Tidings of Comfort and Joy: Rethinking Festive Season Watches

The holiday season sees a saturation of the cinematic market with an influx of wholesome but cringe-worthy holiday movies. Is it the audience that asks for it or is the industry too used to churning out “tidings of comfort and joy?” Read more to find out.

Be it “Rang Barse” or “Last Christmas”, festivals end up being not just a part of our real lives but also our reel lives. In the 20th century, cinema is not barred from reflecting reality but rather moves beyond that ambit to build upon our lived realities and create an alternate world, as believed by Media Studies Scholar John Mundy. Every festive season is accompanied by an influx of new or repeated holiday cinema, against a backdrop of the belief that this is the time when everything is right in the world. 

But can the cinema industry be completely blamed for this saturation of the market during the holidays? At the forefront, it is only catering to a society that was deeply embedded into the concept of religious festivities and now finds itself dependent upon a highly glamorous, minutely religious rendition of the same traditions. Rather than being restricted to religious beliefs, festivals have been gaining traction as events that have an aesthetic appeal and a more universal characteristic, the most all-consuming being Christmas.

Being a part of a family that doesn’t really celebrate (Christmas), the day often ends up being a bit disheartening. So, I have made it a tradition to find and watch that perfect Christmas movie every year because it helps bring that sense of joy, comfort, and ‘Christmas cheer’ that I can’t find in my immediate vicinity.

Hitanshi Jain, a first-year student at DCAC

Psychologists have gone on to distinguish happiness into two types: hedonic and eudaimonic. The former is more transitory and refers to the sensations of pleasure and enjoyment, whereas the latter is a more resonating and long-lasting feeling, rising from experiences that carry a sense of meaning and purpose. Both of these kinds of happiness are considered important for the overall well-being of humans and this is what the cinematic industry has been tapping into; with its humour, traditions, decorations, and backdrops catering to the hedonic approach, and the plotline of happiness over misery catering to the eudaimonic.

Most Christmas movies are created around the same storyline: family issues, conflicts, chaos, and negative emotions; all of them getting wrapped up with a happy ending where everyone finds joy and hope occupies the center stage. This craze has not only been fuelled by the audience but also by the production companies themselves, with entities like MarVista entertainment investing 50% of its development funds on holiday movies alone.

When exploring the science as to why this phenomenon takes place, we stumble upon Christopher Deacy’s statement in his 2016 book “Christmas as Religion” where he explains how Christmas movies act as a “barometer of how we might want to live and how we might see and measure ourselves”, tapping into the feeling of belongingness, familiarity, or the idea of “home”.

In the opinion of Penne Restad in her book ‘Christmas in America’, many movies like ‘Holiday Inn’ (1942) were created from the perspective of providing another line of thought and emotions to the war-stricken atmosphere in America, showcasing a world which “has no dark side”. This notion extended over the last century into every holiday cinema experience, promoting emotional wealth over materialist or consumerist tendencies and glorifying the essential happiness of humankind, while disregarding the misery surrounding it.

The essence of these movies is that they don’t make you feel that you are alone during the holiday season and that you belong somewhere, to someone, or something.

Srivarsha Bhukya, a first-year student at LSR

Each holiday movie ends up being a blank canvas, one that we know would end up in only the most beautiful colours, overcoming any possibility of messes, chaos, or disappointment. In a very Dr. Suess’ accent— these movies make us see that the flawed mirror still reflects that golden light, that the teared-up gift wrappers contain happiness inside, and that everything considered, it’s a wonderful life.

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives

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Manasvi Kadian

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