The Hallmark Channel has now been scrutinized for having a lack of religious and racial diversity during its “Countdown to Christmas” programming.
According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), the Hallmark Channel featured just four movies this year with black leads and virtually no other religious representation outside of Judaism and Christianity.
“Of the network’s record 24 original holiday movies this season, four of them have black leads,” reported THR. “And that’s down from last year, when five of its 21 original holiday movies had black leads.”
“Missing from Hallmark’s festive roster? Any other religion in the title,” the report later noted. “That’s especially interesting given that Hallmark last year announced that it would be producing two Hanukkah movies in 2019 — ‘Holiday Date’ (Dec. 14) and a ‘Double Holiday’ (Dec. 22). ‘Double Holiday‘ is a romance between a woman who is Jewish, while ‘Holiday Date’ features a Jewish guy pretending to be ‘Mr. Christmas.'”
Speaking on THR’s TV podcast, Bill Abbott, CEO of Crown Media Family Networks (Hallmark’s parent company), said that the allegation that Hallmark has no diversity is unfair.
“I think that generalization isn’t fair either, that we just have Christmas with white leads,” Abbott said. “In terms of broadening out the demographic, it’s something we’re always thinking about, always considering and we’ll continue to make the movies where the best scripts are delivered to us and what we think have the most potential.”
As to why the two movies featuring Jewish characters did not use the word “Hanukkah” in the title, Abbott said the programming has never been overtly religious, arguing that Christmas is more of a “seasonal celebration.”
“We are very proud of those movies and we think those movies really reflect an across-the-board approach to celebrating the holiday season,” Abbott said. “It’s hard if we start to slice up the pie, so to speak, and make movies based off of specific holidays. So, if we were to look at Kwanzaa, for example, or other religions and how they celebrate the holidays it’s a little bit more difficult because we don’t look at Christmas from a religious point of view, it’s more a seasonal celebration. [O]nce you start to slice it more finely within individual religions it’s a little bit tougher to necessarily tell that story in a way that doesn’t involve religion and we always want to stay clear of religion or controversy.”
“I think Christmas has become almost a secular type of holiday more than Hanukkah, which really does have more of a religious feel,” he continued. “I think Hanukkah, from a religious point of view, is not necessarily as commercial and not necessarily as much about gift-giving and it’s really about what those eight nights signify from the religious point of view. So I’m not ruling it out as something we would not do but this is kind of our first foray into this type of double holiday mix with a lot of Hanukkah in both movies [and] a lot of the celebration of how those nights are celebrated and experienced by those who practice the religion.”
Abbott did, however, say that the Hallmark Channel has an interest in featuring other diverse leads, including LGBT.