Generally speaking, Aunty Christ is not a very Christmassy person. It is shocking! It shocks, that admission. Over the last couple days, though, the spirit of the holidays has called my name, and touched my heart. And it has touched it hard, and in somewhat inappropriate places.
Or, you know, not the spirit of the holidays so much, but the Lifetime cable television channel, and its awful, treacly made-for-TV holiday movies. Who fucking watches these?
Actually, I have a story about that. Not a very long story, mind you, or a very interesting one, but the last time I visited the familial manse for Christmas, about six years ago, I walked in on my mom as she was watching a holiday romance on the Hallmark channel. And it depressed me so much. I don’t even know if I can explain why, exactly, except that holiday romances aired on the Hallmark channel are in themselves depressingly poorly done, and that my mom is kind of a pathetic and lonely figure in my mind, and together, the image of this sad and lonely woman watching a badly produced, badly written family Xmas abortion on the Sad and Lonely Christian Woman Channel made my heart hurt.
Ever since that seminal moment, however, I’ve been fascinated by the awful made-for-TV holiday movie. And again, I can’t explain why, exactly. Something about my general fascination with awful things, I suppose, although I’m not saying that mommy issues aren’t buried very deep in there somewhere. In the last two days, I’ve watched the one about the lady who asked Santa for a boyfriend, the one about the lady who spent Christmas with the policeman who had her under witness protection because she was about to be the star witness against her boyfriend’s family in a tax evasion case, the one about the two newspaper columnists who hated each other until they realized that they loved each other, the one about the small-town lady who wants to move to the big city but learns that life and love is something that’s only available to her in her hometown, the one about the big-city lady who moves to the middle of nowhere and realizes that the middle of nowhere is where all the hot dudes live, the one about the lady who turns 40 and gets her groove back with a hot young dude on an island (NB: Not to be confused with that other movie, which, despite its middle-aged-woman-affirming message, is relegated to BET because of its lack of relevance to white middle-aged women), and the one about the lady with the dead husband who, despite being dead, has some very specific feelings about his widow’s potential boyfriends. In between were commercials for some monstrosity called It’s Complicated,
I think I’ve learned a lot over the last 17 hours of nonstop awful holiday show viewing, and I’d like to bring to you now what I call A Boyfriend Date for a Family Christmas in the Country.
The film opens. A wide-eyed young woman is trying on outfits and posing in the mirror while fun and perky music plays.
Music (singing): Here is the song that tells the audience how to feel about the story they are going to see about the girl who went on a boyfriend date for Christmas…
Camera closes in on girl’s face, showing her to be an actress last seen in a sitcom in the mid-1980s.
Juniper: I can’t wait to move to the big city, after Christmas! I’m so sick of family Christmases in the country, and I have such big plans! I shall muse upon these plans for a moment, so it becomes clear that I’m not only cute but also smart, and a bit of a dreamer.
Mom: Juniper! What about the town’s annual holiday fruitcake festival? Your grandfather didn’t perfect his fruitcake recipe just so you could abandon the town you grew up in and move off to the city like any normal person in the late 20th or early 21st centuries would.
Juniper: Now I have to say something that makes everyone realize that, as adorable and likeable as I am, I have some growth to do. But not so much that it’ll seem completely unrealistic that I do it in an hour and a half.
Blossom, the fat friend: Not like this entire movie isn’t unrealistic! Hey, I know you’re busy with your plans to leave town, but have you thought about just cutting loose and finding a new man to date? I mean, after your engagement to the baker ended so badly?
Juniper and Mom, together: No! Not the baker!
John Baker: I still miss you, Juniper, my dear. In a very shallow and conceited way, I mean. Actually, I miss the promise of your family’s winning fruitcake recipe, but I also miss your bum.
Juniper: I am only a little turned on and very, very mad!
Mom: I am a supportive mother, and so I am also mad!
Blossom, the fat friend: I wish someone liked my bum!
Don Goode: Hello there. It’s almost time for the first commercial break. Here I am, the unlikely love interest!
Juniper: I hate you!
Mom: Oh, but he’s so cute!
