It’s the festive season, and that means it’s time to curl up with a mug of hot chocolate and enjoy some of the many heart-warming seasonal movies on television at this time of year.
There’s no shortage of these movies, with more than 90 filmed in 2019 alone. Many are filmed in small towns around British Columbia. Just this year, two were filmed in Summerland.
These made-for-television movies provide a couple of hours of diversion from the busyness of the season, with light, bright holiday romance stories.
And yet, too often these movies have left me disappointed.
They’re beautifully filmed, with immaculate homes, stunning small businesses and scenic parks and downtown streets. The scenes are designed to elicit warm, happy memories from a bygone era.
In these movies, each small town had huge holiday celebrations, and each movie included at least one scene of the two main characters picking out a tree, decorating the tree, making holiday cookies or wearing ugly sweaters to a holiday party.
And on Christmas Eve, the man and woman fall in love, resulting in a happy Christmas they will cherish forever.
But until recently, the diversity I see around me was missing from these holiday movies.
Casts were predominantly white and there were no references to customs and traditions other than Christmas.
Our communities in Canada are far from homogeneous.
This is most noticeable in the larger cities across the country, but it can also be seen in small towns as well.
Nearly one-quarter of people living in Canada are visible minorities, and in British Columbia, the figure is closer to 30 per cent.
Some of us have big Christmas celebrations, some celebrate Hanukkah, some observe Kwanzaa and others have their big celebrations on New Year’s Day.
Even among those who celebrate Christmas, there are plenty of differences. Canada is made up of many ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, and many religious faiths or world views.
And there are other ways our diversity shows itself. Some families include a mother and father with their children, others are single parent families. There are childless couples and there are same-sex couples.
Each of these differences will all affect the ways we celebrate the season.
We are not all the same. Chances are good that each of us has friends, neighbours, coworkers or acquaintances who represent demographics other than our own.
At least some of the diversity we already experience around us should also show itself in our stories and entertainment. Characters in our stories should not be limited to successful, attractive white people at the exclusion of all others.
A change is now starting to happen.
Over the past few years, holiday movies are beginning to reflect our changing demographics.
Not all actors are white, and in some instances, the lead roles are going to actors who represent visible minorities.
Some of the recent holiday movies have included references to traditions surrounding the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah.
And this year, for the first time, Hallmark has featured a same-sex couple in one of its movies.
The Christmas House, which first aired in late November, represents new territory in the world of Hallmark’s holiday movies.
These changes represent an important positive step forward.
Recognizing and reflecting the diversity among us will result in stories accessible to all people, not just to one segment of the population.
And showing a variety of people and a variety of holiday traditions may help to foster a more inclusive mindset, which benefits everyone.
The festive season – including its holiday movies – deserves to be festive for all.
John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.
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