Friend Zone Rant

The friend zone is a pretty recent invention. (Truly, the picture above is titled Two Lovers so it’s used here in jest) Mostly because it wasn’t until modern times that women really got to choose who they were romantically paired with. And ever since women have been deciding what to do with themselves, men have found a reason to be upset with them about it. (I don’t know if this is technically true, but it sounds right)

But I do know men invented this special area. It’s definitely men who needed to come up with a fancy way to describe the unutterable anguish of friendship with a woman. And it’s male comedians that drive home the hilarity of men — losers — who are stuck being friends with women. A travesty.

And it’s also comedians who remind women that they’re being irrational to retain men as friends around them, too. If he’s such a good guy why don’t you marry him then?

(Digression: This utilizes my favorite playground epithet which appears to at least date back to the Pee Wee Herman “if you like it so much why don’t you marry it” classic. Which let’s be honest is definitely the academic level we’re working with here if you think there’s a special “zone” for men who are in friendship relationships with women.)

How could a woman be so blind to have a man directly in front of her — a man she describes as kind and nice and good — and maintain that she don’t want to marry him? What, there’s more to a romantic relationship than thinking someone’s a good person? Ugh, women complicate everything.

(Second Digression: The fact that men think women complicate things and then create a special relationship name for themselves I think really says it all in terms of the idiocy that men are willing to perpetuate in order to keep tight, defined boundaries between the sexes and prevent the spread of “cooties” which goes hand-in-hand with this Pee Wee Herman level of philosophy we’re working with.)

But what I’m really mad about, if I’m being honest, is the confidence with which men assert this “universal truth” that “men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way”. Because when Billy Crystal said this in When Harry Met Sally, I believed him. When I saw this movie the first time I had a good many male friends and I was shocked and amazed to discover that, in fact, this had all been a ruse! If I’ve being honest, it’s led to some really awkward conversations with male friends of mine. Conversations that made me look…at the very least, extremely egotistical.

It turns out — and to be honest, I was as shocked as anyone — that men are capable of forming good, strong friendships regardless of sex. Almost, one might speculate, entirely separate of sex altogether! Almost dare I imagine, that friendships are more common and basic than romantic relationships and therefore more easily and readily to be found between people of opposite sexes than sexual relationships?

Is it possible I’ve gone too far? Well if so, than as Pee Wee Herman would say, “SHH! I’m listening to reason!”

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False Positives of Life

I’ve had arthritis for almost two decades now and one of the most difficult part of the diagnosis to come to terms with has been when what I feel doesn’t match with what is really happening. This has one of two different appearances:

Either I feel wonderful, but my disease is very active (according to blood results).

Or I feel terrible, but the arthritis (according to blood tests) appears to be stable or even inactive.

What do you do when what you feel doesn’t match up with what’s really happening?

If you’ve ever met someone who’s in a safe place enjoying their favorite food with their favorite people but still seems weirdly on edge, it’s probably because they’re familiar with the concept that when the stars align, it doesn’t necessarily indicate it’s for your own personal benefit.

These are often the same people who are comfortable with life’s more difficult situations which seem to indicate to them that at least they are aware of where the problem actually is, and can be addressed accordingly.

But false positives lead to a chronic and perpetual awareness of the other shoe dropping. You don’t know when, or why, but there is another shoe, and it’s going to drop and oh man, be prepared for the fallout.  False positives awareness, I am saying, does not exactly lend itself to pleasant people.

In general, anxiety does not lend itself to pleasantness. And in life we’re often stuck in this discomfiting experiences where you can’t tell if you’re in the clear, or if you’re in a false positive. I’ve yet to find a satisfactory sign for letting me know it’s time to start celebrating instead of hunkering down in a panic room.

But I am in my 30s now which means I’ve learned a wee little bit about life and I can tell you this much: if a false positive and a positive look the same the only difference is what comes after this time of ease then do this: enjoy the false positive.

Do you know what a miracle it is for an arthritis sufferer to feel genuinely good? Not to mention when science tells you that you should be feeling miserable? It’s rare. It’s a blessing. Who cares if it’s fake or not? Temporary or not? If you can enjoy the moment before you than do so.

With enough time and distance any false positive will inevitably look like the real thing anyway.

In Defense of Ghosting

Ghosting is a new term to describe rejection via inaction. It’s when a person has decided to check out of a relationship or situation by quietly exiting, making no formal declaration of rejection.

Here’s how it might look in action over text:

You: Hey are we going out Tuesday?

Me:

You: So, Tuesday?

Me:

You: Are you still there?

Me:

And so it goes until the one pursuing gets tired of the silence, takes the not so subtle hint, and and gives up.

Now, before I get into defending this behavior let me say one thing first. It’s rude. Obviously.

If this were real life and someone was standing in front of you talking to you and you did your best to ignore them and never spoke to them or looked them in the eye or acknowledged them in any way, that’s rude. It’s certainly not behavior that caring humans should engage in.

