Salon - December 25, 2019
"Ultimately, there is probably no way to square the claim to believe in "diversity" with fascistic impulse that guides the current crop of Hallmark movies, which center always around these frankly MAGA-style ideas about what constitutes "real" America. As the Jewish movies show, the best that Hallmark can do is some token "diversity" that wipes out most of what makes people actually diverse. Their money comes from selling a vision of America that increasingly authoritarian conservatives wish to believe once existed and can be restored again — an America that excludes most of an increasingly urban, racially diverse, cosmopolitan nation. That won't change no matter how many inclusive Zola ads the network airs."
The Hallmark Channel has been having a rough go of it in the past few weeks. The cable TV behemoth, which has been minting money with its patented holiday season schmaltz, drew widespread criticism earlier this month when it pulled ads for the wedding company Zola that featured a lesbian couple kissing at their wedding. The company's initial excuse was that they do not allow ads that feature "overt public displays of affection," claiming the policy is "regardless of the participants."
This was, obviously, nonsense, as couples kissing at weddings is not only not outré, but generally seen as mandatory (and features in the channel's numerous rom-coms). Unsurprisingly, critics quickly found plenty of examples of straight snogging on the channel that shows that sexual orientation was the sole reason for the ad pull. (That, and Hallmark was clearly responding to a right-wing pressure campaign claiming that lesbian kissing "ruined" the channel's "family friendly" offerings.) Hallmark then flip-flopped, apologizing for pulling the ads and claiming they have been "a progressive pioneer on television for decades" and "committed to diversity and inclusion."
Which is, of course, laughable to anyone who has even glancing knowledge of the channel's offerings. Running down this year's schedule of Christmas movie offerings is like a trip into an uncanny valley of shiny-teethed, blow-dried heteronormative whiteness, with only a few token movies with characters of color. It's like watching "The Stepford Wives," but scarier, since the evil plot to replace normal people with robots is never actually revealed.
None of this should be a surprise, because Hallmark movies, as cloying and saccharine as they are, constitute the platonic ideal of fascist propaganda.
That is probably a startling statement to some. When most of us think about fascistically propagandistic movies, we think of the grotesque grandeur of Leni Riefenstahl's films celebrating the Third Reich — grand, but cold sweeping shots of soldiers goose-stepping and flags waving, all meant to inspire awe and terror. But the reality is, even in Nazi Germany, the majority of movies approved by the Nazi minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, were escapist and feather-light, with a Hallmark movie-style emphasis on the importance of "normality."
Read full commentary at Salon