The Feminist Hallmark Movie Universe

Tressie McMillan Cottom
8 min readNov 13, 2020

It is that time of the year. I am deep in my Hallmark Christmas movie grind. Between judging the banality of cults of femininity and laughing at Kellie Pickler, I want to make the case for Hallmark movies as feminist* fare.

Like a critical consumer of every Hallmark movie set in Chicago, Canada, you will have to extend me a little grace. The argument turns on one’s idea of feminist.

Hallmark movies are not feminist, except in that vague nonsensical way in which anything with a woman in it is somehow feminist. The scripts trade in every trope of unexamined whiteness, class warfare, gender conformity and patriarchal family norms. I watch them because there is no subtext and no surprises. There are only three things that turn off my critical survival lens and Hallmark movies are one of the three. I suspect that is because I do not need a single new skill to anticipate them. That’s because:

The monster in Hallmark movies is exactly the same monster in my actual life — whiteness. They are comforting in that way.

When you watch as many Hallmark movies as I have watched, you start to notice those title sequences. That is where my fragile argument for a feminist reading of Hallmark movies begin.

  1. Hallmark Put A Ring On It — In The Credits

These title sequences feel like they feature a lot of women’s names. These are not just the actresses but the producer, director, casting, scriptwriters and so on. Women directed only 10 percent of major Hollywood movies in 2019…and that was an increase so significant that it warranted news coverage:

From the earliest days of Hollywood, women directors have been staggeringly outnumbered by men. While that still holds true, in 2019 there was a notable shift.

According to new research, more than 10 percent of the directors on last year’s top films were women, which was more than twice as many as in 2018 and the highest number in over a decade. “More Women Than Ever Are Directing Major Films, Study Says” by Cara Buckley (New York Times)

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film says that 19% of Hollywood’s screenwriters (in the top 100…

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Tressie McMillan Cottom

Sociologist. Writer. Professor. MacArthur Fellow. Books, speaking, podcast: www.tressiemc.com