We have previously noted Amanda Marcotte stating that the evil Donald Trump has ruined Christmas for her. That Christmas wasn’t much of a holiday for her even before Mr Trump won the 2016 election is something she admitted, but she was especially appalled that her family were “mostly a bunch of Trump voters,” and that her “own family . . . have been sucked up into the Trump cult.”¹
Of course, here in the Bluegrass State, my Trump-hating sister and my Trump-hating wife gathered together with my Trump-supporting sister and her Trump-supporting husband and my wife’s (grudgingly) Trump-supporting husband, for Christmas dinner at our farm. No shots were fired, no hatred expressed, why it was almost as though actually being family was more important than politics.
But, for Miss Marcotte, while it’s All About Trump, it’s about more as well.
Forget “Triumph of the Will” — the most insidious authoritarian propaganda comes in the form of schmaltz
by Amanda Marcotte | December 25, 2019 | 10:30 PM UTC
The Hallmark Channel has been having a rough go of it in the past few weeks. The cable TV behemoth, which has been minting money with its patented holiday season schmaltz, drew widespread criticism earlier this month when it pulled ads for the wedding company Zola that featured a lesbian couple kissing at their wedding. The company’s initial excuse was that they do not allow ads that feature “overt public displays of affection,” claiming the policy is “regardless of the participants.”
This was, obviously, nonsense, as couples kissing at weddings is not only not outré, but generally seen as mandatory (and features in the channel’s numerous rom-coms). Unsurprisingly, critics quickly found plenty of examples of straight snogging on the channel that shows that sexual orientation was the sole reason for the ad pull. (That, and Hallmark was clearly responding to a right-wing pressure campaign claiming that lesbian kissing “ruined” the channel’s “family friendly” offerings.) Hallmark then flip-flopped, apologizing for pulling the ads and claiming they have been “a progressive pioneer on television for decades” and “committed to diversity and inclusion.”
Well, Miss Marcotte is certainly right about one thing: Hallmark should have stuck with their initial decision!
Which is, of course, laughable to anyone who has even glancing knowledge of the channel’s offerings. Running down this year’s schedule of Christmas movie offerings is like a trip into an uncanny valley of shiny-teethed, blow-dried heteronormative whiteness, with only a few token movies with characters of color. It’s like watching “The Stepford Wives,” but scarier, since the evil plot to replace normal people with robots is never actually revealed.
None of this should be a surprise, because Hallmark movies, as cloying and saccharine as they are, constitute the platonic ideal of fascist propaganda.
Heaven forfend! “Fascist propaganda?” How could this be allowed? After all, Miss Marcotte claims that the “empty-headed kitsch (of Hallmark movies) fits neatly in the authoritarian worldview,” and it’s something of a surprise to me that she didn’t want the whole network banned.
In complaining that the theme of so many Hallmark Channel romance movies is that the white, big city career woman has to return to her smaller hometown, where she finds romance with some white, hunky guy, and then leaves her highly successful career lifestyle in New York or Chicago or Portland to marry her true love in said (mostly white) small town.
Hallmark movies, with their emphasis on returning home and the pleasures of the small, domestic life, also send a not-at-all subtle signal of disdain for cosmopolitanism and curiosity about the larger world, which is exactly the sort of attitude that helps breed the kind of defensive white nationalism that we see growing in strength in the Donald Trump era.
The Hallmark Channel very much pre-dates Mr Trump’s presidency, but one thing is obvious: if there were no audience for the Hallmark Channel’s movie themes, either the network would have failed, or they would have changed the themes to something the network bosses would think would attract more viewers; that’s kind of the way business operates.
Miss Marcotte understands that, and that is what picks at her sensibilities: what she characterized as “a not-at-all subtle signal of disdain for cosmopolitanism and curiosity about the larger world” is also a frustration that a substantial number of people, a substantial number of women, would choose the pleasures of the suburban and/or rural life over the hustle-and-bustle of the urbanized professional.
That, you see, is an attack on her choices in life. Miss Marcotte left her home in “rural Texas” for the Big Apple, though after several years there in “a shoebox of an apartment,” she and her ‘partner,’ Marc Faletti, relocated to South Philadelphia. Perhaps even more tellingly, Miss Marcotte, at age 42, is now a bit older than those big city career women who return to their smaller hometowns and find domestic bliss in the Hallmark movies.
Miss Marcotte writes in a very personal style; part of the reason she has been successful is that readers can tell that she truly feels what she writes, and she has built up an audience which appreciates that. And when she complained that Hallmark movies indicated a “disdain for cosmopolitanism and curiosity about the larger world,” she was demonstrating a similar, “not-at-all subtle signal of disdain” for women who have taken different choices in their lives, for women who choose marriage and suburbia and, horrors! motherhood.
