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. 

New Year’s Resolutions

By: Joseph Kurtz

December 15, 2020

The year of 2020 is coming to an end. This means New Years is just around the corner, so it’s time to start creating new goals for the coming year. Unfortunately the circumstances of this year have changed the way that we celebrate certain holidays. For example, Thanksgiving was recently canceled in the county of Los Angeles because of the difficulties resulting from the pandemic. Basically you weren’t allowed to go to any restaurant or have large family gatherings.  Despite these challenges, there is still hope for this New Year’s holiday. One of the biggest traditions of New Year’s is to make New Year’s resolutions. According to Cambridge university, a New Year’s resolution is a promise or goal that you make on New Years. According to YouGov, “the most common ones are exercising more (50%), saving money (49%), eating more healthily (43%), and losing weight (37%)”. Though there is no reason to feel obligated to make one of those New Year’s resolutions.  

Here are some New Year resolutions that you may want to consider.  The first New Years resolution that you may want to consider is to go on more hikes. This one is very similar to the exercising resolution, but it requires you to spend more time with nature, which is needed more than ever (just remember to bring a coat). The second New Year’s resolution to consider is going to more small businesses. This one will not only help the struggling business but it also gives you something fun to do for the holidays. Small businesses definitely need our help because of this difficult pandemic. The third New Years resolution is to recycle more. This one may seem strange at first, but when you start to collect all of the Amazon boxes and hand sanitizer bottles that you have, you start to see just how much you can recycle (plus you get some cash for just recycling). The fourth New Years resolution is to be on a screen less. This one could be difficult (especially if the epidemic continues) though I believe its best. Society today requires us to be on a screen everyday and to be honest that is not the healthiest. 

Another New Year’s resolution we could all use is best described as picking a new hobby. Most people probably did this at the start of quarantine, but it’s always important to discover and start a new hobby. Starting your own colony of small organisms is a great and unique new hobby. It might sound strange to own a colony of anything, but it is surprisingly quite relaxing and a very beautiful hobby. If you want to see what it’s like to own an ant colony, AntsCanada’s youtube channel has a selection of videos all about ant farms. Or maybe you will decide to start an aquarium. Start by doing some research on the marine animal you would like to raise as some species will not coexist peacefully.  There’s no permit necessary to start an aquarium which makes the process a bit smoother. SerpaDesign’s youtube channel offers some videos that display different and intricate aquarium designs. 

This last New Year’s resolution is about doing altruistic activities. According to Merriam – Webster altruism is a behavior that is not beneficial; or is harmful to oneself but is beneficial for someone else. We could all use a little kindness nowadays. Volunteering is a great way of fulfilling these resolutions, and it’s one of the few activities we are still able to do. Recently, at a church in Santa Barbara there were volunteers feeding the homeless. In sum it doesn’t matter if your New Year’s resolutions are about sleeping or exercising.  The main point is to commit to a new goal for the year. 

The Holiday Confectionary Breakdown

By Isabella Howe

December 15, 2020

After what seems like an action-packed, stressful, and chaotic year we have made it to the last stretch of the year, and arguably the most enjoyable time of year, the holidays. The season of celebrations has arrived, and with every celebration, there is an accompanying feast. Dinner tables are a collection of mom’s crip rosemary turkey, dad’s roasted pomegranate Brussel sprouts, and grandpa’s sweet strawberry and rhubarb pies. There is finally an excuse to start excessively baking the hundreds of desserts that have been collecting dust in your Pinterest boards. If you aren’t already prepared with a collection of recipes, here is your archive for finding holiday dessert ideas and recipes.

It’s always necessary to have a good breakfast recipe under your belt in preparation for any surprise brunch gatherings. In an attempt to stay festive and in the theme of sweets, Half Baked Harvest has created the delicacy known as “Baked Cinnamon Creme Brulee French Toast with Raspberry Preserve”. This breakfast dish puts a spin on the simplicity of french toast and utilizes the tartness of the raspberry to subtly mute the sweetness of the sugary creme soaked toast. The ingredients and measurements necessary for this recipe include ¼ cup real maple syrup, ½ cup brown sugar, 6 tablespoons of melted butter, 8 large beaten eggs, 2 ½ cups of whole milk, 3 tablespoons of Grand Marnier (or any type of orange liqueur), 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, 1 loaf of thickly sliced challah bread, 1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1-ounce raspberry preserve, and whipped cream for serving. After greasing your 9×13 inch baking pan, combine maple syrup, brown sugar, and butter and spread that mixture on the bottom of the dish. Next whisk the eggs, milk, Grand Marnier, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until well combined. Dunk each slice of challah into the liquid allowing for a one minute soak, and then place it in the baking dish in a semi-organized manner. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the slices in the dish, then take this dish and cover it and place it in the fridge for any time past an hour. Once taken out place in a 375-degree oven and bake for 45-50 min or until french toast looks golden. While baking takes your raspberry preserve in a saucepan and dilute it with about ½ a cup of water, let simmer until warm. Best while served warm with a generous spread of both cream and raspberry preserve. 

