I know what you’re thinking: this woman has lost her mind over cheesy holiday movies. As long as Hallmark and Disney have been around, girls around the world have been inundated with an onslaught of cheesy, romantic Christmas flicks that ping that tiny honing device in our hearts – making us wistfully wish for magic, for love, and ultimately – for a sense of completion.
And it’s all wrong.
This year, I fell prey to one particular Netflix holiday flick, The Princess Switch. Part boredom, part-curiosity motivated me to indulge, and the credits had no sooner started rolling before I audibly declared it a load of crap.
Before you peg me as a pessimistic Scrooge, I implore you to explore the message it and others like it send to not only us, but to the rising generation of women. As middle-aged women, we can barely help ourselves. After all, our childhoods were defined by Disney princesses desperately in need of a prince to whisk them away from their troubles and finally complete their lives. These holiday films are merely adult representations of the same schema we’ve always known.
But this is 2018, and we’ve come a long way as women. We emphasize education, empowerment, and individuality in our daughters, yet we all snuggle around the couch each season to reinforce the same old narrative that never has served us well. You know, the one where our lives feel incomplete, unfulfilled, and bland until that elusive perfect man shows up to make our lives right.
Should we even delve into the regurgitation of the same tropes that are as old as time? Let me count the ways. The small-town girl stuck in a dead-end career with no love prospects in sight that reunites with a high-school friend with whom she falls in love? Check. The girl with the budding career who risks it all for her job only to fall for the one she shouldn’t fall in love with? Check. Or, the girl stuck between the so-called perfect man and her childhood best friend who apparently has loved her for years? Check. Or, my personal favorite, the girl who has a perfectly good life and falls in love with a prince and instantly becomes a princess? Oh, they’re all there.
Tell me – where are the holiday films about the boy floundering who doesn’t realize the amazing woman who has always been in his life? I can count two – It’s a Wonderful Life and The Family Man, both of which were blockbuster hits and not the drivel that cable and streaming channels peddle to the lonely hearts at home at night.
It’s not that I hate love stories – I do. But this fantasy has failed us time and time again. It’s no wonder that we have unrealistic expectations of relationships. We watch this narrative play out hour after hour, year after year for our entire lives. And yet we wonder why we look at our lives feeling unsatisfied. I don’t care what kind of man you have – watching those movies will make any woman feel like she isn’t living her best life. The women in those movies don’t have to deal with juggling diapers, carpools, laundry, or fights with their husbands. But those daily struggles are the essence of life. It’s not magical moments that make our lives meaningful. It’s the day-in-day-out humdrum with the ones we love, the completely unremarkable moments that make our lives remarkably worth living.
Find me a movie about that. Make a film about a strong woman who already is fulfilled in her life on her own and if she finds love, it doesn’t complete her. It only adds to the joy and contentment she already has. That’s the story I want my daughter to see, and that’s the story that I want to live each day – even during the magic of Christmas.