Are Hallmark Movies Whitewashed?

By: Colin Murphy

December 15, 2020

Hallmark movies are famously known for their movie posters that feature white, heterosexual couples surrounded by beautiful landscapes and Christmas lights. Not only are these movies ridiculously silly and over-the-top festive, but they represent more than just what is seen in these films. These Hallmark movies represent a culture that is unwilling to change throughout societal pushes for diversity. In recent years, the Hallmark Channel has received a lot of negative pushback for their lack of diversity. 

In 2019, Hallmark released a record number of 24 Hallmark Christmas movies. Only four of which featured a black lead character. Some people complained that it was less than Hallmark’s 2018 movie’s  five out of 21 black lead characters, but that completely misses the point. This type of debate should not come down to a percentage difference, 24% in 2018 and only 16% in 2019. That statistic completely fails to show their lack of diversity in religion and sexuality. Streaming service Netflix and cable channel Freeform both show diversity in their holiday films. Freeform does not produce nearly the same amount of Christmas films as the Hallmark Channel does, yet they still have made steps to further diversify the stories that they do feature. 

In 2019, the channel released “Ghosting: The Spirit of Christmas” and “Same time, Next Christmas”. Both of these featured films have leads of color in addition to other cast members who are people of color. Clearly, Freeform has put in their effort to further diversify their films and has increased their stories that are representative of their viewership. This use of teen romance and animation does a great job of expanding the scope of the holidays. Netflix’s lineup attempts to break molds and they succeed at showing more than just another happy couple. Their attempts are much more than what we’ve seen from Hallmark. 

Although the first Hallmark Christmas movie was only released in 2002, the “Countdown to Christmas” block was not released until 2010. Since then, the Hallmark Channel has released hundreds of holiday films. All of these films feature the seemingly familiar yet safe storylines over and over again, each with their own slight twists. 

Why are these movies that just repeat the same storyline each and every year with little to no diversity still so popular? Well, Hallmark movies are notably profanity free and steer clear of any sexual scenes or significant drama. It’s believed that these factors have a strong impact on Hallmarks viewership as their movies are watched during the holiday season when families are more likely to gather around the television together.  By avoiding significant drama, the Hallmark Channel believes they are trying their best to be as noncontroversial as possible. 

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter  Crown Media family Networks’ CEO Bill Abbott said, “In terms of broadening out the demographic, it’s something we’re always thinking about, always considering and we’ll continue to make the movies where the best scripts are delivered to us and what we think have the most potential.” Abbott continues on to say that with all the work that goes into reviewing scripts, and with the network releasing several dozen original titles a year, there just is not enough time to spend emphasizing diverse casting. 

Ultimately, the Hallmark Channel seems to be content with their movies released each year as they mean no harm with their little to no diversity in their films. 

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