‘Tis the Season of the Christmas Romcom

Vanessa Hudgens

For reasons that could likely only be decoded by someone with detailed access to Nielsen ratings and Netflix algorithms, our culture seems to be becoming more and more enamored with Hallmark-style Christmas movies. From a layperson’s perspective, this is likely due to our newfound love of streaming services and their ability to always show us something we haven’t seen before, even if that something is of questionable quality. So after you’ve watched a classic like It’s a Wonderful Life, Love Actually, Home Alone or even Die Hard, it’s become second nature to find something new. So as the weather turns colder and our time on the couch increases, we turn to Hallmark, Lifetime and ABC Family for an endless stream of Christmas-tinged drivel.

And boy oh boy, have they delivered.

Hallmark’s 2018 “Countdown to Christmas” alone features a whopping 22 movies. Christmas Joy sees an ambitious market researcher (Danielle Panabaker) come back to her small hometown for Christmas and run into her old crush. In Road to Christmas, a TV producer hatches a hare-brained scheme to reunite a family (and falls in love with Chad Michael Murray). More saccharine-sweet storylines are abound in It’s Christmas, Eve (yes, the female lead is named Eve); Christmas in Love; Christmas at Graceland; Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa; Reunited at Christmas; Christmas at the Palace and A Shoe Addict’s Christmas. The list goes on, and even manages to include two different films based on Pride and Prejudice. Based on the film summaries, Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe, featuring Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls) as Darcy seems to be a gender-swapped version of Christmas at Pemberley Manor.

A Christmas Prince

Of course, it’s not especially surprising that both Hallmark and Lifetime fill their lineups with these sorts of movies. Corny romantic dramedies are their bread and butter; it only makes sense that they’d sprinkle in some mistletoe and snowy backdrops as Christmas approaches. But somehow, people who would never watch Lifetime otherwise are drawn to these films come December. This phenomenon—or at least, our societal awareness of it—can be directly traced to Netflix’s A Christmas Prince. In their uncanny ability create binge-worthy content, the streaming giant took a page from Hallmark and combined a fictional country, a scrappy journalist (Rose McIver, iZombie) and a playboy prince (Ben Lamb, Divergent) to create the ultimate so-bad-it’s-good Christmas romantic comedy that uses every trope in the genre. Then, in a brilliant marketing move, Netflix sent out this tweet: “To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?”

It’s impossible to know whether or not the movie would have taken off without the assistance of that viral tweet, but one thing is clear: A Christmas Prince became a hit. Netflix notoriously does not release statistics on streaming views (except when it makes for an excellent tweet, apparently), but the film was watched at least enough to warrant its highly-anticipated sequel, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding. And for better or for worse, our society is finally admitting that we crave this style of movie.

It’s unclear why this time of year brings out this tendency in people. Perhaps as the holidays approach and our lives become more stressful (see: traveling, buying gifts, family drama), many of us choose to unwind with a low-stakes, poorly written romcom, some spiked hot chocolate and a plate of cookies. Or, maybe we’re kidding ourselves and our standards were never that high to begin with. Whatever the case, the Christmas romcom has become a quintessential guilty pleasure—you may as well make that hot chocolate and indulge.