I think it’s fitting to say that the holiday season can and should also be known as pie season. During the holiday season bakeries turn out dozens of pies in hopes of satisfying everyone’s demand for the quintessential holiday dessert. Though, arguably, after years of eating the classic buttery pie crust with the cinnamon-spiced apple filling, things can start to become quite monotonous. Though there are ways to still stay true to the tradition of pie while introducing a new take to the structure and flavor of it. The French dish Tarte Tatin is an upside-down apple tart made with caramelized apples laying on a bed of puff pastry. The Bon Appetit kitchen has created the recipe known as “Vanilla Bean Tarte Tatin” in which the following ingredients and measurements are necessary, 5 Pink lady or any other type of crisp peeled apples, ½ cup sugar, ½ of a split vanilla bean, 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 sheet of thawed puff pastry (about 14 oz). Begin by preheating your oven to 425 degrees, and slice your apples into three lobes with cuts as close to the core as possible. Take around half of the sugar and sprinkle it on a 9-inch skillet with the vanilla seeds. Cook on medium heat until sugar begins caramelizing and the mixture has reached a pale amber color. Next, add in the rest of the sugar into the caramel and continue cooking until the sauce is a deep amber color. Take the butter, vinegar, and salt and mix it into the caramel. Once done add the apples onto the skillet, cut side down, and cook until they have released some of their juices and have slightly shrunk (this should take about 5-8 minutes). Next, turn apples over and arrange them so they are close together and barely overlap, and take off the heat. Roll out the puff pastry and cut into a size that will snuggly fit the skillet. After draping over the apples, place the skillet into the heated oven and let bake for around 20-25 minutes, and the pastry has puffed and slightly browned. Serve warm on its own, or with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Regardless of our personal dietary requirements or restrictions, everyone deserves to enjoy a dessert at a dinner party. For those of us who refrain from foods that contain gluten, coconut flan is a delicious dessert choice that requires no form of alternative in order to be gluten-free. Flan is a common and traditional dessert for many countries including Spain, Brazil, France, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, etc. Once again created by the Bon Appetit chefs, this dessert is a sweet and creamy pudding-like dish that integrates the nutty and floral flavors of coconut with the custard flavor of the condensed milk exquisitely. This coconut flan requires the following ingredients and measurements, 1 cup of sugar, 3 large eggs (at room temperature), one 14 oz can of condensed milk, one 13.5 oz can of unsweetened coconut milk, ¾ cups of evaporated skim milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and ⅓ cup of unsweetened coconut flakes. Heat oven to 325 degrees and place a rack in the middle of the oven (this ensures the flan will bake evenly). Next, take a 10-inch glass pie dish and place it on top of a roasting pan. Take your sugar and place it in a saucepan with about ¼ cups of water and mix until sugar is dissolved (this should take about 3 minutes). It is important that while this mixture is heating that you occasionally swirl the pan and brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush (but do not stir) to prevent crystallization of the sugar. Continue doing this until the mixture reaches a deep amber color which should take 10-12 minutes. Do not wait, once done immediately pour the mixture into the pie dish and evenly coat the bottom with the thick mixture. Let this sit aside for around 10 minutes, and settle while you mix together and form the custard mixture. Take the eggs, condensed milk, coconut milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla and blend this together in a blender until it reaches a smooth liquid consistency. If there is a layer of thick foam remove with a spoon. Next, take this mixture and strain it through a cheesecloth or a clean dish towel. Pour liquid into the pie dish. Place the pie dish that is in the roasting pan into the oven and carefully pour hot water into the roasting pan surrounding the pie dish until the water comes up to about ½ way up the sides of the pan. Bake this until the flan is still a little jiggly but still set in the center and slightly gold. This should take around 50-55 minutes. Once cooled and ready to serve, run the knife around the pie dish’s circumference and flip the pan onto a plate to invert the flan. Garnish with coconut flakes. 

Baking is an activity that can be enjoyed when done as a family, with your friends, or simply by yourself. At times, if you let the process flow, it can become therapeutic. It allows for people to come together with the purpose of creating something delicious through the dynamic of collaboration. Why not try it this holiday season, even if the final product is not the tastiest, it will be enjoyable nonetheless.