “Tokyo Godfathers,” directed by the tragically underappreciated Satoshi Kon. Overlooked by the popular lists of Christmas films online used to draft our survey, I feel the need to echo these participants’ sentiment that “Tokyo Godfathers” is indeed incredible. In the words of Breanna White ’22, “please watch ‘Tokyo Godfathers,’ an underrated Christmas anime.” You won’t regret it. Intriguing alternative Christmas films with only one mention in survey responses include “Joyeux Noël,” a 2001 French WWI drama about the Christmas truce of 1914, Tim Burton’s gothic romance “Edward Scissorhands,” “Mean Girls” and “Carol,” the 1950s-set drama in which Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara play glamorous sad lesbians.
And how are Wellesley students watching Christmas movies? Unsurprisingly, more than half of Christmas movie-watching respondents — 58.1 percent — answered that they primarily watch holiday films via streaming platforms. Cable TV came in a distant second, with just over 22 percent of votes, shortly followed by DVD and Blu-ray (19.2 percent). Only one respondent claimed to watch Christmas movies primarily in theaters.
We also asked some specific Christmas movie-related questions based off of debates brewing on social media. Regarding “A Christmas Prince 2: The Royal Wedding,” the recently released sequel to the so-bad-it’s-fun Netflix film “A Christmas Prince,” nearly half of the respondents said they had never heard of the film. To the 23.8 percent of participants who expressed an intent to view the sequel, having viewed it myself I must caution you: it is bad. Not fun-bad — bad-bad. You have been warned.
Our two other Christmas movie controversy questions involved two perennial film debates that always spring up around this time of year. Namely, does “Die Hard” count as a Christmas movie and is “Love Actually” actually any good? With regards to the first question, the majority of respondents — 58.8 percent — said they had no opinion regarding “Die Hard.” The remaining survey-takers largely argued against including “Die Hard” as an entry in the Christmas film genre — 46 “Noes” to 29 “Yeses.” Notably, this totals 72, far more than the 29 participants who said they have actually seen “Die Hard,” especially considering 4 of those 29 individuals ended up saying that they had no opinion on “Die Hard’s” Christmas film status.
Of the remaining 25 “Die Hard” viewers, the majority — 16, or 64 percent — were in favor of considering the movie a Christmas movie, which begs the question whether seeing the film might actually sway some of the opposition. Then again, maybe not. Abby Conte ’20, who has seen “Die Hard” and does not consider it a Christmas movie, elaborated at the end of the survey that she “almost stopped taking this quiz when I saw ‘Die Hard’ listed as an option, that is how infuriating the idea that this is a Christmas movie is to me.”
While the most popular answer regarding the question of “Love, Actually” was similarly “I have no opinion,” with 42.3 percent of responses, it was the film that generated the most impassioned replies in the comments section. Of those who had opinions on “Love, Actually,” the better part — 67 students, or 63.8 percent — said they think it is a good movie. Of the remaining 38 who disagreed, the majority — 23 versus 15 respondents — noted that they feel the film has problematic content.
However, those who chose to elaborate on their stances in the comments revealed that those who agree about liking the film are far from monolithic in their views. Several viewers who enjoy the film took the time to note that they consider it something of a guilty pleasure, such as Shanez’e Johnson ’21, who noted, “‘Love, Actually” is a good movie but it’s hella problematic,” and Eleanor Willard ’20 who similarly commented, “My true ‘Love, Actually’ answer is ‘I enjoy it even though it’s problematic.’” An anonymous respondent who likes the film noted, “People who say that ‘Love, Actually’ is a bad movie are valid but also must be fully ignoring Emma Thompson. It’s a bad good movie, people.” While displaying a similar regard for Emma Thompson, Katherine Leary ’22 vehemently disagreed, writing, “‘Love, Actually’ is simultaneously a terrible Christmas movie, a terrible romantic comedy, and a highly problematic horror to watch. Inexplicably, far too many people enjoy this disastrous movie. Also, Emma Thompson deserved FAR better.” Overall, comments regarding “Love, Actually” ranged from, in the words of Mary Dubard ’19, “‘Love Actually’ is the worst movie in the world,” to an impassioned short essay from an anonymous respondent that begins, “‘Love Actually’ is an inspired film that shows the reality of early 2000s life in England as well as the joys and sorrows of the human condition.” In sum, while nearly half of respondents claimed no opinion at all regarding “Love, Actually,” feelings among the remaining participants, one way or the other, tended to be quite strong.
Elaborating thoughts on “Love, Actually” was the most frequent use of the comments section, but several survey takers did use the space to address other films or the Christmas movie genre more generally. Zoe Owens ’22 made the good point that “A Nightmare Before Christmas” is “truly the best movie for angsty teens because you can watch it from September to December with no questions asked.” Sydney Jobson ’22 and Zara Tarter ’21 both mentioned a particular fondness for the stop-motion claymation subgenre of Christmas films. Karisa Zdanky ’20 expressed an “unpopular opinion” that “Elf is overplayed,” in contrast to Seren Riggs-Davis ’21, who called “Elf” “the best Christmas movie, hands down.”
Regarding Christmas movies more generally, commenters seemed relatively evenly split between those who enjoy Christmas movies earnestly and those who enjoy them ironically. “They’re very nostalgic and remind me of childhood which makes me happy,” wrote one anonymous participant, while Sophia Greenberg ’21 made the case that “Christmas movies are mostly bad but you have to love to hate them.” Both schools of thought had considerable support. A few commenters made the case that Christmas movies are inexcusably problematic full stop. However, most critiques did not see the genre as irredeemable, nor was it the widely acknowledged “cheesiness” of Christmas films — particularly those of the Hallmark variety — with which they took issue. Instead, many respondents simply wished that the Christmas movie formula of hokey, predictable wintertime fluff was applied more inclusively. “I so dearly wish there were similarly themed Chanukah movies,” commented Dani Pergola ’21, while Izzy Smith ’22 noted, “All I want is for one to be gay. Give me warm winter lesbians!”