That being said, there’s a number of reasons why people still do it, and why I don’t find it to be the morally reprehensible conduct my generation has defined it as.

Tone is subjective and confusing. Ghosting takes place almost exclusively via the internets or texting, both arenas are depersonalized formats of communicating. Tone is almost entirely subjective and context dependent. Miscommunication happens with increasing regularity, even when you think you’re being entirely clear yourself.

Case in point: this morning I messaged my department “Be in by 10” which clearly meant “I’ll be in by 10” but was construed by some as an official (and unlicensed) edict that my teammates ought to be in the office by 10.  If you’re trying for a tactful “no” or a kind “no”, it’s quite possible you’re just drawing out a painful process.

Flat rejections can be risky. Connections are formed for superficial reasons to people you only vaguely know. And while everyone trusts their own judgment when it comes to relationships and who to meet in real life, it must be said that mistakes can be made. Dating apps, which bridge gaps between people who otherwise would not meet, also have the ability to connect reprehensible humans to unsuspecting victims. As much as it’d be nice to believe that adults are uniformly capable of responding to “no, thank you” with grace and dignity, the reality is that it can provoke surprising amounts of rage and abuse in the rejected. For some, any amount of concern over personal safety makes ghosting a safer choice.

“No” has lost its meaning. Not everyone responds to “no” the way they should. Movies and society have confirmed that no is just an early relationship form of encouragement. If someone says “no” what they’re really saying is “try harder”. It’s like fighting with your sibling. If you let them get a rise out of you, it just continues. If you ignore them and mind your business, they eventually give up and go away.

Ghosting has a 99% success rate. I’ve ghosted dates before and I’ve also been ghosted before. And while neither of these things improves my ability to handle confrontation well and gracefully, it’s also 100% resulted in an eventual end of undesired communication.

No public embarrassment. Never once did ghosting result in me embarrassing someone or suffering embarrassment myself. And I have to admit, avoiding embarrassment is one of my underlying life motivations.

(I know. There’s probably a whole other blog post about how you can’t live life well without humiliation. Maybe so.)

So on behalf of my fellow ghosts out there, I want you to know that we’re not always insensitive jerks who are callous (though, yeah some of us are that too), sometimes we’re hapless morons who can’t handle conflict. Or we’re scared. And sometimes we just feel really bad about saying “no”.

So those of you that are all about the discomfort of real world confrontation, we get it. You’ve got the moral high ground. That’s fine, we’d rather not be standing somewhere too many people can see us from anyway.

The Universal Ideal

There’s a trope in American films called the “manic pixie dream girl”. It’s a woman who’s got a dark backstory but a light disposition. She’s got no real strings to tie her down. She’s ephemeral and childlike, whimsical but profound. Often this is illustrated by an off-beat style or a creative hair color. Perhaps a kicky catchphrase. She’s the balm to our hero’s moody, broken spirit. That’s right, the manic pixie dream girl is exclusive to dramas and romances, and always the romantic interest of our main male character.

I’ve always regarded this type of character with disdain. Superficial, flat, uninteresting. It’s a fad in cinema; it’ll never last.

As it happens I’ve also expanded my movie watching outside the US and have been known to consume mass quantities of Korean, Turkish, and Indian films. If you’re wondering what these all have in common, it’s a couple things:

Accessibility – there’s myriad of all three on Netflix. I’d point you to some of my favorites but I’d rather you not start judging me on my taste before I’ve made my point.

Quantity – Romances are big in all three cultural settings. And naturally the most churned out. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend their action equivalent films which seem to lack even more than would be expected in believability.

Modesty – Turkish films blur all alcohol. Indian films are usually reluctant to grant our romantic couple even a chaste kiss, and some actors are known to contractually pass on the opportunity. Korean films are perhaps a tad more scandalous, but for the most part held together with a social decorum that protects against the more explicit moments.

Manic Pixie Dream Girls – Course they’re not billed this way. But almost without exception female leads in romantic films/series/soaps are upbeat, carefree, expressive, kind, impulsive, generous, loving, naive, stubborn, intelligent, childlike, maternal, uncoordinated, goofy, fresh-faced, modest, sweet, and easily scandalized, and utterly unworldly.

Foreign films up the ante with several much more grounding criteria: Usually they’re missing a parent or two and sometimes must take custody and responsibility of a small child. Often, they’re scraping by, making the best out of almost nothing at all, and still with the most cheerful spirit you ever will see. You see, they’ve experienced the horrors of life but have come away untainted. They carry no baggage and are therefore free to lend themselves to the whole support of our hero’s journey through the confusing world of complex emotions.

Our hero, as a consequence of our heroine’s naive view of life (that’s actually been working thus far) will feel compelled to enter the scene and take care of her and provide for her and her dependents, usually against his will and reason and with a grudging smile tugging at his lips. He can’t help himself. Mr. Serious is drawn to this Beautiful Ray of Sunshine. It’s a perfect symbiotic relationship.

