The Twinkly Christmas Rom Com Feeds Off the Disappointment of Women
….These films are also objectively bad. They hinge on undefined traditional values, and imply that there’s a literal magic that spurs improbable behavior around Christian holidays.
The characters—particularly the women—are completely one-dimensional. The plots are improbable at best and completely far-fetched at worst. And yet, they’ve never been more popular.
While there’s surely some aspect of escapism in these films, there’s also something darker at play: These movies don’t just depict a world that’s brighter and cheerier than our own; they depict one drastically different, where being a woman who Has It All is as simple as embracing the holiday spirit.
At the end of another year where the news cycle highlighted the inequalities, hurdles, and abuse that women around the world still face, one reason these movies are still so appealing is that they can be watched with both envy and outrage.
We can laugh at them because they’re so far from the truth of modern women’s experience.
…What Christmas rom-coms lack in quality, talent, and production values, however, they make up for with comforting, formulaic predictability—from the red and green sweaters on the movie posters to the extreme racial homogeneity of the romantic leads.
The protagonist is a single woman, almost always white, who has just been too busy to find true love. Somehow, around the holiday season, she’ll wind up in close proximity with either an old (male) flame or a handsome new (male) suitor.
Then, “because it’s Christmas” the two characters will act in ways that would normally be considered irrational and inappropriate, and somehow they’ll fall in love by Christmas Day.
(Despite using the peg of the Christian holiday, these films generally avoid any whiff of actual religion.)
All of this will be set in an idyllic small town, where even though fluffy snowflakes are constantly dropping from the sky, no one will actually look chilly.
These women are always slender and conventionally attractive. They dress modestly, and are focused on their careers—something easy to explain and a little whimsical, like a baker, photographer, journalist, chef, or wedding planner.
They have exactly one quirky best friend (who may well be the only queer person or person of color in the movie) and a perfect family, who kindly suggest that maybe—if the heroine weren’t quite so stubborn, career-focused, or anti-social—that she would find love.
(Notably, Netflix’s The Holiday Calendar has a touch more diversity than most of these movies, with two protagonists who are not white.)
Despite the heroine’s dedication to her career, as soon as Christmas season hits, she’s willing to totally upend her priorities and allow herself be swept off her feet, sometimes by a literal prince. And just like that, she will realize that True Love is effortless, and that it will solves every other problem in her life.
Of course, the life of most women today is considerably less idyllic. Women around the world still face a wage gap and yet they’re expected to be diligent mothers and work the “second shift” as homemakers while taking minimal time off work.
Women’s health is not taken seriously, and there’s still prejudice against women who are not thin. A bogus wellness industry has done little to alleviate their stress.
All of these pressures are worse for women of color, who still face discrimination in the workplace and beyond, and are also expected to conform with racist beauty standards.
Modern love is hardly a source of comfort for women in the #MeToo era, either. Women have to constantly contend with the risk of (Link): sexual violence while dating or indulging in a casual hookup.
Instead of princes, online dating sites are rife with men who ghost or send dick pics. It makes being vulnerable with a near-stranger, a requirement for the “meet-cute” of the classic rom-com, literally dangerous in some cases.