Hidden Gender Agenda in Hallmark Christmas Movies?

What bad could possibly be said about Hallmark Christmas movies–the channel that markets itself as feel-good TV at Christmas time? The real question is–what’s right about Hallmark TV?hallmark_2Capture

The first inkling of the negative messaging embedded in Hallmark movies, occurred to me a few years ago. It was the recurring theme of a successful professional woman, who found herself in a dream as a happy housewife with husband and children, at first yearning to return to her old self, but in the end happy to toss aside her “present” for the wedded bliss of the “future.”  That was followed by more than a few movies where every professional woman was unwed, in an unsatisfactory relationship or demonstrated a distinct lack Christmas spirit as she paid attention to work pressures, deadlines and other office-related predicaments. The heroine in those stories lived in a cold urban environment, typically New York City. Those movies were complemented by a series of movies where lonely single city dwellers gave up their digs for a solo country Christmas. In those movies the woman typically ended up falling in love with the strong country type–usually a handyman, plumber or toy shop owner.

For lawyers, the next in the series offers a landscape of feel-good movies that crossed every legal line imaginable with lowly secretaries, assistants, window dressers, and nannies (often an errant elf)  falling in love with their bosses, bosses brother or bosses male assistant. In half of those scenarios, the current girlfriend is a lackluster unspirited socialite, who gets dumped for the morally anchored but lowly secretary, housekeeper, hotel maid or nanny. Those are followed by nefarious land-grabbing developer movies who “steal” the deal of an aging Christmas tree farm, wonderland or town and extract a pound of flesh or worse, to un-seal the deal. Nevermind that the lawyers in those movies are portrayed as unsympathetic dumb slugs who can’t muster up the creative intelligence to negotiate the duped client’s way (its always a woman) out of the clearly unscrupulous contract.

Then there is the class of movies where a series of late twenty-something or early thirtysomething women can’t face their families and parents over the holidays without a date. Those offers solutions for these sad sack young women that range from making an intimate pact with total strangers they bump into on the street  (with whom they ultimately fall in love) to outright “boyfriend” kidnapping. There was one uncharacteristic exception to that class involving a prosecuting attorney who brings home a woman (state’s witness) in his custody awaiting an important trial where she is expected to testify against a crime boss. He parades her amidst his family on Christmas day as his girlfriend. She is loose, wears tight clothing all featuring fake animal fur and a variety of animal prints.  Each of the movies in this genre shares the common ending of coming clean to the families, only to have the main character eventually fall in love with their stranger dates or custodial witness.

There are others–which no surprise loosely fit into one or all of the categories above, the stranger in the coffee shop who ends up being a Prince from Askovia. The handsome prince keeps his royal roots under wraps but nearly every story involves a stodgy butler, a pompous mother and occasionally an errant sibling (brother) who collects cars and blonds. These nearly all disparage those who do not demonstrate the requisite enthusiasm for Christmas who are,  by coincidence, from the ranks of higher economic or social status.

Lastly, there are the sad widower movies. These too cross lines across the genres already described. The widowers are left to raise a daughter while the widows are left behind by their deceased spouses to single-parent young sons. Each finds happiness with mom’s new love. The men saviors will compete against a rich city slicker but the fellow who works in a soup kitchen, is a kind stranger in an airport, cook or restaurant dishwasher, will win her heart out every time.

Time constraints prevent me from writing about the miserable lady lawyers, lonely valueless women who date superficial greedy guys or lady doctors who leave California to head out to the-middle-of-nowhere Alaska to run a clinic.  And for those of you who do not fall into any of these hapless categories–take a second look. Do you flood your house with lights at Christmastime? Beware, if you don’t, your neighbors might just be talking about you behind your back!

So what’s it all saying? Women who work hard, are missing out. Young upwardly mobile women who put work first are misguided. Single parents cannot lead rewarding lives. Widows and widowers will live unsatisfied until they find a new mate. Those in the lower economic social strata can and should aspire to marry princes and all guys who run tree farms in Vermont are handsome, morally sound and good marriage material. For those of you who live in southern climes, Sorry–Christmas cannot be truly appreciated without snowflakes but if you kiss your significant

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other, preferably under a mistletoe, while looking at all the bright lights lining your roofline, there’s a chance you might capture the Christmas spirit, Hallmark style.

For all TV-on-while-you’re-working-all-night-long insomniacs out there, they say Frasier reruns will resume in January. I’m counting the days.

The lawyers will save us all.

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. -John Adams

Are we there yet? Seems we’re closer than ever before.

Those of us old enough to know, know that we have been here before. Republican vs. Democrat.  Liberal vs. Conservative. Vitriol. Slander. Venom…are words that come to mind almost daily. And, let’s not glorify the past too much, politics was as dirty then as it is today–only then, they settled disputes in a kindlier gentler way–in a gentleman’s duel which inevitably left one disputant dead. Death to the finish yesterday, today a musical. Oh, the irony. But, I digress.