If this scenario sounds at all like what you envisioned for your own romantic future as a young woman, you’re not alone. It’s the source of many of my own personal victories and recriminations. Victories from overcoming expected behavior and carving my own path, and recriminations in not being quite the woman I was supposed to be.

I can’t quite distinguish what part of the above expectations are cultural and what part are religious. It’s tricky because across all language, cultural, and religious backgrounds, the same type of woman is preferred. It doesn’t matter if they’re Turkish and Muslim or Christian, Indian and Muslim or Hindi or Christian, Korean and atheistic (actually Korea’s pretty decently split pro and con on religion, but religion in films is distinctly missing).

So my question is, how did this woman, the manic pixie dream girl, manage to transcend language barriers, cultural influences, national boundaries, and religious convictions? And what do you do with the fact that you’re…not exactly “it”? Does this mean you’re not a real woman? Or perhaps it’s just an indication you’re not a woman worthy of romantic love?

What if you’re someone who doesn’t save worms from the drying pavement by carrying them back to the wet grass? What if you’ve never utilized a childish pout as a persuasive tactic to winning an argument? And your first impulse when someone is upset is not to bake them a favorite dish? What happens if a man has never carried you to safety? Or helped you learn how to use chopsticks? What happens if you don’t grow your hair long and you don’t join children in their games? What happens if, God forbid, you’re a serious woman? With a serious job? And serious ambitions?

Oh wait – no I’ve seen that woman in these films too. She’s the villain. She’s similarly without roots, probably even clawed her way to her current position, but on the way to her success, she lost all moral grounding. She’s also…chasing after our hero, but not from the goodness of her spirit, no she’s interested in the bottom line and power. Interestingly enough, she also wears “too much” make-up. I’m sure that’s not connected.

On the upside, the nice thing about not being the manic pixie dream girl of fantasy is that you’ve got a better shot of being a person OF character who maybe even gets referred to by name.

A Hallmark Team Review: Christmas in Conway

Starring Andy Garcia and Mary Louise Parker, Christmas in Conway is the heartwarming Christmas story about a husband who buy a ferris wheel for his ailing wife, and the home health nurse who…helps.

I decided to watch this with two friends, (because as I have said in previous weeks, I’m starting to wane in this pursuit) who for their own anonymity I’m going to call Marley and Cratchit. I let them pick, because obviously my judgment is poor. It was a debate between this title and A Christmas Tale which only Marley really wanted to watch.

The movie starts on the home health nurse packing up as her busy business boyfriend talks distractedly on his phone.

On people who have no business being in a Hallmark movie:

Marley: “Is that Mandy Moore?” a few scenes go by. “Crap. That IS Mandy Moore.” (she plays the home healthcare nurse)

Cratchit: “She’s going to die on Christmas, isn’t she.”

Hallmark Predictions

Cratchit: “What if Mandy Moore finds out these (Garcia and Parker) are her real parents?”

Marley: “Maybe she’s going to freeze her eggs and implant them in Mandy Moore.”

Fill in the blank with Hallmark

Andy Garcia: “I know what comes after the sweet tea…

Cratchit: “The sex.”

Me: “The woodshed.”

Marley: “Diabetes.”

It’s such a good movie that…

Marley: “Wow, this is amazing.” while looking at an Olive Garden menu.

Cratchit: “I’m sorry. I didn’t know I brought that..for her.”

Side noteThere is an ongoing subplot about the vapid neighbor next door and her desire to be the most festive house in the neighborhood. It perfectly offsets the dying of cancer.

Side note: In another subplot (you can never have enough) the handyman doing the extravagant decorations next door is also perchance the love interest of our home health Mandy Moore.

On first dates or sexual innuendos:

Handyman: “We could go check out the turtles.”

“Is that a euphemism.”

Spoiler: It’s not a euphemism. They saw the turtles.

On the soundtrack and time period of the film:

Cratchit: “I would like to recognize one song from this movie.”

Marley: “It’s from the 90s.”

Cratchit: “It is not!”

Me: “It’s like four years old.”

Marley: “It’s a period piece.”

Cratchit: “It is not, it’s the South; everything’s a decade behind.”

After a heart wrenching moment:

Marley: “I bet The Christmas Tail doesn’t have cancer.”

After the handyman falls off the ferris wheel.

Marley: “Did he break some stuff?”

Cratchit: “Yeah, the ferris wheel.”

Side note: I know we’re supposed to hate the evil scheming neighbor, but she has slush punch and cheese straws which honestly just sounds like decent hangover food. But no I probably wouldn’t serve them to a decorating committee.

On last wishes and having them rigorously followed:

Me: “Guys when I die of cancer don’t build a ferris wheel.”

Marley: “Okay.”

Cratchit: “Fine.”

