Slimantics: Don't let Hallmark ruin your Christmas


Slim Smith



The subject for today is the Christmas movie or, more specifically, the Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.


The latter has a reverse Scrooge effect on me. The more I see of them, the less I like Christmas.


Christmas movies have been around since the beginning of film. Most have been forgotten, such as the 1907 film "A Little Girl Who Did Not Believe in Santa Claus."



Of all the Christmas movies since, this may be the most interesting one ever, based on the plot description from the film website "Reel Rundown:"


This is a family film about the friendship between a wealthy boy and a poor girl. It starts off with the boy playing outside in the snow and noticing the girl shivering because she doesn't have a coat. So he gives her his coat.


While the children are playing together, the boy discovers that the girl doesn't believe in Santa Claus because he's never visited her. So later that night, the boy waits up for Santa, armed with a pistol and some rope. When Santa comes down the chimney, the boy ties him up, holds him at gunpoint, and forces him to visit the little girl's house. These extreme measures are successful, as the girl wakes up to a beautiful Christmas tree and several presents. Santa forgives the boy.


Interesting, right?


But Christmas movies took a turn for the worse in 2009, when the Hallmark Channel launched its "Christmas Countdown" movie series, even though Americans had done nothing at all to provoke the channel to do such a thing.


Every day, from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas and right on through to New Year's Day, we are bombarded with "Hallmark Original" movies. As you might expect by the sheer volume, the plots become formulaic.


You would think, out of sheer boredom if nothing else, the Hallmark movie producers would spin a tale about a kid who extorts presents from Santa at gunpoint every once in a while. But no. It's always a story about a young professional woman who has moved from her idyllic small town to follow her dreams in a cut-throat occupation in some soul-less metropolis. She returns home for Christmas holidays to either take care of an ailing parent or to save the family business from going down the tubes, usually because of the big box store that opened in town.


By happenstance, there is a young veterinarian in town who is so handsome, so charming and so kind that no one in the little town wants to date him. Or he may be a widow who hasn't been able to move on even though it's been, like, three whole weeks since the funeral.


Our young heroine meets the vet because she has a dog, usually a Golden Retriever. Soon they get together and, boy, does the girl feel left out! Just kidding. Hallmark movies aren't even close to being that interesting.


The backdrop of the budding love affair is the little town, which is always so beautifully adorned for Christmas it would put Currier & Ives to shame, you know, like Buckatunna or Biggersville.


At some point the couple has a falling out over some misunderstanding that would be quickly and easily resolved between normal people. At the last moment, perhaps as she's about to get in her car and drive back to the city, he shows up and they talk it out. They kiss. Perhaps the dog jumps between them to provide some comic relief. Almost-failed businessman/successful voyeur Papa peers creepily out the window in approval. The end.


For two months-plus, it's a derivation of the same plot.


And people apparently love it because, well, people are dull.


If you are not dull, but still like Christmas stories, I recommend something almost as good as "A Little Girl Who Did Not Believe in Santa Claus" (Can you imagine what Quentin Tarratino could do with THAT plot, by the way?) It's the Emmy-winning 1966 production of Truman Capote's beautiful short story, "A Christmas Memory." You can find the book on Amazon and the film on YouTube.


The last paragraph of the story - the last lines of the 55-minute film - are among the most achingly tender lines in American literature.


Be forewarned: There is no veterinarian, but there is a dog named Queenie.



Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]


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