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TV Holiday Movies Are A Never-Ending Stream Of Red, Green And Whiteness



There’s always a camel peacoat. 

Probably a red cashmere sweater, too. Or a green one with a turtleneck. Definitely some tasteful solid-colored sheath dresses, a few cozy plaid scarves, and lots and lots of evergreens … and twinkly lights … and seasonal throw pillows. Is the year 2002? 2012? 2020? Who can say? But this particular aesthetic palette can only mean one thing: You’re watching a made-for-TV holiday movie.

I’ve had a lot of time on my hands and in my apartment over the past few months, which has meant plenty of time to watch more than a healthy amount of holiday-themed films. When you watch a critical mass of these movies, their shared, overarching and largely unchanging aesthetic comes into clear focus. The movies start to bleed into one another, a constant stream of Sad Single Career Women wearing red and green tailored coats paired with plaid scarves over their tasteful workwear, while they decorate their apartments or historic inns or Christmas balls with snowman-covered throw pillows and twinkly lights and vines of holly, somehow still finding time to bake a perfect tray of Christmas cookies.

These movies, with names like “If I Only Had Christmas,” “A Very Crafty Christmas,” “Time For Us To Come Home For Christmas” and “Dear Christmas,” are a staple of the extended American “holiday season,” which essentially stretches from Halloween to New Year’s Eve. In 2020, networks like Lifetime and Hallmark and streaming services like Netflix are releasing more than 100 original holiday movies, the majority of which follow a romantic comedy formula infused with lots of holiday (read: Christmas) spirit.

During a pandemic that has halted and delayed many productions, the made-for-TV holiday movie machine has managed to function smoothly, an apt metaphor for pop-cultural products that exist devoid of political and cultural context. 

Scarves and sweaters and outerwear, oh my!

Christmas in America is as much a capitalist fever dream as it is a familial and religious celebration. Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a season. And that season has a whole set of accompanying decorations, gift exchanges, foods, outfits and parties.

The holiday movies that populate Lifetime and Hallmark are, as my colleague Claire Fallon wrote in 2018, fundamentally “fairy tales about consumption.” The end result is an aesthetic deemed to have wide commercial appeal; one that resists risk, personality or specificity of any kind, instead leaning into visual cues that signal only the blandest brand of New England, suburban, upper middle-class whiteness — age, geography, race and socioeconomics be damned! 

“The Christmas Contract” (2018), about a New York City woman who takes her BFF’s brother home with her to Louisiana for Christmas, has a nearly identical visual vibe to “Let’s Meet Again On Christmas Eve” (2020), about a California event planner who is thrust together with her college ex while planning a Christmas wedding in Connecticut, which has a nearly identical look to “Love At The Christmas Table” (2012), about childhood friends who reunite each year at the children’s Christmas dinner table in a geographically ambiguous snowy suburb. The aesthetic reflects a fundamental terror of change.

In November, Hallmark production designer Shane Meador told House Beautiful that he looked to “traditional New England Christmas decorations,” as well as movies like “The Great Gatsby” and the Christmas decor at Buckingham Palace for inspiration for the set design on this year’s “One Royal Holiday.” (The British monarchy is, not unrelatedly, yet another long-running institution that is resistant to aesthetic change and deeply invested in maintaining its whiteness.) 

Lifetime, in particular, has made a concerted effort in the last few years— better late than never — to make holiday movies featuring romantic leads and families of color. This year, the network premiered its first movies centered on an LGBTQ love story (“The Christmas Setup”) and a woman, played by Ali Stroker, who is in a wheelchair (“Christmas Ever After”). But even when holiday romantic comedies feature leads who are not white or straight or able-bodied or Christian, the white hetero aesthetic remains. 

2020 was a hellish year for most Americans, full of death and illness and isolation and political upheaval. But in the placid world of made-for-TV holiday movies, class and racial distinctions are collapsed. Everyone can achieve love, success, happiness and fulfillment if they only believe in the Christmas spirit and buy its accessories!

