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Hallmark's hamartia

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OCTOBER 17, 2022

As a Hallmark movie enthusiast myself, I would like to point out a trend in Hallmark movies — that the main cast is almost always white. 

Sure, there are some background characters, such as the Guatemalan coffee shop barista that served a role in the quirky white woman’s meet-cute with the white man who strictly drinks black coffee, but there is never a prominent person of color in most Hallmark movies. 

Throughout my Hallmark-movie-watching adventures, I have not only noticed that the Hallmark Now subscription is insanely overpriced, but the casting and plots of these Hallmark movies are evidently catered to the white upper-middle-class people. Although no one seems to care about the Hallmark movie industry enough to radicalize it, I believe that these white catered movies say a lot about the American film culture.

Before imposing my controversial opinion that may anger the Hallmark movie fandom, I would like to elaborate on my Hallmark movie enthusiast credentials. I have watched Hallmark movies religiously since eighth grade, meaning I have learned every trope and quirk of all their  repetitive plots. I have rehearsed the stories in my head as a coping skill to overwhelming circumstances. It was the easiest form of escapism out there. There was no reason to take the bus to the library when you could switch the channel to Hallmark and watch shallow romantic conflicts only the privileged upper class seemed to be concerned about. I didn’t just happen to choose to have a questionable taste in movie genres, as I have attempted other genres such as science fiction, horror, comedies and even black-and-white movies, but they all tend to have frustrating plots where I have genuine concerns for the characters. My extreme concern for these fictional characters and how their dumb mistakes can lead up to a universal apocalypse has ruined the intended effect of movies, to be an entertaining distraction from the world. 

Don’t get me wrong — I was entertained, but I was also sweating nervously for a collection of stones the universe depends on. The sense of empathy for these movie characters may be common, but I found my real life too overwhelming to engage stressful situations for the sake of entertainment. 

Hallmark movies were the perfect solution to my repulsion of movies with complex themes and plotlines; it is easier to be stressed over a small-town girl’s poor communication skills than the universe being in the hands of a utilitarian purple alien. The worst that could happen in a Hallmark movie is a loss of a romantic relationship and sometimes, the protagonist moves to another peculiarly similar environment, while other movies concern the possibility of the end of human existence. In a sense, Hallmark movies were a fantasy world where I could immerse myself in occasionally and save the existential worries for reading news surrounding climate change. 

The movies were not always a blessing for me. It all started one afternoon in eighth grade when I was home alone for a couple of hours. My loneliness was overwhelming, so I decided to turn on the cable and watch television. After checking nickelodeon for “iCarly” episodes to find out that they downgraded to a “Loud House” cartoon series, I channel-surfed until I encountered a movie exploring the coffee shop meet-cute trope — where the white, pumpkin spice latte enthusiast bumps into the black coffee indulgent and coffee splatters all over her blouse. 

I was invested in the mild misfortune of being late to work due to a change of shirt after the typical trade of death stares occurs. I was more intrigued by the fact that they ended up falling in love as it turns out to be that they were co-workers, yet a little annoyed that the psychopathic behavior of drinking black coffee (with no sugar!) was made into the male protagonist’s main personality trait. It was a blessing to encounter these predictable plotlines that allowed me to rewind and lean on the stability of shallow Hallmark movies. 

Unfortunately, this Hallmark movie watching bliss did not last as I slowly noticed that the demographics of these movies seem as consistent and predictable as the plotline. The lack of diversity began to bother me enormously. I resented the blonde pumpkin-spice-latte-loving woman in a small town where she didn’t have to worry about being called a racial slur in her own neighborhood or about arguing with others about her family’s residency status in her home country. The tension between the lack of diversity within these movies and the sense of stability it used to evoke made me realize that this was a bigger issue than just a racist Hallmark movie industry. 

As time went on, I picked on small details such as the cultural backgrounds of the people I watched on the big screen in movie theaters. Although it took years to connect the dots, the lack of diversity in Hallmark movies shows a significant aspect of American film. Despite the praise that comes with diverse 21st-century movies where the cast looks similar to the demographics of any metropolitan area in the United States, people of color and other marginalized groups seem to be tokenized for plotlines and their pain. 

The reason why Hallmark movies do not use a more diverse cast in their productions is because they do not feel the need to. 

There is no complex plot in them for people of color to act out. In other words, upper-middle-class white people do not have complex plotlines concerning their safety or global issues concerning cultural or socioeconomic oppression. Consequently, people of color are used to represent these plotlines where there are situations where they feel pain because that is the consensus within American society. 

It is normal for people of color to feel pain, so they are usually presented with complex plotlines because it is difficult to imagine them otherwise. There is rarely a movie where a person of color has a Hallmark plotline and simple problems such as bumping into someone and spilling coffee. The tragic flaw of Hallmark movies is that it wasn’t the Guatemalan barista that had her meet cute in the coffee shop. It was the white woman. The hamartia in Hallmark movies is that it truly shows how, even in media, people of color are forced to go through more pain than those with more privilege.

Contact Daniela Ayala at 

LAST UPDATED

OCTOBER 17, 2022