On the film’s ending:

Cratchit: “That was it? What the shit?? Nothing happened! There’s so many loose ends!

Marley: “This would have never happened in The Christmas Tail.”

Final thoughts and conclusions:

Cratchit: “We kept getting everything wrong, we only got right that her mom died of cancer, no kiss, no drama with boyfriend and new love interest. Nobody got to kiss Mandy Moore, what a shame.”

Marley: “It was really good. It was my favorite.” Said whilst staring at phone. “What’s happening on Twitter?”

Me: “Are you still upset we didn’t watch the dog one.”

Marley: “It’s about a dog?”

Me: “Yes! YES. Christmas TAIL.”

Marley: “It could be about a stalker. It could be a murder story.”

Cratchit: “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. Santa’s Christmas Tail.”

Hallmark Observations: Second Chance Christmas

I have to be honest, friends. I’m flagging a bit. But I made a commitment to you: one movie review a week, and I’m going to deliver. This week’s is Second Chance Christmas. Caroline is all set to divorce her husband until she gets amnesia. Somehow this is also about Christmas. Alternate titles: Love Strikes Twice, and Old Acquaintance Be Forgot which is my personal favorite.

Since Caroline is played by actress Katrina Begin, I’m willing to give her a chance. She can’t be terrible, right? The cast lists no one named Nick, but there is a Nick Siebold who handled the visual effects, so for those of you keeping score at home, drink.

Also, note the title. I made sure this one was about Christmas. I’m not going to repeat last week’s mistake.

Caroline just walked into a party and immediately rearranged some nonessential decorations on a cocktail table. Either she’s an interior decorator, or a party planner, or her OCD control freak behavior is about to play a pivotal role in the divorce proceedings. Put your guesses in now, kids.

She’s a party planner! Also a control freak, because of course. Hallmark movies are made for women who are control freaks.

Wow, for their first Christmas she surprised him with a dog, which feels like a really bold decision for one year of dating. Of course, I thought she was going to announce she was pregnant, so there’s that.

Side note: Who facetimes about deeply personal things while walking on a public street??

Side, side note: Why is it all other Katrinas I’ve ever seen are blonde? What went wrong, self? We have the Scandinavian last name, how did we miss the blonde hair??

So far I’m picking up that Caroline is divorcing her husband because he’s a cartoon artist who plays video games, doesn’t clean anything, and refuses to walk the dog.

I think she just conned him into divorcing her. At Christmas.

So she’s in a hit and run and then a crowd gathers to take photos for their insta? Hallmark, you are hitting this a little too close to the mark, slow your roll. I came here for fantasy.

The doctor is about to diagnose her based on her not knowing the answer to just one question: what’s your favorite ice cream. Which by the way, I don’t know my favorite flavor either. Is this explanation enough for why I don’t remember names? Or facts, or why I’m watching Hallmark movies??

The doctor is predicting she gets her memory back anytime between a day and a decade, but who wants to bet it’s going to be Christmas Eve/Christmas Day?

Jack: “She chose to go home with me? That’s gotta mean something, right?”

Dad: “It means she’s got amnesia.”

I am all here for the amnesia put downs. Bring it, Pops.

I can’t lie to you, the disaster that their house is…I’d divorce him too. You guys should see the kitchen. They have rats, I know it. This is almost like Overboard except these two really are married.

We are dangerously close to this turning into a horror movie as Caroline puts together the clues about how, yeah, it looks like she was divorcing her husband, and oh, she might maybe be running her own business, but everyone is lying to her and telling her she’s unemployed. I’m telling you, put a butcher knife in her hand and change the music and we are heading for a gory ending.

“I’m really, really good at decorating.” She says as she throws handfuls of marshmallows at a jello mold.

We’ve reached the stalking phase of their new marriage. I should have mentioned this earlier, this movie is billed as a comedy.

Tree decorating!!  Guys, it’s Hallmark foreplay at its finest.

She remembered everything on Christmas day. I’m a Hallmark savant, that’s what this is. No one else could have seen this coming. Unless they were also watching this movie.

“May a truck strike me down in the street if I’m lying.” Amnesia humor is gold.

OMG Caroline almost hit Jack whilst driving. I am loving these dark jokes.

“Auld Lang Syne” apparently means “old time’s sake” so I learned something today, damn you Hallmark. Your films aren’t supposed to be educational.

Hallmark Observations: Wedding Wonderland

Like many other Hallmark movies this one has two titles. Wedding Wonderland is known by the title Winter Wedding on imdb. I think they made the right call going with the former because the latter just reminds me of the red wedding scene from Game of Thrones for some reason. I assume this movie is the opposite of that scene.

While no leading man in this movie goes by the name “Nick” I should note that our male protagonist is played by a man whose real name is Nick, Nick Bateman, so Hallmark’s still using a very strict policy of hiring for their leads.

Opening song is actually not Christmasy. What has gone wrong?

