JINGLE BELL BRIDE
“I may have to boycott Hallmark.” My sister texted me this on Sunday as part of a short conversation about the cheesey Christmas movies that we love to hate watch this time of year. Lifetime was the first to REALLY try to think about the fact that diversity is not just a cute idea but the WAY. THE WORLD. WORKS. Hallmark seems awfully slow to join the game. This year is the first year that they’re trying to do something beyond the black best friend (which, for the record is NO LONGER acceptable) and I wanted to give them a shot. I really did. So I’ll take a peek when I see brown people on the cover image and see what they are trying to do.
Well, I watched my first Hallmark movie of the season last night and it legitimately made me angry. Like, lowkey ruined my night. I’ll do my normal ranking system and use it to get deep into why it pissed me off.
She’s a premiere wedding planner for a firm that serves celebrities in NYC. She’s up for promotion to run the London office and is a classic work-a-holic, complete with ignoring her family and own social life, in service of that goal. He is a small town guy, who lived in NYC for a while but has returned home after a bad divorce who is minding his own business, helping his aunt run her nursery/greenhouse. She needs a special flower for a celeb client that he and his aunt grow. She flies to their tiny town in Alaska, gets stuck and ends up getting involved in the town and their festivities right up until Christmas.
The first big issue is that she had no business leaving to go get these plants right before a big wedding. It just made no sense that she’d need to go get them herself. Her boss said as much and the explanation she got in return didn’t make it make sense. The idea that she could round trip from NYC to a tiny town in Alaska in 20 hours is hilarious — but this isn’t a comedy. So the premise was built on some super nonsense and because she believed that it was possible, she hung her client out to dry AND behaved HORRIBLY to the nice folx in Alaska. C-
She overacted her annoyance that her ridiculous plan didn’t work. Eventually, once she realized she was gonna be there for a couple days and stopped behaving like a monster, her acting settled in and was okay. He was far too syrupy sweet for me but I want to blame that on the script and not his acting. He didn’t distract me with his acting at all. His family — his aunt in particular — were the stars for me. She was natural and NAILED warm, accepting black auntie, who will still tell you about yourself when needed. (Her roller set was also one of the few GEMS of this movie. #realisticAF) B-
He was handsome. Had he had a good script to work with, I’m sure I’d be saying much more about him. She was 150% standard for the genre. Nothing too interesting about her even when dressed up for the dance. Also, and I know I’m black and my hair does magical stuff like defying gravity, but could we get these white leads to do a bit more… I don’t know… SOMETHING with their hair? A part on one side and a big curl in the front on the other side is all we ever get from these folx. What about a headband? A clip? More than one curl? A ponytail? Something?! It’s just lazy. B-
Here is where I have an issue. On the face of things, I would typically give them a decent score here. She is some sort of white Latina. Her last name is Perez and she and her sister speak Spanish to each other at different times. Speaking Spanish is something different that you don’t usually see in this genre. He and his family are black. It’s mostly set in Alaska so you see a lot of different types of brown ppl — again, which is not typical. And her celebrity client in NY is of Asian (or Polynesian) descent and there is a strong thread of that, including seeing her parents/grandparents at the wedding at the end.
My issue is in the way the lead woman, her name is Jessica in the movie, interacts with these black and brown people. I know it’s supposed to be funny but at the beginning, there is one of the most significant microaggressions that I’ve seen in a while. I noticed it because a friend of mine just told me a similar story on Saturday so it struck me right away.
Here’s what happened. Jessica arrives at the TINY airport in Tapeesa, Alaska and there is no one there. She had communicated with the town’s mayor about getting the flowers that she needed so she calls the mayor’s office to try to figure out how she can connect with someone to get the ride she was promised. (She’s really being sort of a jerk about this but that’s not entirely the point, see: note about overacting above.) While she’s on hold, Matt — the male lead — comes into the terminal. She’d been trying to get some cookies out of the vending machine but they got stuck. He walks in to see her banging on the machine. She speaks to him saying something to the effect of, My bad for whacking this machine — my cookies got stuck. He tries to tell her that he’s there to pick her up but she cuts him off because the mayor’s assistant comes back on the line and is like “The mayor says that your ride should be there”. And she curtly responded, “I don’t know what to tell you because I’m standing in the middle of the only hangar in existence and there is no one else here.” She turns while she’s talking and he’s looking at her waving (eating her cookies, HA!). She says, “Oh. Ya know, thank you for your help, I think I found him.”
- You have literally just spoken to this man.
- He is tall… Google says he’s 6’1 ½
- And he’s the ONLY. OTHER. PERSON. IN. THE. ROOM.
Yet, somehow, you can conclude — “There is no one else here.” That is a microaggression. Period.
She apologizes but says, “I was expecting someone with a sign… with my name on it.” He rightly responds with dripping sarcasm saying, “Wouldn’t wanna miss ya with all these people here.” And from there, he proceeds to be WAY nicer to her than she even kinda deserves. He ate her cookies (cause she was too busy being a jerk to calmly figure out how to get them) and she demands them back. She literally takes the open box from him! Like I mentioned, she was a JERK to him and a lot of other people in that town (particularly the pilot and the white girl who she meets at the festival, who also runs the general store). She keeps acting like her ignorance is somehow HIS fault. She tells him that their town sign has a typo cause it says Population: 112. She’s yet to set foot in town and she’s telling HIM that their sign is wrong. The gall! When it starts to get dark at 4pm, she’s incredulous and mildly rude to him when he explains. Jessica, sweatheart, have you never heard ANYTHING about Alaska?? I’ve never been and haven’t ever studied it but even I know that it’s dark a lot in the winter there.
I’m giving them an F because someone actually wrote that massive microaggression into the script and it’s not okay. (NOTE: Before you come for me about a Latinx character performing a microaggression on a black character ala, “How can a Latinx character be racist?”, remember that I live in Miami. It’s a special kind of racism that runs rampant here. The white supremacist delusion is strong and will seriously eff up your mind.) F
I say watch it. See what Hallmark is trying to do but keep an eye finely tuned for the racial nuances (mostly how she speaks to these kind people who BEND OVER BACKWARDS the WHOLE movie to help her even though she lies to and takes advantage of them regularly!). I’m realizing I might need to change my rating system again… just having bodies in different shades isn’t gonna be enough if they’re gonna be written to perpetuate the same bullshit on each other on film that we have to deal with in these streets.
I may have to boycott Hallmark.