Just how many days of Christmas are there? Twelve, says the Christian calendar; 25, say the advent calendars; and a whopping 43, says Netflix – which this year revealed UK viewers start their festive viewing as early as 4 November.
After the almost viral success of 2017’s A Christmas Prince – a festive fairy-tale love story between a European prince and an American journalist that delighted audiences for it’s so-bad-it’s-good storytelling – Netflix has rolled out a whole sleighful of original romantic Christmas films. Before the sequel, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding, released on 30 November, came The Holiday Calendar (a romcom featuring a magic advent calendar) on 2 November, just in advance of the first spike in seasonal viewing. Then The Princess Switch (starring Vanessa Hudgens as two identical twins – one European royalty, one all-American everygirl – who swap lives) was released on 22 November. Netflix hopes to steal the crown from Hallmark – the network that has dominated the Christmas TV movie market by pumping out high volumes of bad festive romance films; Lifetime is also making more holiday films.
One thing they all have in common is their deeply questionable quality. But this isn’t an unfortunate side effect, it’s a deliberate strategy. Like turkey, brie and cheap milk chocolate, it was decided that the key to a popular Christmas film is bland accessibility – hackneyed romances featuring quirky but safe female leads, a snowy setting and a few jokes. People who like predictable love stories can let them wash over them like a warm, lobotomising breeze; those who think they’re above them can scream with ironic glee at every line. You may try to resist, but one day this Christmas, like an unwitting lead trapped in an inexorable romcom narrative, you’ll find yourself watching one too.
This article appears in the 08 Dec 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas special