In an age when keywords like “review” and “rating” dominate our Google searches, it’s no secret we’re getting increasingly picky—especially when it comes to entertainment choices. An ever-spinning carousel of movie and show options has given rise to the popularity of review resources like iMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. Everything we watch (and everything we eat) has to be preceded by both peer and critic review, it seems.
But as critics roar and audiences rate, there remains one great anomaly:
Last year, as news channel popularity saw a surge, cable ratings revealed they were the only entertainment outlet to have any notable popularity. Hallmark Movies & Mysteries jumped 28 percent in a year when most entertainment channels saw decline. Hallmark then announced they would "double down on this expansion" and produce 90 new TV movies in 2017—with more than 30 scheduled to release this December.
And that’s exactly what they’ve been doing.
But why is it working?
Brett McCracken explores this recent trend on The Gospel Coalition. In, Formulaic for a Reason: The Existential Appeal of Hallmark Movies, McCracken writes,
"I used to hate these movies. I hated them for the same reasons I hated Thomas Kinkade paintings. I saw them as too tidy, too perfect, too idyllic—absent the pain, ugliness, and darkness that gives meaningful and resonant texture to real life. But then I noticed how much delight my in-laws got from watching these movies—laughing at how formulaic they are but also loving them for this reason. And then my wife and I started watching them too, not only to ridicule their ridiculousness (which we do), but also to find comfort in their beauty. Yes, their beauty."
There’s something at play here that goes beyond cheesy plots and low-budget production. The magnetic appeal to these shows simply brings out something deep in our hearts: our longing. The predictable characters and déjà-vu story lines offer a stark contrast to our tumultuous world. They subconsciously give us a taste of the stability and comfort that we're so desperately seeking. That's why they work-—and not just with your mom.
"Hallmark films are not beautiful because they are expertly crafted. Nor are they beautiful because they are invariably full of beautiful people. They are beautiful because they are formulaic in a good way and because they are simple and earnest in a chaotic, cynical world."
In our current social and political climate, this kind of stability seems to be more necessary than ever. "Cynicism is exhausting," McCracken remarks, reminding us that there is no shortage of the constant reminders of darkness.
"Hallmark movies that narrate these simple, “old school” romances fill a cultural void that expands each year in this era of sexual and gender confusion. It’s a void that is darker and deeper than ever in these #MeToo days of Harvey Weinstein and other sexual-abuse scandals. It’s the void of good men and good women, treating each other decently, respecting each other’s dignity, loving each other well."
So next time you laugh at your parents for changing the channel to that formulaic rom-com, take a moment to survey what you're really craving. It may reveal the thirst of your heart—and God's vision for humanity—more than you know.
Cristina Rutkowski Ford is a Richmond-based artist, writer, and creative communicator. Along with writing, creating, and finding God in her Spotify playlist, Cristina channels her passions into her work as editor of Crosswalk.com.
Article date: November 28, 2017
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