Take “Love, Lights, Hanukkah!,” which premieres on Hallmark this month, an admirable attempt at integrating Jewish people into the Christmas-centric formula of holiday films. In it, a Christmas-obsessed woman discovers that her biological family is Jewish after her adoptive mother passes away and she gets a 23andMe-style DNA test. Presumably, the central theme of the film is Jewishness, explored by way of Hanukkah and random Yiddish phrases. But even the dreidel-obsessed Jewish family in the movie has green boughs draping their front porch fence and staircase and a giant wreath on their door.

In Lifetime’s “The Christmas Yule Blog,” which takes place in the fictional town of Carte de Amor, New Mexico, the only cultural or geographical specificity comes in the form of Ugly Christmas Ponchos as opposed to Ugly Christmas Sweaters. Made-for-TV holiday movies are about consumption, but only a specific type of consumption — one that encourages assimilation toward a white, middle-class standard. 

Some of the perpetual 2002 white suburban mom vibe can probably be chalked up to budget. After all, most of these movies are produced quickly and in mass quantities. This means that the sprigs of holly get faker, the tinsel gets chintzier and the A-line ball gowns get less sumptuous. A few of Netflix’s prime holiday offerings, like the “A Christmas Prince” trilogy, “The Princess Switch” duology and “Jingle Jangle” make it clear that a little bit more money goes a long way in making everything look that much glossier. 

But in the land of made-for-TV holiday movies, the (mostly) attainable is aspirational. Even in higher-budget holiday movies, specific aesthetic cues still persist: wreaths with gaudy gold ornaments attached, banisters covered in holly, red and green outerwear accessories. Even the Queen of Aldovia in “A Christmas Prince” wears tasteful solid-colored sheath dresses! They just happen to have a few more velvet and pearl accents. 

So many twinkly lights. So many solid-colored neutrals.

So many twinkly lights. So many solid-colored neutrals.

A simple Google search turns up a handful of guides to dressing like your favorite Hallmark movie heroine, filled with culottes from Club Monaco, silver feather necklaces, double-breasted red peacoats from Macy’s, a plethora of peplums, cable-knit beanies and Crocs. These style guides belie the fact that set and costuming choices for most made-for-TV Christmas movies seem designed to sidestep class differences, rendering the personal styling choices of royals in small European principalities nearly identical to the personal styling choices of salt of the earth small-town American locals. 

Costumes may signal a shift in a particular character, like when a buttoned-up, pantsuit-wearing, city-based Career Woman lets her guard down and accepts the Christmas Spirit into her life, usually upon return to the small town she grew up in. In such instances, she’ll swap her tailored black or green suit for jeans and a red flannel or green cable-knit sweater. But from movie to movie, the styling is fairly static. The overarching message seems to be that togetherness is akin to sameness; the heroine is only satisfied when she inevitably returns to her roots and her flannels, finds a good-hearted working man to love her, and decorates her Christmas tree.

As cultural shifts occur rapidly in the real world, the world of made-for-TV holiday movies, contained to quaint Christmas-loving towns and sleepy snow-covered suburbs, remains impervious to context. 2020 was a hellish year for most Americans, full of death and illness and isolation and political upheaval. The outgoing president of the United States just spent the last year drumming up racist fervor over the idea that the (white) suburbs ― the very settings of most of these holiday rom-coms ― were on the brink of destruction.

But in the placid world of made-for-TV holiday movies, class and racial distinctions are collapsed. Everyone lives in a big Colonial! Everyone owns a tailored peacoat! Everyone loves a giant Christmas tree covered with sentimental ornaments! Everyone can achieve love, success, happiness and fulfillment if they only believe in the Christmas spirit and buy its accessories! 

Christmas in America is a nationwide affair that mashes intangibles like “togetherness” with hyper-capitalist consumption. What is family time in December without wreaths, cashmere knits and plaid? And what kind of endlessly consumable dream would our holiday movies be if we didn’t feel like we could shop straight from their costume closets?




Watch Joe Biden Launch Groan-Worthy Joke At George Clooney In White House



Biden first praised all the honorees as “an incredible group of people.”

“And we the people, we see character. We see Amal Clooney’s husband,” the president cracked.

The tease got laughs, including from the actor himself.

Clooney’s wife, Amal, is a prominent and accomplished human rights attorney.

The quip was a “version of one of Biden’s most well-worn gags,” Mediaite noted.