Also, it’s starting out with a couple very much in love. It’s like it’s backwards. If a Hallmark movie starts with a proposal are they going to both be dead by the end? Maybe this is more like the red wedding than I thought.

The heroine has dreamed of a wedding in Cabo her whole life? Was she born a sorority sister? Also I sense the plot is about how she doesn’t end up having a wedding in Cabo. It’s not the title at all that is making me think this.

Hallmark Aspirations: “Making brides beautiful is what I was made to do.” MADE TO DO

Uh oh, she’s got the cardinal Hallmark flaw: she thinks her plans will work out. Women, amirite?

Wow, her mom booked an entire resort in Cabo for the wedding? Are all wealthy people just in Hallmark movies?

Ooh Canadian alert. Our hero just said “oot” instead of “out”.

Her mom just discussed a breakfast item called “Crunchy avocado benedicts” which sounds like the opposite of what avocados should be.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never been married, but there’s a lot of discussion about an engagement party that I did not know was a critical linchpin in getting married.

Like other Hallmark heroines Hallie owns her own business, this time it’s a styling salon. And it’s a really poor knockoff of the Beauty Shop dynamic.

The so-called “winter” wedding dress she tries on is off the shoulder with no sleeves. Because apparently “winter dress” does not mean what I think it should mean.

Ew, “custard eggnog”. What are the recipes in this movie even doing?

Rich groom Lucas is upset his parents are creating a hot springs because when you’re wealthy these are the problems you have.

Also the entire resort her mom booked canceled their reservation and it’s THE WORST WEEKEND OF THEIR LIVES.

In the interest of moving the story along they’ve decided to just get married this weekend. I have no idea how far they are out from their summer date. Which is great because a slow burn of their chronicled issues heading up to the wedding is too demoralizing to consider.

The best man and the maid of honor are completely unsuitable so they’re definitely going to fall in love. By the way, anyone who keeps a cream puff tucked in their jacket for later is not to be trusted.

I just want to go on record that this more than any other movie is difficult to take seriously. It’s probably because I’ve never had a dream wedding destination? Or …you know…money to splurge on destination weddings?

Also sidenote, the groom’s mother is making the food and keeps licking her hands and the spoon and so much nooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

The groom’s brother, despite the fact that he squirrels squishy food away into his coat, is actually quite adorable, though given the maid of honor just broke up with her fiance, he’s moving way too fast. But that is a staple of Hallmark movies. “When it feels right it is right”, right?

Guys, there’s a lip sync in this movie. It’s…choreographed? I can’t tell you how much I didn’t need this.

Wow, Cabo opened up again, fifteen minutes before the wedding. Which is the crisis point of the movie, I think? It’s hard to tell because none of the problems seem to be actual problems. Or as Chandler would say, “This must be so hard. “Oh, no! Two women love me. They’re both gorgeous and sexy. My wallet’s too small for my fifties, and my diamond shoes are too tight!”

And the wedding just got postponed. And somehow their love is now in question. And the best man and maid of honor are picking a fight with each other because no one can be happy right now. No one.

Wow, big reveal, Hallie’s mom lied about where she and her husband got married? This seems oddly sociopathic. She also just figured out that Hallie just wants to be married to the man she loves. Guys, Hallmark world is a terrifying place where people lie about absurd things and then ruin their children’s lives over having a dream wedding at an expensive resort in Mexico. And also they’re surprised that other people marry for love. Which is…kind of foundational to functioning in a Hallmark movie.

I’ve kind of realized this is not at all a Christmas movie, but honestly I’m too far in to switch. I should have put it together sooner, if I’m being honest, but I genuinely thought for Hallmark that winter was synonymous with Christmas. That’s my bad; I won’t fail you guys again. Anyway, they get married. Everyone’s happy or whatever, and the best man and maid of honor, if all goes the way it should, will be the stars of the sequel. Where I assume the big issue up for debate will be a disagreement between coconut cake with the chocolate syrup on the side or on the cake itself.

Christmas at the Palace: Family Observations

Katie, our heroine, is a former figure skating champ who suffered an injury and turned her focus to putting on ice shows in foreign made-up countries like San Senova, where our hero is the begrudging King. Troubled by loss is his past, can he embrace Christmas cheer in the present – and our heroine?

I sat down to watch this gem with my sister, brother-in-law, and mother. There were varying responses to the film.

We open on: CGI snow, and no shots of faces as a “professional” ice skater swirls on the ice.

My mother: Do you feel bad you guys never got to ice skate?

Brother-in-law. “M”: [in no way related to my mother] I do, and I blame you.

Hallmark Hallmarks: There’s a Nicholas in this movie, as I’ve discovered there is in any Hallmark movie. New element to a drinking game: do a shot when you’re introduced to a Nicholas.

Our hero is called “The Grinch King” by his people, which is fair because he just looked at a tree and said “why is THIS in here?” Also, there are way worse things to be called.

