The Case For Cheesy Holiday Movies

Photography by Scott Everett White/Netflix

In my book, these kitschy flicks are the reason for the season.

Secret Santa this. Twinkly lights that. It seems no one wants to talk about the real star of the holiday season: bad Christmas movies.

I’m not talking about the classics — Home Alone, The Grinch, Elf — which are, obviously, masterpieces. Nay, dear reader. I’m referring to the run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter rom-com featuring stereotypical Hallmark storylines and everyone-saw-it-coming endings. With notable characteristics including a festive town backdrop, an always picturesque protagonist and a mysterious old man who is definitely not secretly Santa Claus, these formulaic flicks are basically asking to be made fun of. And even though a new, overabundant crop of them is churned out each year, I, for one, never tire of watching them.

Lindsay Lohan’s Falling For Christmas is one such example. The Netflix original, which came out this November, generously gave the world two gifts: the triumphant return of an early 2000s icon and a quintessentially corny holiday plot. It goes like this: After losing her memory in an accident, a spoiled heiress tries to piece together her old life while staying at a quaint ski lodge and bonding with its charming owner. A love story unfolds. It’s cliché, overly sentimental and so bad it’s good. These are the aspects I have come to not only expect but love about holiday movies.

falling for christmas
Photography by Scott Everett White/Netflix

Case in point: one Friday night, not too long ago, as I sat on my couch with nowhere to go (rhyme intended), I had way too much fun watching yet another new cheesy film: The Noel Diary. A famous writer returns to his sleepy hometown to fulfill family duties, where he meets a woman who is looking for her birth mother. What happens next, you ask? Why, a love story ensues, of course.

the noel diary
Photography by KC Bailey/Netflix

Still not intrigued? Allow me to suggest 2021’s Single All The Way, where two best friends, Peter and Nick, pose as each other’s boyfriends in an effort to avoid family judgment about being single around the holidays. (Bonus: Jennifer Coolidge is in this.) Also, a love story ensues. *Chef’s kiss*

Notice a theme? These feel-good films follow all-too-familiar tropes, and before embarking on this type of unique viewing experience, you have to come to terms with what you’re getting: not much originality. But that’s kinda where their beauty lies. The songs are familiar festive jingles. The plots are generic enough that you can talk through half the movie and still know what’s going on. The wardrobe is delightfully predictable: pea coats for the down-to-earth love interest, fuzzy head-to-toe outfits for the spoiled character with something to learn, and a sea of plaid for everyone else. It’s a formula that works, and it’s repeated time after time.

Single All The Way
Photography by Philippe Bosse/Netflix

A few searches on any streaming service will offer an endless variation of titles that are all seemingly iterations of the exact same thing. We have your location-specific flicks: A California Christmas, A Very Country Christmas, A Castle For Christmas. There’s the small town love story: The Holiday Calendar, Hometown Holiday, Falling Inn Love. Even wedding-centred movies have become their own subgenre: Christmas Wedding Planner, A New York Christmas Wedding, A Bride for Christmas. Yes, these are all real movies. And they’re tens across the board!

Sure, the same plots are churned out year after year. And, yeah, the actors always have questionably perfect hair and makeup — even if they just woke up or went tobogganing. Of course, we see the romantic happy endings coming from a mile away. Are they realistic? Absolutely not. But who says they should be? The right holiday rom-com is, at its core, pure escapism.

Like lighting a scented candle or taking a hot bath, swaddling up in a fluffy duvet and watching predictable Christmas movies is a form of self-care I take seriously. They may not change the world with cutting-edge storytelling, but these cinematic works of art reliably provide some joie de vivre at a time when everything is colder, darker and bleaker. They’re here to bring you some holiday spirit, goshdarnit, and that’s what they’re going to do.

After all, not every piece of media we consume has to be deep or thought-provoking. Sometimes having no thoughts at all except “Aw” and “Pretty!” is exactly what I need at the end of a long year. ’Tis the season to turn off your brain, let bad things be bad and appreciate unapologetically cheesy Christmas movies.

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