Springer: Hallmark movies’ diversity problem

Over the past few years, Hallmark has begun to diversify its annual list of Christmas movies.

Hallmark Channel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Over the past few years, Hallmark has begun to diversify its annual list of Christmas movies.

By Cadi Springer, The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science

In the Oxford dictionary, the definition of heteronormative is “denoting or relating to a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation.” If you’ve ever seen a Hallmark movie, you know they are exactly that. 

Hallmark movies: the vacuous, sickeningly positive, cliche, feel-good flicks mass produced by a company who capitalizes off of American’s desire for the nuclear family dream.

Hallmark movies constantly encourage viewers to stay “in the box” by creating their own nuclear family of straight white people and implying that this is the perfect or fairytale family. 

This begs the question, how does promoting heteronormativity benefit Hallmark? The nuclear family is an ideology of capitalism. This idea that families should be a woman and man who have children who, in turn, will create their own nuclear family screams that we are made to reproduce and spend money that only benefits the rich and the government. 

Not only do Hallmark movies promote heteronormativity and the nuclear family that doesn’t include same-sex couples, but they also promote discrimination by casting mainly white actors and actresses. 

While these families aren’t always the same race by definition, Hallmark also pushes more discrimination by usually showcasing families that are unblended or all the same race. 

By rarely casting minorities in their movies, they are sending a message to their viewers that is heard loud and clear—different is bad. Hallmark consistently has a record for doing the bare minimum when it comes to inclusion. In 2019, Hallmark made 24 original holiday movies, and only four of them had a non-white lead, which was lower than in 2018 when five films had non-white leads. None of these films featured other faiths, however. This year’s Hallmark movies have been called “more diverse than ever,” with one film, out of 40, featuring a gay couple, and movies featuring Hanukkah and interracial couples. However, these films make up a small percentage of everything Hallmark produces and seem like an afterthought thrown in to avoid criticism.  

Excluding people of color also sends a message of racism and implies that people of color are not the social norm or socially acceptable which is another underlying problem with Hallmark movies. 

These narrow portrayals of the nuclear American family discourage personal expression and celebration of differences in younger audiences. When a child watches a movie or TV show where there is not a character that looks like them or is relatable to them, it begins a cycle of internalized and inconsistent self-esteem.

As for the white children who watch these movies and programs, it promotes close-minded thinking and gives them a false sense of superiority by being what is societally “normal.” They begin to look at their peers who are not white as uncommon or an oddity, which can be a potential ignition of hatred in someone’s heart.

This problem runs rampant in Hollywood and while the company has come a long way, they still lack complete inclusivity. This needs to be addressed at all times particularly now as we enter the holiday season and Hallmark Inc.’s “Countdown to Christmas” event.

 These movies grow more popular in the holiday seasons because of their happy-go-lucky themes and heart melting endings. They always put people in the holiday mood and can leave families feeling joyous, but we should acknowledge the things that are commonly missed by this film company. 

It’s very easy to overlook things that do not affect you, but I encourage everyone to promote movies and any forms of entertainment that are inclusive and send real messages of love and acceptance for everyone. 

This story was originally published on The Vision MSMS on December 16, 2020.