My wife is a glass-ceiling busting, women in non-traditional jobs, politically liberal, civil engineering manager. But when she gets home from duking it out with the good ol’ boys in construction heavy industry, she wants to de-stress. She watches a lot of the Hallmark Channels and, consequently, so do I.
The Hallmark Channels can be counted on for shows with happy endings, where the perky, plucky young woman and the handsome, down-to-earth young man always get together at the end. But they’re more than that. They are subtly subversive, in a very positive way.
The Hallmark Channels are currently owned by the Hallmark Card Company. Although the history of the channels is complex, it is possible to view their history as a divergence between the American Christian Television System (ACTS), owned by the Southern Baptist Church and promoter of televangelists like Jerry Falwell, and the Vision Interfaith Satellite Network (VISN). VISN represented 65 religious groups including the “mainline Protestant churches” (Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.) and Roman Catholic, LDS, Jewish and Islamic faiths. VISN can be viewed as a reaction against the ACTS evangelical message of “God spoke to me and told me how Americans should vote.”
The surprising thing to me has been to learn how progressive the Hallmark Channels are, all while revering the American heartland. Some key points I have picked up from watching:
The women in these shows and movies are not confined to traditional roles. They may start businesses, run businesses inherited from their families, be the only medical doctor in a small town, lead political movements, rise to executive positions.
The values expressed are frequently anti-corporate. Some of the plots involve a major corporation trying to buy out a locally owned factory, close it down, and move its production elsewhere. The local people in the community either talk the family factory owners out of selling, or they actually form cooperatives that allow the employees to buy, own and run the factory. That’s pretty darn progressive. It harkens back to the early American days of community barn raisings and the prairie cooperatives in farming and banking that were organized under FDR’s New Deal and are still going strong in the heartland. And the perky, plucky young woman always falls for the handsome, down-to-earth, local young man who wants to help save the locals’ jobs, and rejects the equally handsome and charming, corporate raider who’s in town to arrange for the buy-out.
This past Christmas season, the Washington Post ran an article titled, “Let women have our Hallmark Christmas movies. We deserve them.” The article cited statistics showing that the Hallmark Channels are now the No. 1 rated cable networks for women between 25 and 54. From what I’ve seen, they’re watching some very healthy stuff.