Hallmark movies are centered around holidays, mostly notably Christmas. They all follow the same generic plot: the main character (usually a woman) is in a city, is disenchanted with love and/or Christmas, goes home for the holidays, meets her future partner, falls in love, and leaves her city job and life behind.
There’s nothing wrong with watching Hallmark movies; they’re great if you want to watch something mindless and predictable. Since they follow the same general plot, they also use the same tropes and cliches, such as happily ever after, miscommunication, best friends to lovers, etc. But what are some interesting tropes Hallmark movies would never have? Read on to find out!
Also called surprise pregnancy, this is what happens when a character (usually the main character) gets pregnant by accident. This is usually due to a one night stand, an affair, or unprotected sex with a partner. It’s a way to spice up the plot and to dramatically change the trajectory of the characters’ lives.
This trope isn’t problematic — depending on how it’s used — but it would be too problematic for Hallmark. Their boring recipe of big city girl who doesn’t believe in love going to small town and falling in love with a flannel-wearing man would be ruined. They couldn’t have a one night stand (discussed below), there would be no affair, and the woman couldn’t be pregnant from before the movie started. Pregnancies and babies would make it too complicated.
The book, Surprise, Baby, does this trope really well. It’s also enemies to lovers, with a playboy love interest and a fiery main character.
Dark Secrets Keep Them Apart
Dark secrets can include murder, a double life, or any secret that a character feels they need to hide from everyone, especially their love interest. Secrets can be more mundane, but that’s not as common. The main requirement of this trope is that the character feels that they have to keep this secret or they will ruin everything.
There may be secrets in Hallmark movies, but they’re not deep, dark secrets. The secret might be a mistaken identity that never got corrected, a small lie that was blown out of proportion, or something that can be resolved in less than two hours. There’s no dark secret to keep the lovers apart, or something that they must overcome together — it’s kind of boring.
Ten Tiny Breaths is a wonderful example where both love interests have dark secrets that would destroy them when they (eventually) unravel and force the characters to confront them.
In this trope, two people are deeply in love but are kept apart by friends, family, geographical distance, society, etc. Sometimes they overcome the obstacles, sometimes one or both of them die, or it doesn’t work out. Forbidding someone from doing something usually makes them want to do it more, which also makes this a common trope.
Considering that the movies try to push the love interests together, I doubt that this trope would appear. The love interests may not want to be together, but circumstances and other characters keep pushing them together. Considering that these movies never have sequels, and that they only take a few weeks to shoot, it would take too much screen time for them to overcome obstacles blocking their love.
A Thousand Heartbeats is about a princess and a commoner who fall in love and the obstacles that stop them. Everyone tries to stop them, but their love is strong.
One Night Stand
In this trope, the characters hook up for one night in the beginning, then usually don’t see each other for a long time. They reconnect later in life, and it’s usually awkward and uncomfortable, especially if one character is pregnant. They may develop feelings for each other as a result of their one night stand, or maybe the one night stand was a result of their feelings.
Hallmark’s recipe is a wholesome, plain, boring love story. Their movies are also supposed to be for all ages, including very young children, and they would never want to show sex. It would be scandalous to even allude to sex. Not to mention it would mess with their holiday-focused movies by throwing awkward sexual tension and a potential pregnancy/baby in the mix.
A steamy example is The Stopover: The Miles High Club, where the main character has a one night stand with a man she met on a plane. A year later, they meet again: this time as boss and employee.
People who are fated to be together no matter what are soulmates. This is usually romantic, and these people are destined to fall in love in every lifetime they have. Another variation is that soulmates are two people who used to be one, so soulmates are literally the other soulmate’s half.
I guess this could appear, but I don’t see that happening. The soulmates trope brings a level of complexity to the story in the sense that the focus is largely on the love interests’ relationship. Hallmark movies focus on the main relationship, but also on whatever holiday the movie is based around, and even some minor characters.
The Soulmate Equation is a sweet, funny book that does this trope justice. It’s about finding a soulmate through DNA, and the result the main character gets isn’t one she expects — but it may be the one she needs.
I wish Hallmark would spread their tropes and cliches to broaden their horizons and, potentially, their audience. I also wish they’d use more diverse tropes and characters, rather than the thin, white, blonde characters they always use.
For more on Hallmark, click here.
Browse our Romance Bookstr Bookshop shelves here.