Monday, December 17, 2007

More Holiday Movies

I didn't get those revision notes just in time for the weekend, and Saturday turned out to be the kind of blustery day best appreciated by the warm glow of the television set, as seen from beneath a blanket on the sofa. As a result, I need to update my ranting about the made-for-TV holiday-themed movies. A flip through the cable guide shows that Hallmark and Lifetime are most prone to the "adorable moppets get a family just in time for Christmas when their single parent hooks up with someone" movies. There also seems to be a Lifetime subgenre in which the driven single career woman learns that the Real Meaning of Christmas involves having rugrats around and not caring about her career (often via the It's a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol treatment). Sometimes they invert that by having the frazzled housewife/mom realize that she has what she really wants when the It's a Wonderful Life treatment allows her to see what her life would be like if she hadn't married her doofus of a husband.

The Family Channel seems to specialize in Christmas-themed romantic comedies, which follow the usual plots of made-for-TV romantic comedies, such as the mistaken identity/deliberate (but well-intentioned, of course) deception, the desperately needing a date for an event and the wacky family interfering in heroine's love life. The Christmas element serves to magnify or complicate the main plot, or else serves as a valuable clue. In the mistaken identity stories, the heroine figures out which one is her True Love based on their shared love of all things Christmassy (a love of all things Christmassy is mandatory for the heroine of a Family Channel movie. They don't even seem to do Scrooge stories. You can't roll your eyes at Christmas excess unless you're the wacky best friend secondary character). In the "need a date" and "annoying family" stories, the holiday makes the need for a date even more important and intensifies the family's need for the heroine to find herself a man.

As you may be able to tell, I made a big bowl of popcorn and spent Saturday melting my brain. Though I did balance out all the sweetness by flipping over to various X-Men movies during commercial breaks and I ended the weekend by watching parts of Reign of Fire (that movie is a different kind of cheesy, but I still really like it).

There was one movie whose title I don't recall (and it didn't seem to have anything to do with the movie) about a young man and woman who'd been penpals since grade school. They'd never met, and then when he was going to be in her town, she panicked and sent her best friend to pretend to be her and meet him, and he panicked and brought his best friend to pretend to be him and meet her. Then they actually meet while spying on the best friends, and he figures it out immediately, but for reasons I don't understand she doesn't and he doesn't tell her until the magical snowfall at the happy ending. Of course, the wacky best friends aren't into Christmas, but have to pretend that they are because the pen pals they're pretending to be really are. I would have declared the main characters too stupid to live for all the elaborate "We're afraid to meet!" hijinks, but I am the queen of the crush from afar and can actually understand the fear that the relationship they did have would be ruined if they met and were disappointed. Except in my case, the existing relationship I'm afraid of losing is only in my head and involves sighing wistfully during weekend newscasts.

That evening there was one called something like The Snowglobe (or maybe without the "the") about a woman whose big, wacky family interfering with her love life made her long for a perfect Christmas, and then she found herself magically transported to the perfect Christmas village in her snowglobe. It really should have been better than it was because there was some interesting stuff buried in there. For instance, while in Perfect Happy Snowglobe Land, the heroine makes a reference to the original Christmas story (you know, the one that kicked all this stuff off), and the people there have no idea what she's talking about. There's some irony about the people whose entire lives revolve around Christmas not even knowing what they're celebrating or why, but they never went there (I guess you don't want any icky religion stuff in your Christmas entertainment). And there was some potential for cultural exploration because the Cuban/Italian heroine was longing for the Currier and Ives Victorian Christmas ideal, which brings up the way that the media tend to fixate on this relatively recent image of the perfect Christmas and ignore all the other equally valid cultural traditions that are out there. There was some real fun potential when the Stepford snowglobe people came into our world, but they just made them be total idiots rather than letting them comment on Christmas in our society. There was more about them having trouble using an escalator than exploring what they thought about the commercialism and cynicism of our culture.

It's enough to make me want to write a story about a woman who finds herself living in her own tabletop Christmas village, or something like that, just to do it right.

Actually, I have wanted to write a Christmas-themed romantic comedy book, and I guess that would be something that the Family Channel could make a movie out of (I don't have screenplay skills, so it's easier to sell it as a book and then get the movie optioned). Damsel Under Stress was kind of my Christmas romantic comedy, but there was other stuff going on so it doesn't really stand alone as a Christmas book. So there's something to add to my project list: a romantic comedy set at Christmas, probably with some magical or fantasy element (since that's my existing niche and it's best not to branch too far until you're established enough), and as the kind of story that would make a good movie. I'd prefer to write something good enough for the big screen, but a Family Channel TV movie is pretty good exposure.

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