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Examining why holiday movies never go out of style

UW-Milwaukee media, cinema, and digital studies professor explains why holiday films are such long-standing traditions for many families.
Inna Darda
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UW-Milwaukee media, cinema and digital studies professor explains why holiday films are such long-standing traditions for many families.

Wintertime seems to always be accompanied by classic holiday-themed movies and television shows. There are timeless classics and new productions alike that continue to make us feel warm and content as we enjoy the holiday season. While other genres occasionally go through periods of varying popularity, holiday-themed movies and television programs are consistency being produced and highly consumed.Elana Levine, professor of English, media, cinema, and digital studies at UW-Milwaukee, shares her expert opinion as to why that is.

According to Levine, there is a practical aspect as to why holiday movies remain prominent. "I think that for many people, the holiday movies that they watch every year are part of set of traditions that they and their family have participated in," she says. In this way, they are not unlike other similar, well-established traditions.

The power of routine can be demonstrated through the film. Take, for example, The Sound of Music — Levine says the film isn't necessarily based on a holiday theme but after years of watching it during the holiday season, many people considered it to be a holiday film. In the same way, the song My Favorite Things is often considered a holiday song despite not having specifically holiday components.

Holiday movies are also a simple way to spend time with family and loved-ones, creating a harmonious environment. Levine adds, "Spending time with family can be stressful. So, watching something together can be a low-stress way to spend time together." And, it provides a means for entertainment that is appropriate for the entire family, too.

Levine believes that the reason new holiday movies keep appearing is because of the themes that are typically targeted. With the cinematic decline of the traditional romantic comedy films, holiday movies tend to focus on family, love, romance and other wholesome content. Holiday movies can help fill the void of those that enjoy such films, she says, and also provide a warmhearted story where the audience knows that the end will be pleasurable to watch.

While Hallmark and Lifetime were the first networks to pioneer these holiday films, the genre has adapted to the modern streaming world. Regardless of the time period, Levine believes that holiday films will continue to serve this purpose for many families.

She says, "Holiday films emphasize warmth and togetherness and family right in the dark cold days of winter and brings us that warmth and comfort."


Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Robert is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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