Holiday movies increasingly secular to reflect today's society, experts say
TORONTO -- Unlike the traditional films of seasons past, today’s holiday movies are ditching yuletide traditions and becoming more secular to represent an increasingly diverse society, touching on issues that often impede holiday joy -- like making a student feel outcast for being green, or bullying a reindeer for having a glowing red nose.
“Christmas movies have become a lot more secular in some ways; much more inclusive of all different types of people [and] all different kinds of experiences than certainly the classic Hollywood movies which emphasize the spiritual elements,” Gillian Helfield, a lecturer at York University’s School of Arts, Performance and Design, said during an interview with CTV News Channel.
“In the classic Hollywood movies you have people trying to better themselves and trying to live up to a higher standard—maybe we could call them Christian ideals.”
Helfield notes that modern holiday films tend to revolve around everyday challenges, bringing social awareness to issues that children especially can relate to.
“It’s a way of showing how excluded people can be welcomed back into the fold,” she said.
“We can look at the Grinch as someone who has been excluded his whole life.”
Despite growing secularism, many feel there still isn’t enough recognition for other non-Christian celebrations.
Last year, Hallmark Channel promised to include two Hanukkah-themed movies in its highly-watched holiday movie lineup. However, the company has been widely criticized for the films, with many alleging they feature Jewish characters but revolve around Christmas-themed plots.
For example, in “Holiday Date,” a woman hires a Jewish actor to pose as her boyfriend whom she described to her family as “Mr. Christmas.”
According to Hallmark Channel’s description, “Christmas and Hanukkah are celebrated side by side as they all learn more about the other’s holiday.”