Robert Stacy McCain wrote earlier today about Wednesday Martin’s housewife angst:
Wendy “Wednesday” Martin is the second wife of New York lawyer Joel Moser, and the author of several popular books. In 2015, she published Primates of Park Avenue², a memoir described as “a well-heeled combination of the Real Housewives and Sex and the City.” Martin, who has a Ph.D. from Yale, did a sort of anthropological study of women like herself — the wives of wealthy men on the ultra-affluent Upper East Side of Manhattan. While any rational observer would view such women as the most fortunate humans on the planet, Martin argues that “these seemingly privileged women are fundamentally powerless” because their lifestyles are “dependent on a husband’s earnings.” Martin contends that this explains, among other things, why these women are obsessed with fitness and fashion, because maintaining their beauty is necessary to prevent their wealthy husbands from dumping them.
Considering that she was herself a replacement for the first Mrs. Moser (a tale told in her 2009 book Stepmonster), Martin seems to have internalized the message of her own status as a replaceable commodity, but rather than questioning the atheistic culture in which marriage vows mean nothing, instead she takes this for granted. She inhabits a world in which there is no god but money, and no meaning to life except the pursuit of pleasure, and evidently cannot imagine any other world. Martin criticizes her peers as afflicted with false consciousness:
These are women who have disempowered themselves relative to their husbands not only by family-prioritizing choice but as a form and marker of achievement. . . .
If you’re a wealthy woman, you feel virtually compelled to stay home with your children. You may think you’re making a choice, but it’s a false choice.
Question: If any mother had the option to stay home with her children — whether because of her husband’s high earnings or any other economic subsidy — why wouldn’t she do so? She might not be able to afford to live like Wednesday Martin, in the poshest Manhattan neighborhood (with a weekend place in the Hamptons), but if a woman could so arrange her life as to avoid the necessity of working outside her home to pay the bills, wouldn’t she prefer this to any other arrangement?
Dr Martin’s book was, as I gather from not only Mr Mccain’s article but the ones he linked, a story about how housewives in wealthy families have lost something, and how they exhibit a faux front, to enable them to compete against similar women. This is the kind of thing against which Miss Marcotte would rebel, because women should never place themselves in a position of financial dependency on a man. Yet, in suburbia, it is normally the husbands rather than the wives who are the primary, if not exclusive, earners. While the Hallmark movies frequently imply — though almost never specify — that the urban career women who are making these changes in lifestyle are outearning their new romantic mates, the next implication is that they are giving up much of their earning power to be happy in their small-town lives.
In 1984, author George Orwell has the protagonist, Winston Smith, reminiscing:
Suddenly he was standing on short springy turf, on a summer evening when the slanting rays of the sun gilded the ground. The landscape that he was looking at recurred so often in his dreams that he was never fully certain whether or not he had seen it in the real world. In his waking thoughts he called it the Golden Country. It was an old, rabbit-bitten pasture, with a foot-track wandering across it and a molehill here and there. In the ragged hedge on the opposite side of the field the boughs of the elm trees were swaying very faintly in the breeze, their leaves just stirring in dense masses like women’s hair. Somewhere near at hand, though out of sight, there was a clear, slow-moving stream where dace were swimming in the pools under the willow trees.
The Party would certainly disapprove of Mr Smith’s idealization of the rural setting — though Mr Smith is depicted as meeting Julia, his love interest, in a park following his release from ‘re-education.’ — and I have to wonder a bit about those who are so heavily committed to intensive urbanization. To them, why a nice park is OK, but actually living out in the countryside? The Editors of The New York Times wrote approvingly of Minneapolis ending single-family housing zoning. “Americans Need More Neighbors” is the title of their editorial, something they apparently see as For Our Own Good. It’s the impulse of Our Betters to tell us what we need, the apparently odd notion that Americans might want fewer neighbors just the wrong thing for us to desire.
There are so many levels of her discomfort with suburban, small-town and rural life that one can see in Miss Marcotte’s article. Her very personal style of writing limited it — sort of — to her distaste for a lifestyle other than that she has chosen for herself, but it simply reeks with the larger leftist ideal of telling everybody else how they should run their own lives. For someone who is so inclusive and multicultural in her (purported) outlook, she is very uncomfortable that some people like and yearn for the the lifestyle she has rejected. If Miss Marcotte wishes to live what she sees as the lifestyle of the urban hipster, hey, that’s fine with me; it’s her life to live, not mine.
But, to her, idealizing the suburban, small town or rural lifestyle, why that’s “fascist” and the “most insidious authoritarian propaganda.” How long will it be before Miss Marcotte or her like-thinkers start to demand that the Hallmark Channel be banned?
¹ – Miss Marcotte complained, “Getting to my mother’s place in rural Texas is a nightmare at normal times — a flight to Dallas, followed by a smaller plane to a four-gate airport, and then driving an hour and a half to her house — and during the holidays it’s pretty much hell on earth.” Condescension much? 🙂
² – I added the amazon.com link to Dr Martin’s books; Mr McCain had not done so.
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