It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Not Christmas season per se, but rather, Hallmark Christmas movie season.
You know what I’m talking about: Those slap-dash, exposition-heavy, the-cornier-the-better, vaguely-Christian-supremacist, made-for-TV romantic comedies, all set in a world where everyone is fucking nuts about Christmas. In this world, the hottest thing an unmarried couple can do is kiss without tongue, actors from That One TV Show You Used to Watch Reruns Of When Nothing Else Was On are treated as the most compelling performers of our generation, and entire towns can survive on the economy of a two-week-a-year holiday fair.
Of course, when I say “Hallmark Christmas movie,” I don’t just mean those that air on Hallmark; Lifetime has been churning these suckers out since the 90s, before the Hallmark Channel was even really a thing. And the streaming renaissance has spawned dozens of variations on the form: gay (but never trans) romcoms like Single All the Way; Hanukkah plots that still manage to center Christmas; explicitly in-on-the-joke campy franchises like The Princess Switch; and synergistic strokes of genius like the Food Network/Discovery+ joint Candy Coated Christmas.
But there’s one thing that no network or streamer has had the courage to do: Set a movie in Portland, a city on fire in the imagination of Red America, the prime non-ironic target audience for these films. In an attempt to bridge that cultural gap, I’ve taken it upon myself to offer up three ideas for Hallmark Christmas movies set in Portland. If any big executives are reading this, please get in touch.
This Little Lloyd of Mine
Beloved Portland institution LLoyd Center is being repossessed—and the mall is set to have its last day in business on Christmas Eve! East Coast real estate bitch Cassidy McCordingthon comes to town to oversee the mall’s closing before it’s demolished and somehow turned into yet another expansion of Interstate 5. She’s planning to nix the planned mall Christmas tree decorations to cut costs, because she’s a heartless career-focused woman who hates cheer.
But a handsome rural Oregon timber worker named Carson Stillwatercreek has already brought a giant Oregon-grown Christmas tree to the mall, as per the original decorating plan. At first, Cassidy tells Carson to turn around and take his tree with him. But soon she’s overtaken by his charm, and his love for Christmas gives her an idea to turn the Lloyd Center into an urban Christmas tree farm, complete with holiday decoration vendors. This movie includes the line, “I came here to repossess this mall… but as it turned out, you’ve repossessed my heart!”
Let Me Be Clear: Merry Christmas!
Sidney Weatheringly is a young LA-based social media marketing manager who, seeking a more meaningful job, applies on a whim to be communications manager for Portland Mayor Ned Peeler. To her pleasant surprise, she lands the job—oddly, her interviewers seem overjoyed that a halfway competent professional has expressed interest—and soon she arrives at Portland City Hall, which is decked out in holiday regalia.
Sidney has big plans to make Mayor Peeler more relatable through an active social media presence leading up to Christmas. But at every turn she’s foiled: When the mayor does a live video decorating a gingerbread house, commenters write that “Peeler will literally build housing for cookies before he’ll build housing for houseless folx.” When she posts a photo of his car decorated to look like Santa’s sleigh, commenters ask why Peeler ditched his bike. Feeling defeated, she brings up these problems to the mayor, but he isn’t helpful, and directs her to an even-less-helpful former mayor who is weirdly on his staff.
On Christmas Eve, Sidney is feeling especially discouraged, when suddenly she gets a visit from an angel! “You know you can just quit, right?” the angel asks, before disappearing as quickly as she appeared. Sidney submits her two weeks’ notice the next morning. A Christmas miracle!
Under the Mistletoe Haze
Dispensary budtenders Clara Kerringpin and Peter Williamburrough are constantly at odds: High-strung Clara is a perfectionist who strives to give each customer the perfect recommendation, while laid-back Peter tends to just suggest the last strain he smoked, whatever it was. Clara can’t stand his laziness, and Peter can’t handle her nagging. As another budtender puts it: “Clara is a sativa, and Peter is an indica, and these two will never form a hybrid strain!” But for some reason, the pair continue to request the same shifts—almost as if they secretly enjoy being around each other.
On Christmas Eve, these two are stuck working alone together, and the store is packed thanks to its Weed Cookies for Santa special. Peter smokes a special new strain, called Mistletoe, before work, and he suddenly can’t deny his true feelings of love for Clara. By the end of the shift, he’s convinced Clara to take a smoke break with him, and she realizes she feels the same way. The movie ends with Clara and Peter chastely kissing under the Mistletoe strain jar, and we zoom out of the dispensary to see Santa Claus smoking a big blunt outside. “Merry [COUGH, COUGH, COUGH] Christmas, Peter and Clara!” Santa says, winking to the camera. Fade to black.