Around every Christmas we dust off old Christmas movies, grab our blankets and we let ourselves indulge in guilty pleasures that always have a happy ending. Especially with the second lockdown in order, most people have a lot of free time on their hands. But what keeps drawing us back in?
We Love the Predictability
Christmas movies all have the same theme, obviously, Christmas themed but they have more in common. They are all about a protagonist who has a kind of great problem which isn’t that great because it’s often resolved in an hour and a half of screen time. They’re cheesy, gooey, and filled with unexpected but expected plots. And last but not least they all have a happy Christmas ending. Even though all Christmas movies look alike we keep watching them because we like the predictability. Our brains love the certainty of a happy ending and we tend to crave this more in times like this, where the pandemic is ruling our lives. Kati Morton, a licensed therapist who features a lot of topics like this on her youtube channel says the following: “The human brain loves patterns and predictability, especially when we are stressed out.” So it’s a rational idea that we like to watch predictable movies when we’re stressed out because the holidays can be a stressful season.
Our Brains are Dominant
Another reason why we like Christmas movies so much is because they make us feel good. Guilty pleasures or feel-good movies make our hormone levels rise which makes our brain activate the empathy center. This center releases dopamine, and this makes us feel a bit happier. From a communication science point of view, we can look at this from a uses and gratifications notion. This theory explains that people use media to satisfy their needs and that we will pick a kind of media on the basis of what we need to satisfy us. The holiday season is something that we think of as festive, fun, and full of warmth. This also makes us want to feel that kind of way. That’s why we tend to tune in and watch more Christmas movies because they have that same kind of spirit we’re looking for.
As much as our brains love predictability, we also love a good dose of nostalgia.
Another reason we can find is that Christmas movies have been around for a long time. I think everyone remembers seeing Home Alone and how much fun that was to watch with the whole family. As much as our brains love predictability, we also love a good dose of nostalgia. Multiple studies have found that when nostalgia is triggered, we tend to feel happy and positive emotions. There were also other studies that found that when experiencing nostalgia, your body’s temperature would rise. So experiencing nostalgia literally makes us feel warmer. Maybe that’s also another reason added to the list why we like to watch those Christmas movies in this cold weather.
We Can’t Do Without
So, we can agree that Christmas movies are cheesy and all have the same predictable plot. But our brains predominate this love-hate story we have with these kinds of movies. We can’t seem to not watch them because they give us a good feeling, and in fact, they give us a sense of gratification that we need to survive the holiday season. Good thing Hallmark rejoices us every year with a new Christmas movie.
Cover: Erik Mclean