Every year, movie fans are bombarded with cheer, cinematic fairy lights, candy canes, and bombastic choral singers when December rolls round. Classic Christmas movie re-runs dominate the TV schedules, all of our streaming services recommend us festive picks, and the good time tidings and merriment are everywhere you look.
Let’s be honest, Christmas movies are inescapable, and every year when I try to watch one to join the yuletide club, I’m reminded about the one, and at this point, unavoidable fact: I hate them all. That is right, I said it – I hate Christmas movies. But let’s get facts straight before you put me on your naughty lists, dear readers; I don’t hate Christmas itself.
I have no issue with Santa, the North Pole or highly decorated trees. My issue isn’t directly aimed at the aesthetic of Christmas or towards people who may love this holiday. No, my Scrooge-like Christmas movie opinions are due to one very simple reason, I’m bored of the commodification of love.
To break down specifically what I mean by that statement: I’m bored of the predictable use of love being the answer to every single issue presented in the storylines of traditional Christmas movies.
That’s important to remember here – I said traditional Christmas movies. Traditional meaning, nostalgic Christmas movies about Christmas, so no Christmas horror movies like Gremlins or alternative Christmas movies like Die Hard, which are mainly just set during the month of December.
When it comes to films directly about the holiday, no matter the setting, family, or hero, traditional Christmas movies always end with the wholesome version of love – be it romantic, familial, or friendship – saving the day just in time for our heroes to enjoy an idealistic version of the festive holiday. Be it rom-coms, comedy movies, or the classic family movies that we all know and love, every Christmas movie ends with this same emotional beat.
The message of ‘you don’t need presents or other materialistic desires, all you need is family or friends to truly be happy’ is a constant theme hammered into our brains. And, unfortunately, even if I find myself enjoying the initial premise or look of one of these seasonal films, by the time the climax has hit the story, I’m ready to roll my eyes because I know exactly what is coming from a mile away.
Even revisiting my childhood favourite Christmas movies now seems like a drag, because of this (I’ll admit it) annoying realisation that I have made. In Home Alone, we see the young Kevin’s dreams of being apart from his large family coming true, only to then see him realise how much he misses his mother once he gets his wish. In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jim Carrey’s heart grows in size with the innocent friendship of the Who Cindy Lou Who.
And in every retelling of a Christmas Carol, Scrooge becomes a changed and happy man after he learns how terrible it is to be alone and without friends or family. It’s A Wonderful Life saw George Bailey overcome suicidal depressive thoughts and return to his happy family life. And don’t even get me started on Christmas rom-coms, where films like The Holiday or the Ryan Reynolds movie Just Friends, end with the true gift being revealed as bagging a significant other.
Now, I know that commodifying love as the answer to strife and being a cinematic plot solver isn’t a Christmas movie exclusive quality. You may be wondering if, by my own very logic, do I hate Disney movies, where family and newfound love save the day, like Encanto or Up?
Or do I hate classic romance movies that show heroes growing and finding solace in partnership, like When Harry Met Sally? Well, to answer your questions, no, I don’t hate them. But, the commodification that we see in Christmas movies is a very different brand to that that we see in other films all year round.
Brand is the keyword here because these arguably universal themes stick out like a sore thumb in Christmas movies because they are tied to our very conception of the holiday itself. Love saving the day in a Disney movie takes many forms.
There are different settings, widely unique characters, and often enough variation in story beats to make films feel different from one another. Traditional Christmas movies, on the other hand, can’t help but feel incredibly similar and seemingly mimic each other because of how these films are tied to the strict structures of the holiday’s ideals.
The decorated houses. The table spread of food. The constant debate over materialism with presents versus quality emotional time with loved ones. All these elements have to be adhered to in the filmmaker’s script. And after years and years of Christmas movies following these guidelines, they all seem to mould into one as a result – since variation can only go so far when you have the same themes and aesthetics to work with.
I completely understand how other movie fans may not care about the similarities in Christmas movies. People love to get into the Christmas spirit and dive into everything the festive season has to offer. I’m just ready for Christmas movies about Christmas to take more risks. I’m tired of love overcoming all when we all know that the holiday normally ends in some family screaming matches with distant relatives anyway.
If I could ask Santa for anything, it would be for some new themes because I don’t know about you, but doesn’t it feel like wholesomeness and love winning out over materialism has been squeezed of all its classic-making potential already?
If you still don’t agree with my Christmas movie problems after ready all this, why not look over our cheery guides on the best Amazon Prime Christmas movies, and look at where the Home Alone cast is now?