I blame the conservatives. I blame the liberals. I blame the gun lobby.  I hold responsible the patrons for immigrants, refugees, women’s rights and right to lifers.   I blame them all because, as I watched them all march around DC this last week, it was clear that we have become a nation of private and special interests all jockeying for attention to our cause. Many, if not all,  have banded together in the “enemy of mine enemy is my friend,” fashion and our newly elected President is the glue that binds them.

By some lucky coincidence all the liberal interests number about 50 million and the conservative interests too, 50 million. In the middle possibly only 5 million or so who don’t really care to enter this very particular fray–because there interests weren’t at play in this go-around. There is real comfort in those numbers because it says that for every person whose voice is heard, there is a person of opposite view. In the 60’s there was a popular poster that made its way into every flower child’s dorm room “You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.”  The incorrect assumption in this last election was that which failed at interpreting the silence of 50 million people as everything other than the heartfelt righteous indignation it was. And the people, I might add, are good, god fearing, country loving people. Good like you and I good.

Lifelong friendships are beginning to stress and crack.   It is as if there were only one view and any other,  an anomaly, the unfathomable result of millions of New York’s  rats and cockroaches  who found their way into voting machines (outside of NY) and, when no one was looking, voted.    There’s the rub. The 50 million whose candidate did not win the election would have one believe there is no other side. There is but one correct world view, theirs,  as improbable and illogical as that sounds.   Those who adhere to a values and priorities different from their own are, simply and utterly, in one Facebook pal’s words, “despicable.”  In the past, thanks to the poetry of the ultimately tarnished Spiro Agnew,  yesterday’s “deplorables” had an equally caustic descriptive for the liberals:  “an effete corps of impudent snobs.”

And, there we have it. The dance  between the “arrogant intellectuals” and the “deplorables”  has begun.   For the fourth time in my short life, a Republican has been elected President. For the second time, those whose candidate did not succeed have hit the streets. Both times, liberal democrats. Both times, I stayed home.

This weekend, the lawyers came out–headed to the airports not to protest, but to attempt in their very special way,  to temper the impact of an extraordinary Presidential fiat with rule of law.  Thank god for the lawyers. Rule of law demands this: 1) that we have lawfully transitioned to a new president  whose ideologies may differ in extreme ways from yours and 2) we have a system designed to tolerate that and check and balance it. Our judges and courts are there for a reason. Let us put our faith and stock in the system–the system that gave 50 million people a voice and elected Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America and the same system that will provide endless opportunities for the other 50 million to challenge it and him when they deem it necessary. I accept this. I accept the current holder of the office of President of the United States and I accept peoples’ right to work with the system to change those actions which they consider constitutionally offensive. I envision there may even be times when I join in those actions.

I will not unfriend you, as perhaps you will me when you read this. And, if that’s the case, then I am really very sorry about the sad state of affairs in our world. I can only then ask this: Let us not wait until we are on our deathbeds, like Jefferson and Adams, to mend the fence upon which our friendship has been built all these last several years.

Breaking the fourth wall

4th-wall“Oh, you’ve gotten tickets for the inauguration…what a thrill. I’m so happy for you.”

These words were not said to me, nor do I think that they ever will be directed towards me, for you see, I voted for Mr. Trump, now President-elect. Even as I pen this blog, I have some trepidation. Those colleagues and friends, for whom I have only the greatest respect, will  judge me harshly. I have some confidence that their high regard for me will lessen, in some instances, substantially. Forget that I have the benefit of my own personal interaction with the man, as my guide, they will not want to hear that, nor will it affect their opinion of me, or of him or those other 60+ million people who voted for him.

The words in the opening sentence of this blog, reflected my actual delight that a good, intelligent, well respected colleague of mine obtained tickets to President Obama’s second inauguration. She was deliriously happy, and I was happy for her. I had my own feelings toward the man, but that did not get in the way of my realization that millions of intelligent people placed their faith and hope in him and his capacity to deliver hope and change. My candidate did not win. I was disappointed. As an advocate for rule of law around the world, it did not elude me that like charity, belief in the the rule of law and the orderly of transfer of power, “starts at home.” And so, with my long list of reservations, I demonstrated publicly and privately, respect for the man we have called Mr. President these last eight years.

Now the scene switches. The tables have turned. It is I who am not only decidedly not deplorable, but a thoughtful and intelligent person, also hoping for change. I watch with quiet contentment as my preferred candidate begins to make his way to the White House. As a resident of the east coast, there are few places where one can publicly display the pleasure at that prospect.  Make no mistake, I am disappointed  that I will likely not see a woman be President of the United States in my lifetime. But, I am equally determined never to vote along any line, party, race or gender, simply to break a ceiling or other metaphorical barrier.

Speaking of barriers, comes the perfect segue to the title of this blog:  The fourth wall…a dramatic convention often used in pantomime or children’s theater, rarely broken without artistic purpose. Once a tool  used to “heighten the comedic tone of a show” last week’s fourth wall break in the Broadway show Hamilton instead  reflects something of a tragic milestone for democracy. Recognizing the futility of discourse on the subject, I leave you with this quote from Toni Morrison’s Beloved:

“He licked his lips. ‘Well, if you want my opinion-‘
‘I don’t, ‘ She said. ‘I have my own.”