We have seen the plot a hundred times before. Sassy independent girl meets boy, girl thinks boy is rude and arrogant, girl finds out boy isn’t too bad and has a heart of gold, boy and girl fall in love. It looks very much like the plot of Jane Austen’s literary masterpiece Pride and Prejudice. And it is. Who can fail to love the good old tale of Elizabeth Bennet falling for Mr Darcy?
Of course, Jane Austen was not the only writer to follow this plotline. Who can forget Charlotte Bronte’s objectively awful Mr Rochester? I say ‘objectively awful’ because despite the whole ‘mad-wife-in-the-attic’ issue, he finds a way into our hearts.
These romances were blockbuster hits when they arrived on the shelves of 19th century British bookshops. And have they lasted! The stories themselves have gone on to inspire countless TV and film adaptations and spin-offs. But it’s the general romance scenarios that have really gone on to take the world by storm. We can’t get enough of the brooding male love interest who is softened by the lovely but independent and sarcastic heroine. The storyline has taken on many forms, but nowhere has it found such a perfect home as in the made-for-TV holiday film industry.
Christmas comes with overeating, enchanting light displays, and B-grade romance films. Seasonal romance stories are the life-blood of the Hallmark and Harlequin TV channels, but have recently been adopted by Netflix too. There is no end to the number of spring, summer and autumn themed love stories. But Christmas is the real money grabber. It is a time of cosiness, feeling good, doing good and embracing familiar rituals.
With little variation to plot lines, these films almost form their own tradition. 2017 saw an explosion of interest in the genre, with one particular film taking the world by storm. A Christmas Prince, a Netflix original, with its endearing and quirky protagonist, a charming playboy prince who quickly won everyone’s heart. Not because it was original, or sweetly romantic, but because it was – simply put - atrociously made. The acting was unconvincing, the plotline unbelievable and full of holes and the handsome prince so generically good-looking, that he was completely forgettable and looked like a new man every scene. I joke not. The film became an internet phenomenon and has sparked a new level of enthusiasm for the genre. It has turned these should-be rom-coms into accidental cult comedies.
Well, it’s now November 2018 and the Christmas romances are being released with a renewed vigour. A Christmas Prince, The Other Royal Wedding, will be appearing on Netflix providing the thrilling sequel we have all been waiting for. But it’s not the only royal romance we have been promised this holiday season. The uncreatively named Christmas With a Prince will be lighting up our screens with just as many terrible British accents, mis-representations of royalty and predictable kisses in the snow.
However, if you have heard too much about royal family romances this year, fact or fiction, don’t worry. Harlequin’s A Christmas Catch will pair a quirky hardworking FBI cop with a jewel thief, while June Street Studios pairs a kind-hearted but recently dumped songwriter with a good hometown man. Meanwhile, A Christmas Switch employs the plot of Freaky Friday to switch two mothers, a husband here being played by an actor who looks so much like Nathan Fillion (Castle) that they might as well stick his name in the credits.
If you are unsure whether you have watched one of these movies or not, here are the plotlines to look out for. There is always a hardworking heroine. She will come in two forms, either she will be waiting for her ‘big break’ or she will be too hardworking and lose track of what really matters: finding love. There is a high chance she also has a widowed father. She will either leave her old town and find love in the confusing big city, or return home from the big city and find love in the more wholesome small town life. Unless of course this is royal romance. Then she will find herself in Belgravia, or Aldovia, somewhere that looks vaguely like Switzerland and sounds unconvincingly like England.
The heroine’s perfectly curled hair will never be anything but perfectly curled. Should it rain, or she wake from a rough night’s sleep the waves will still be there. So will her supportive two-dimensional best friends, and slightly concerned father. The romance will be unconvincing, especially if the heroine falls for a ghost, (that happens too.) But there will be romance.
There is little to recommend these films. But if you want to support struggling actors, are stuck for nothing better to do, or in need of a new guilty pleasure, these are the perfect, no-thinking-required entertainment pieces to get you through the dark winter months.