Along for the Rye’d
The Lifetime Christmas
BY ANNABEL MONAGHAN
Somebody over at Lifetime is doing some research on what women crave in December.
My husband went away for the weekend at the onset of the Christmas crunch. I planned to put on my cape and become Super Me: Christmas Edition and kick things into high gear. But before I got started, I sat down to watch a Christmas movie on the Lifetime Network (“Television for Women”). The next thing I knew it was Monday. In two-hour segments, I was lulled into a series of oddly similar Christmas fantasies. It was like being on an eggnog drip.
Lifetime really knows women. For the first 11 months of the year, Lifetime movies are basically revenge fantasies. From what I’ve seen, they are all a variation on this theme: woman meets man in coffee shop, they fall in love and get married, he seems to be hiding something. Oh, he’s a serial killer! The police don’t believe her, so she needs to take matters into her own hands. She traps or kills him using nothing but her wits. You can see why, during the month of December, that this particular storyline is too stressful for most women.
So, during the month of December, Lifetime completely shifts gears. They brighten the lighting, crank up the carols, and create 1,000 variations on the exact same Christmas movie. A high-powered lady executive has to deliver a package to a country town and gets snowed in. She is instantly at odds with the handsome innkeeper, but somehow they fall in love and discover the true meaning of Christmas. Shoot this script again with the two pilots whose flights are cancelled. She loves social media; he doesn’t have a smart phone. Can they ever make it work? Yes, they fall in love and discover the true meaning of Christmas.
The fact that these movies grabbed me so completely tells me somebody over at Lifetime is doing some research on what women crave in December. They’ve created a Christmas reality where the sun always shines on a light dusting of snow. People joyfully hunt for the perfect gift in perfectly tailored red and green coats. Cashmere hats top every head, but indoors no one has hat head. Families gather every night of advent to perfect the tree. And there are 36 hours in every day.
Everyone in this reality has a full-time job about which they are truly passionate. Yet we never have to see them work. Mothers who are corporate lawyers are also available during the day to organize the elementary holiday show (and fall in love with the single dad who’s designing sets and discover the true meaning of Christmas). They’re available to meet to stroll through holiday boutiques or sample fruitcake for an upcoming party.
And the guy. The guy who the heroine will inevitably kiss at the end of the second hour is just the right amount younger and more attractive than she. It’s not enough of a difference to make her nervous, but it’s enough to make the viewer think that there’s a reality where this might happen. He has between zero and one children and a steady income. Whether he’s a stockbroker or works at the coffee shop, he has a huge kitchen with marble countertops. There are no other countertops on the Lifetime Network in December.
Perhaps the most subtle fantasy they’re selling is this: in every movie the heroine has an annoying quirk that ends up being just what saves the day and makes the handsome guy fall in love with her. The woman who makes color-coded lists of her lists — the one a normal man might find a little rigid — that woman appeals to the disorganized sculptor who can never find his chisel. Same goes for the bossy woman, the forgetful woman and the woman who just can’t bring herself to trust again. If I lived on the Lifetime Network, my messy kitchen would make my husband wild with desire.
In January we can get back to nurturing our desire to right all the wrongs in the world using only our cunning and determination. The ex-wife with the rap sheet isn’t going to convict herself. But in December, why not just let the spirit of Christmas do all the work.