On Oct. 31, the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel aired the film “Nostalgic Christmas,” a title whose name represents “coals to Newcastle” levels of redundancy. A few weeks later, the network found itself caving to anti-gay activists over an ad for the wedding site Zola, which featured a lesbian wedding and kiss, then apologizing to the LGBTQ community for that reflexive capitulation — a perfectly executed double-cave.
To the untrained eye, these moments might seem disconnected, but in the words of the only book everyone reads in the Hallmark universe, they were the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future arriving all at once. The world of Hallmark often resembles a kind of rear-guard action in a culture war that the network’s prime demographic is losing. The jobs, homes, community and security in the bleached pastoral hamlets showcased in the Hallmark universe are dwindling, increasingly as unreal as their TV presentation.
“Nostalgic Christmas,” one of the 40 new movies Hallmark rolled out this season, was about a toy company executive who gives up on the rollout of a “computerized programmable horse that you can teach to talk” in favor of maintaining her father’s small-town shop selling handcrafted wooden toys, while a rich person kept a local mill open out of the goodness of deus ex machina.