Even the most die-hard Hallmark holiday movie fans will admit that the acting is over-the-top, the plotlines are unrealistic (as in someone's hiding the fact that they're royalty) and the endings are predictable (happily ever after, naturally).
So, why can't we seem to get enough (to the point where Hallmark is pumping out 24 new movies this year to feed the need)? According to Pamela Rutledge, behavioral scientist, director of the Media Psychology Research Center and Media Psychology faculty at Fielding Graduate University, the reliable Hallmark holiday movie plot formula takes us on an emotional journey that can be especially beneficial during the stress of the season — which keeps us coming back for more.
For starters, seeing familiar traditions and tropes played out on screen (and knowing it'll all turn out OK in the end) feels good mentally, NBC News reports. "The human brain loves patterns and the predictability is cognitively rewarding," explains Rutledge. "Those predictable story arcs that draw on the standard patterns we recognize from fairytales offer comfort by presenting life as simple and moralistic." Which can serve as a much-needed break from the complexity of real-life holiday chaos.
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As for the absence of cinematic wow factor that's become a "hallmark" of these movies (sorry, had to), there's a reason why we're so forgiving of it. "The lack of reality at all levels, from plot to production, signals that the movies are meant to be escapism entertainment," Rutledge explains. "The genre is well-defined, and our expectations follow. This enables us to suspend disbelief."