Hallmark Reality Check 1: The entire country of San Senova was founded on Christmas, both the day and the idea. I don’t even remotely understand how this works. What is their international trade like? Is it all flown over in sleighs by old fat bearded drivers?

Hallmark of Hallmarks: Our hero, Grinch King, has a kid. Yeah, he’s a dad. What do you think happened to the Mom?” – “M” slashes at his throat.

Hallmark of Hallmarks: Heroine bumps into hero: “There’s no way that’s she didn’t see him.” – Sister

Hallmark “Comedy” Hallmark: King gets up to give a speech, knocks everything down “King Doofus…the FIRST.” – M

Regarding our heroine and her best friend: Me: “I can’t tell which one’s Katie and which one’s Jessica.” Mom: “They’re not sisters” M: “I think they’re clones.”

Hallmark realities: The royal family inexplicably has a private ice rink.

We now have a time frame for romance: two weeks. We know this is the time frame because Christmas is two weeks away. In a Christmas movie if the climax doesn’t happen ON Christmas, something has gone awry.

Hallmark realities: Our heroine’s dream is to buy an ice rink in New Jersey, because of course it is.

Meanwhile the secondary romance between the clone bestie and the chief advisor is percolating nicely and normally. No weird hitches here, why would there be? They’re just plotting and development.

Hallmark Prediction:  Clone Bestie breaks an ankle before the performance and our heroine is forced to take on the lead role. Meanwhile, the Grinch King is going to play the ice skating hero that requires no ice skating, and his daughter is going to play the historical princess of yore, neatly occupying all principle players on the ice.

Aside: If I’m being honest we’re all spending way too much time trying to figure out the relationship of Princess Patricia to the King. Sister? Aunt? Great Aunt? 

Mom [after The Grinch King specifically calls her by her name]: “That one’s Katie

Hallmark breaks the fourth wall: Katie: “Christmas is my middle name.” You honestly can’t joke about this in Hallmark movies, Katie.

Hallmark realities: Katie just compared prom queen to being an actual king to his face.

“My family has always assisted the crown.” Slavery, that’s what that is. – Sister

Clone bestie Jessica just injured her ankle. We’re in the endgame now.

The king’s adviser enters the room and immediately backs off on seeing our romantic pair at arts and crafts. “This important state business can wait. He’s sewing… something he’s never done before.” – Sister

Clone bestie flirting with the adviser: “Speaking of adventure—” Have you ever been to Trenton?” – Sister

Oh look at that, Katie’s skating the Queen role.

They continuously cut away from anyone actually getting on the ice. I don’t think anyone knows how to skateM

Hallmark Reality Check: On the handmade Grinch King stockings for the staff: Those are a little close to the fire.Mom

Hallmark missed opportunity: “What if you didn’t have to lose anyone?” our king asks obviously proffering immortality which would be a fantastic plot twist.

“Do you date?” “Not since Kristina’s mother died.” That implies he was dating when his wife was…alive?” – M

Mom just shushed M for talking while the characters are talking.

M: “Are you afraid you’re going to lose the plot?”

Mom: “…No.”

Hallmark jumps the shark: Now there’s a mythical Christmas star that guides them all. The Sen Senova star. I feel like there was something like this in The Lion King too. – Sister

Hallmark Hallmark: There’s a copious amount of contemplative tree staring in this movie.

Hallmark Reality Check: An anxious clone bestie to Katie about the ice rink she just flew to Trenton to purchase: “What if you don’t like it?” It’s an ice rink. Can’t she just facetime the ice rink to her? Sister

Hallmark Hallmark: There’s a lot of dead moms. – Sister

The Grinch King to his kid: “Tina Bear you do know I can skate.” Literally no one knew he could do that.

Katie makes her entrance back to the rink and approaches the princess: “You’re out kid – M

I think we can all agree that they missed a real opportunity with the title here. They were so close with Grinch King. Why Hallmark, WHY.

Hallmark Reflections: A Fairy Tale Christmas

A Fairy Tale Christmas is the story of an estate valuer named Bella staying at the villa of a grumpy attractive man who needs his books and property appraised. As coincidence would happen, this is their love story. Also, and this is just a sidenote, this all takes place in California so the image above is about 1000% more wintry than this entire movie.

Here’s a brief list of thoughts I had whilst watching this “Christmas” film.

This is an incredibly not at all veiled Christmas Hallmark redo of Beauty and the Beast, I think I should mention here that Haylie Duff’s sister Hilary Duff did a remake of the same story called Beauty and the Briefcase. I should note, in both cases the sisters play the role of “beauty”.

Belle just gave bra-cup money to the bell-ringers. I literally know no women who have bra money.

Gaston has just showed up. He’s oily. His name is “Tony”. Like “Gaston-y”. Gastony is terrible, and his suit is shiny which is actually kind of the same thing. Gastony’s really gross. Like men who talk about women as commodities gross.

