Hallmark’s New Movie ‘Double Holiday’ Breaks New Ground for the Network, and Draws Criticism
The Hallmark Channel found itself in hot water recently after many people lambasted its decision to pull an advertisement that showed a lesbian couple kissing. The controversy over the commercial for wedding website Zola also sparked a larger debate about diversity on the network, which has been criticized for programming that leaves out LGBTQ people and largely focuses on white characters.
In the wake of the Zola ad situation, Hallmark has promised to do a better job of representing the LGBTQ community. The network known for its family-friendly programming had also previously said that it was looking at ways to diversify its slate of Christmas movies. (Of 24 new holiday movies airing on the Hallmark Channel this year, just four have black leads.) This year, the channel has taken a small step in that direction with two new Christmas movies that feature Jewish characters.
‘Double Holiday’ and ‘Holiday Date’ are firsts for the Hallmark Channel
Hallmark’s annual ‘Countdown to Christmas’ is in its 10th year, and for the first time, the channel is acknowledging that not everyone celebrates on December 25th. Holiday Date, which aired Dec. 14, and Double Holiday, which premieres Dec. 21, both feature Jewish characters.
In Holiday Date, a woman named Brooke is dumped right before the holidays. She enlists an actor named Joel to play the part of her ex-boyfriend, who she’s described to her family as “Mr. Christmas. But Joel is Jewish. When her family discovers this, they decide to incorporate some of his Hanukkah traditions into their Christmas celebration.
In Double Holiday, Rebecca, who is Jewish, finds herself fighting her co-worker Chris for a promotion. When her boss charges both of them with planning a big Christmas party on the fly, she and Chris have to work together to pull it off. At the same time, both learn more about their respective holiday traditions.
Not everyone is a fan of Hallmark’s take on Hanukkah
While both Double Holiday and Holiday Date include Jewish characters and discussions of Hanukkah, each looks at the holiday in relation to Christmas. And that’s a problem, say critics.
The movies “are just Christmas movies featuring Jewish characters,” wrote Jordan Salama in an opinion piece for the New York Times. “These are Christmas movies through and through, with Hanukkah portrayed as an afterthought,” he added. “In both movies, the Jewish protagonists are clueless and miserably new to Christmas.”
Not only that, but some argued the movies relied “anti-semitic tropes,” as Britni de la Cretaz wrote in an essay for the Washington Post. Holiday Date, with its male character who disguises his Jewish identity, plays into the anti-semitic stereotype that Jewish people are sneaky or untrustworthy, de la Cretaz argued.
Hallmark stands by its movies
While not everyone is a fan of Hallmark’s attempts to incorporate Hanukkah into its ‘Countdown to Christmas’ programming, the network stands by its movies.
“We are very proud of those movies and we think those movies really reflect an across-the-board approach to celebrating the holiday season,” Bill Abbott, the CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, Hallmark Channel’s parent company, told the Hollywood Reporter’s podcast TV’s Top 5.
Abbot also explained the network’s decision not to use “Hanukkah” in either of the movie titles. He said that the network didn’t focus on programming with a religious point of view.
“[I]t’s a little bit more difficult because we don’t look at Christmas from a religious point of view, it’s more a seasonal celebration,” he said, adding, “I think Christmas has become almost a secular type of holiday more than Hanukkah, which really does have more of a religious feel.”
Double Holiday airs Saturday, Dec. 21 at 8/7c on Hallmark Channel.