If my father isn’t watching Magnum P.I. or The Andy Griffith Show, he’s watching a sappy Hallmark movie where Candace Cameron Bure has to follow her heart and save Christmas by choosing between two bland white men.
“The women are hot and there’s always a happy ending,” my 66-year-old retired father says about his love for the movies.
After I wrote about his odd quirk in another story, a reader reached out and told me her dad does the same. A rep from Hallmark didn’t have any demographic information to offer, but a quick Twitter search of “dads and Hallmark movies” will tell you a lot of American men enjoy the romantic and predictable Hallmark movies that are so cheesy, they’ll give you a stomach ache.
David Quigley, a “semi-retired” 67-year-old father from Pennsylvania, says he goes on binges watching Hallmark movies every day.
“I enjoy watching them because there’s no negativity,” he says. “There’s no violence in there. I watch a lot of TV shows and I see people getting killed, and there’s a bunch of negative stuff. I get tired of watching that stuff.”
He says his daughter teases him because typically women enjoy the romance.
“Maybe it’s a little feminine,” he says. “It’s not just for women to watch it, I feel.”
Bran Gray, a 28-year-old father from South Carolina, has been watching and loving Hallmark movies for 10 years. What started out as a way to enjoy Christmas year-round has turned into a full-time gig for him because he and two other men co-host the podcast Deck the Hallmark, where Gray and his co-hosts Daniel Pandolph and Daniel Thompson review Hallmark movies.
“Everybody has a different reason for why they tune into these movies,” he says. “For me, it is just my love for Christmas, but for other guys, it’s just they like watching the familiarity of it. A lot of guys that we talk to are guys that are in business, and they work all day and they have to make hard decisions and they have to come home. It’s kind of like why guys tune into sports. They just want to be able to think about something else other than work.”
Both Quigley and Gray say their wives tolerate the movies but aren’t devoted like they are. (My mother, on the other hand, won’t even tolerate them. She lets out a big sigh and quickly exits the room anytime they’re on.) Gray says he watches the majority of the movies in the podcast’s office, so his wife isn’t too bothered.
“She’ll watch one or two and then any more, she starts to get a little antsy,” he says.
Paul Greene has starred in more than 10 Hallmark movies, including Perfect Match and Christmas in Angel Falls. He says after a female fan tells him how much she loves the movies, there’s always a husband standing nearby who eventually confesses to enjoying them too. Greene credits it to the movies’ irresistible formula.
“The formula gets addicting because it’s kind of predictable, but also they feel comfortable in almost the structure of the story,” Greene says. “Even though they kind of know what’s going to happen, they want to be taken on the ride to get there.”
There’s nothing in a Hallmark movie for a family to fight over, he says, and while the stories are mainly female-driven, the male characters are usually aspirational. In A Christmas Detour, Greene plays a down-in-the-dumps guy whose ex-fiance left him for his brother. After a chance meeting with Bure’s character on an airplane, they fall in love and Bure’s character leaves her wealthy and seemingly perfect fiancé. The dumped, cynical bartender got the girl in this story.
“Overall, it’s such a healing remedy and medicine for the current state of our world,” Greene says. “It’s a much smaller division between men and women than people would think.”
Josh Gressel, PhD, a California psychologist who specializes in men and work issues, says the appeal of Hallmark movies to men might have to do with a be because of the need for an emotional release. He compares men’s range of emotions to a piano with 88 keys and says “most” men are limited to the middle octave of the piano, with emotions like frustrated, angry, tired and horny. It doesn’t mean they don’t have those emotions, they just have limited access to them.
But with a Hallmark movie, men access that middle octave more easily—and more safely.
“It makes it safe for them to experience feelings,” Gressel says. “[The movies] show how it’s supposed to play out.”
For my dad, he doesn’t think his emotions have anything to do with his love for the channel.
“I like them because they’re easy to look at and don’t take a lot of thought,” he says.
Fair enough, Dad.