Quick everyone, what’s the correct response to Belle’s discomfort with Gastony when she says “he’s not really my type”? If you didn’t say “why don’t you just go out with him.” Then you’re already a better person than her FATHER.

Stock footage of vineyards. And our “Beast” morosely wandering about. He’s attractive, athletic, and serious. WHAT A MONSTER.

Stock Christmas music is playing to remind you that even though there’s no reason this has to be a Christmas movie, it is dammit.

“You don’t want to go there, Missy.” Ahh small town patronizing misogyny from the diner owner. How quaint.

“I’d prefer it if your father were here.” Says our charming Beast. It’s actually kind of astounding the diner owner doesn’t like this guy.

Oh he’s a beast because his fiancée died. Okay. I like how Hallmark movies have real life tragedies that they mostly gloss over to get to the Christmas decorations.

Shirtless beast. Can’t sleep without his snuggle buddy “Beast” which is the name of his dog. To avoid confusion I’m going to refer to dog beast as “furry beast”.

Oh Beast is still shirtless to go running through the vineyards. This is yet another sign he’s moody and dark: silent vineyard running. Non-hairy beast is independently wealthy and apparently “just travels the world”, one assumes by running. He is the perfect man: wealthy, idle, in shape, attractive. Sure, he’s sullen and rude. But one can’t have EVERYTHING.

Non-hairy beast just gave Belle a really angsty look. Love is in the air. OR indigestion. No fooling, you could really rework this movie as an ad for Pepto-Bismol. Or Viagra. “Are your morning shirtless jogs the only exercise of your stamina these days? Has it been years since you’ve been able to be close to a woman, you know, in THAT WAY? Do you just gaze at them from afar with sad eyes and then go running again shirtless in the vineyards? We have the drug for you.”

Belle just quit. Apparently it’s because non-hairy beast is rude, but I’m pretty sure it’s because he’s finally wearing a shirt again and she sees it as a step backwards in their blossoming relationship. She better not accept an apology unless he shows up in only his underwear.

Uh-oh, he’s headed to apologize fully clothed. Somehow the apology worked anyway.

Ew Gastony just told Belle he’d buy her the New York Public Library. Which is concerning on several levels, not least of which is his incomplete grasp of how buying and selling things works.

And now it’s furry-beast out for a morning jog. Shirtless, of course, but also pants-less. He’s so much more intense than non-furry beast.

“I would love to be a rare book dealer one day.” Belle says. To which our wealthy out-of-touch hero says, “you should do it!” “It’s a banana, Michael, what could it possibly cost – ten dollars?”

His grandparents met at the library?? How cute is that? Where is that movie?? I would 100% watch a movie about teens meeting in a library. Maybe they could sing Marian, Madam Librarian to each other.

“Forgot to feed Beast” the hero chuckles. Always funny when your dependents go hungry because you’re off day-drinking in the vineyard.

“So you believe there’s a “right one”?” he asks, meaning a soul mate. To which she replies, “Of course, what girl doesn’t?” And then IMMEDIATELY falls over while walking, naturally he follows her down for reasons. I don’t know. An earthquake maybe? Or the dead fiancée’s ghost sending a message?

See now this is the problem with dating someone in your employ. You start “readjusting time frames” to accommodate late night dates at Christmas festivals. No one takes business seriously, she starts cuddling your dog, rearranging the solarium, drinking your wine in your vineyard. Where’s the boundaries of a healthy relationship? What is she charging for or not? Who’s whoring themselves out to whom in this situation??

And now non-furry beast just told her she needs to set some boundaries with her dad. Non-furry kettle, meet pot.

He literally said he was going to throw a Christmas party so that people would “assume we’re each other’s dates for the night.” Which is so sad. This guy deserves a Hallmark movie.

Slow motion tree decorating is happening. It’s so disturbingly sensuous. This is the movie for anyone who thinks I’m kidding when I talk about erotic tree decorating. It’s 100% a kind of foreplay in the Hallmark world.

Oh dear, he’s reading the entire “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” poem to her from a “book” he made when he was seven. For a rare book dealer, she’s distressingly charmed by this. Wow she fell asleep while he was reading the poem. Amazing. To be fair, I was kind of nodding off there as well. I can’t stress this enough, Belle loves books. Loves them. Unless someone opens them and starts reading them. Ugh. BORING.

It is really really, difficult to sell a Christmas movie in California. The sun is shining, people are wearing shorts…so we have to rely almost exclusively on santa hats to affirm this is Christmas.

Barn remodel scene! Almost exclusively done by volunteers while wearing what I’m assuming is the volunteers’ uniform of…Santa hats.

Obligatory ‘it’s beautiful” from the heroine, taking in the Christmas decorations, as the hero looks at her from the corner of his eye and agrees.

Distressingly long make out scene from the barn to the living room interrupted by Gastony who gets worse and worse by the minute. And non-furry beast just ignores literally everything she has to say. My vote is she marries no one and rides off into the sunset on her own.