Juniper: My body says I love you, but I do declare that you’re the most frustrating man I’ve ever met, Don Goode!
Don Goode: Well, I’m just passing through, looking for the true spirit of Christmas. Say, have you noticed my rugged cheekbones?
Blossom, the fat friend: I did!
Juniper: Well, I’m still moving to the big city. I don’t care what you say, Don Goode!
Fruitcake judge: I sure wish I had some real personality or backstory or something, but I’m here to tell you that because of a series of unlikely events, Juniper and Don Goode will have to pair up as partners for this year’s annual fruitcake bake off!
John Baker: Well, I’ll just pair up with this skinny blonde lady then.
Townspeople: No one really cares what you do, John Baker, because even though you’re an award-winning baker, everyone knows that Juniper’s family recipe always wins this town’s fruitcake contest.
John Baker: Not this year.
Hot blonde lady: I’m so dumb! Did you notice my boobs?
Townspeople: Hey, this is a family show!
Cooking montage showing Juniper and Don Goode throwing flour on each other and laughing, Juniper showing Don Goode the proper way to shell nuts, and Juniper coyly hiding her grandfather’s recipe from him.
Don Goode: Would you like to go to the amusingly named local bar with me tonight?
Juniper: Like, on a date? Because I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this yet, but I’m leaving town to go to the big city soon.
Don Goode: Oh, well, I just wanted to ask you out so that I could admit something really shocking to you, like that I only came to town and paired up with you so I could steal your grandfather’s fruitcake recipe for the big frozen-dessert company I work for in the big city.
Blossom, the fat friend: Hey, what does your mom think?
Mom: I think that I should dispense some homey words of wisdom. And maybe some ice cream.
Juniper: I’m obviously 35 years old. Why do I still live at home?
Mom: You don’t live at home so much as you live in someone’s awful idea of the way things should be.
John Baker: I’ve heard that Don Goode is out of the picture, so I would like to propose to you in a few scenes, if that’s all right.
Juniper: Oh, I’m kind of confused!
Blossom, the fat friend: I wish someone would propose to me.
Juniper: I’m a modern woman, with plans and everything! I can’t drop all that and stay in this bum town, with someone who doesn’t even really love me with all his heart.
John Baker: But Juniper, I do love you!
Juniper: With all your heart?
John Baker: (?????)
Juniper: That’s what I thought. No. I’m a modern woman. I reject your proposal, John Baker.
Montage of Juniper doing modern-woman things, like shaving her legs and buying a balloon for a little kid.
Mom: Now that it’s almost time for the fruitcake-baking contest, how do you feel about moving to the big city and away from Christmas?
Juniper: Conflicted. I’ll miss you, Mom. You’re the best.
Mon and Juniper hug.
Mom: I got you lots of presents. Here! Have all these presents!
Montage of Juniper baking a fruitcake by herself and John Baker and the hot blonde lady baking a fruitcake together. The hot blonde lady is grossed out by the fruitcake mixture, and spends most of her time filing her nails.
Fruitcake judge: And the winner is …
Townspeople: Was there ever any doubt?
Don Goode: Do you have time for one more gift? I got you this kind of weird excuse about how I was never going to steal your fruitcake recipe after all, and I’m going to demonstrate that to you by playing a holiday tune on this here guitar.
Juniper: It’s what I always wanted!
Townspeople: Kiss him!
Juniper and Don Goode share three chaste, emotionless kisses.
Mom: And that is the spirit of Christmas. Where else could you find that?
Blossom, the fat friend: I wish I could kiss a man and find the spirit of Christmas.
Juniper: I think I’ve learned something today, and what I learned is that I will never leave the town that I was born in.
Don Goode: Also, I wanted to give you this engagement ring. I hope it’s not too creepy. I want to stay with you forever right here in this town.
Juniper: That’s not creepy. It’s Christmas!
Townspeople: Ha ha ha ha ha! Now we’re going to sing a song!
Thank you for watching A Boyfriend Date for a Family Christmas in the Country. Is it just me, or do these holiday shows make anyone else a little misty? Someone get Lifetime on the phone. That was the best one yet!