Ooh good, she’s laying into her lazy father. Love it. More of this. Stick up for yourself, woman! Go specialize in rare books! Go make out with estate sellers in their living room! Steal their dogs! Live the dream!

Sidenote: Always watch movies with captions, you get some interesting info. For example, right now “Techno Christmas music” is playing. Without captions I wouldn’t have known what to call this music that eats the soul.

“Don’t let tonight be the biggest regret of your life.” Non-furry beast is admonished. I guess it’s possible to regret more being kind of rude to a girl you made out with once than losing your fiancée tragically.

Gastony: “I drove all the way up here, I think you owe me a moment.” What a douche canoe. He’s exceptionally well-cast. I expect him to be a romantic lead in another Hallmark movie sooner or later.

She is also wildly overdressed for a barn dance. Or a Senior prom.

She just told Gastony “I love you as a friend” and I just find that impossible to believe. There’s literally no positive quality to associate with him. Nothing remotely friendly. And he just forced several kisses on her, which our hero somehow? Took as consensual and is now mad at her about.

This movie has gone dramatically off the rails in the last five minutes. She definitely needs to get a break from men.

Watching the hero and heroine run toward each other Gastony just rolled his eyes and said “Oh God” disdainfully which is the single most relatable thing in this movie. Because what the hell, non-furry beast just proposed to Belle after knowing her for several days and she accepted. That’s it. I’ve lost all respect for her. You’re on your own, rare book collectors. I can’t help you.

 

A Hallmark Candid Synopsis: Finding Father Christmas

On a certain level I understand that a Hallmark Christmas movie hinges on Christmas being a vitally important holiday that is appreciated, acknowledged, and celebrated — with bells on. But if your only exposure to film was Hallmark channel movies, you’d really have a very terrifying perspective on the absolute necessity of specific Christmas rituals, rites, and saccharine sweet antics.

Finding Father Christmas ticks all the boxes and then some. In a story about a young woman who hasn’t felt up to celebrating the holiday since her mother died during a Christmas play when she was a young girl, this movie needs to make up for any and all lost time. Here’s a short chronicle of the almost cultish obsession displayed with this holiday:

  • Christmas town — You can’t convince me this isn’t a gimmick the producers thought up. A Hallmark Christmas town is essentially a ceramic Christmas village come to life, but instead of that weirding everyone out, they’re happy to live in the snow globe (that’s, by the way, the basis of a totally different Hallmark movie).
  • Tree lighting tradition — Okay, this is a tradition in some places in the world. But can we all agree, this is not a “Christmas necessity”. It’s a fun light show. You could get a better display from a Pink Floyd concert.
  • Gift baskets — I haven’t seen this one before, but basically our love interest’s family has unlimited wealth which is amply displayed in giant pinterest type gift baskets that are given out to the townspeople. And given the off-camera shriek of one of the recipients, it’s the highlight of the year. But honestly, what happened to just mailing out Christmas cards? Isn’t that enough effort??
  • Horse drawn … cart — Yeah, you gotta have a sleigh — or something like a sleigh — pulled by reindeer — or something like reindeer…anyway it’s romantic to go on a ride in an open air vehicle in the winter with a lap blanket and a man wrapped around you. It’s really the only valid excuse for public groping we’ve come up with as a people.
  • White Christmas — I think we can blame several earlier movies for this Christmas necessity. But ever since I could drive I’ve been baffled by the trope. It’s a huge travel day and everyone is thrilled that now the road is an obstacle course with hidden death traps. Happy holidays from the ditch, friends.
  • Christmas eve tradition — The insistence with which people stress “we ALWAYS do this on Christmas eve” had me thinking that maybe it was something major. Like ritual sacrifice. I’d even have settled for a yearly ritual burning of the Elf on the Shelf.
  • Christmas day tradition — In case you weren’t feeling boxed in enough by expectation and history, there’s a Christmas day tradition TOO. Not church though, I noticed. I’m not sure yet if the overt religious themes are being weeded out entirely, but they’re certainly being nixed in favor of what I’m going to term “Christmas religion”.
  • Christmas religion — At some point in the movie someone will be wondering what all this Christmas fuss is about. Why the gift baskets? The lights? The tree? Why is everyone so blessed happy? It’s at this point that our Christmas pro (who probably has a gift wrapping room at the Christmas cottage) gives a small tutorial on “the reason for the season”. It’s not Jesus. It’s “loving people” “life” “taking time for the small moments” “spending time with those you love” “letting people know you love them” “sharing with others”. Honestly, it’s whatever sermonette our heroine has been struggling to grasp for the previous hour+.

My advice is if your own Christmas is lacking in the experience of any of these tropes, watch this movie. You get the vicarious experience with 100% less of the glitter and inevitable family fallout. ALSO This is the first in a series of three. So. There’s so much more to look forward to?