Biden got serious and praised the two-time Oscar winner for his activism on behalf of 9/11 victims’ families and refugees, and his support for survivors of the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting and their work for gun reform.

“That’s character,” Biden said. “That’s George Clooney.”

Other honorees included singer Amy Grant, singer Gladys Knight, composer Tania Leon and the rock band U2.

The ceremony at the Kennedy Center was highlighted by a routine by Sacha Baron Cohen scorching former President Donald Trump and rapper-turned-vocal Hitler appreciator Ye (formerly known as Kanye West). There was also a public appearance by Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who was seriously injured in October by a hammer-wielding home invader.


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George Clooney, U2, Gladys Knight Among 2022 Kennedy Center Honorees



WASHINGTON (AP) — A heartfelt Patti LaBelle praised her lifelong friend Gladys Knight. Sean Penn called U2 “four scrappy Dublin punks.” Ballet dancers performed for conductor and composer Tania León. Matt Damon playfully teased his friend George Clooney — a lot — while Sheryl Crow delivered a heartfelt rendition of “Baby Baby” to Amy Grant during Sunday’s Kennedy Center Honors.

Knight, Clooney, Grant, León and U2 were all celebrated at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which annually honors a select group of people for their artistic influences on American culture. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their respective spouses were in attendance, as were members the President’s Cabinet and Congress.

One audience member from the political world — Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — drew some attention. He is recovering from a brutal attack in the Pelosis’ San Francisco home in October. The couple received a standing ovation from the crowd.

Normally performers like U2 or Knight would be headlining such a show, but during the Kennedy Center event the honorees sit in the balcony and watch as their peers laud them and perform their works.

On the red carpet, Clooney, with his wife, Amal, beside him, joked that after seeing friends like Don Cheadle and Julia Roberts in attendance he was worried his tribute would be more of a “roast.” And it was a bit like that, though his friends and family showed obvious respect.

Roberts set the tone by coming out onstage with a dress emblazoned with photos of Clooney. After an introduction that alternated between funny and heartfelt she turned to a set designed to look like a smoky bar — the type Clooney might enjoy. The actor’s father, Nick Clooney, regaled the crowd with stories of a young George, including the time the 7-year-old — heartbroken over the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 — gave his father all his toy guns.

Damon took the funny road, joking about how Clooney once stole then-President Bill Clinton’s stationery and wrote notes to fellow actors on it. Cheadle highlighted Clooney’s philanthropic work. But it was Clooney’s father who probably had the strongest praise, telling the crowd and his son, sitting in the balcony between León and U2′s Bono, “George’s best and most important work is still ahead of him.

Standing on a stage lit by a massive sign reading “Gladys,” LaBelle called Knight her “everything,” saying they had been friends for six decades and had seen each other through laughter and tears. “We do everything together,” LaBelle said. “I am honored to honor you tonight.”

Actor and hip-hop star LL Cool J said that whenever Knight sings she connects with people. “I once heard Gladys sing the ABCs and I thought I was in church,” he said.

Knight — usually with her backup singers, The Pips — has recorded dozens of albums with such classic hits as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” The challenge of singing that classic in front of the woman who made it famous fell to country music superstar Garth Brooks, who is a Kennedy Center honoree in his own right. He cited Knight’s “roots in country music” before launching into the classic.

Each artist was introduced by a video compilation showing snippets of their lives. In Grant’s, her children talked about their mother’s influence on them. Crow talked about Grant’s influence on her when she was a young college student.

“Amy also taught me that it was possible to be funny, irreverent and Christian all at the same,” said Crow.

Five ballet dancers took to the stage to honor composer and conductor Tania León, who left Cuba as a refugee in 1967; her passport was stamped “Cancelado” when she left the country. The performers were from the Dance Theatre of Harlem, which León helped found when she eventually made her way to New York City. She also instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series and in 2021 received the Pulitzer Prize for her work “Stride,” inspired by women’s rights champion Susan B. Anthony.

“How do I convey the extent of your musical genius?” asked actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith. Jazz pianist Jason Moran, singer Alicia Hall Moran and cellist Sterling Elliott played one of León’s creations, “Oh Yemanja.”

The last honoree of the night was U2. In a video taped Saturday, U2 guitarist The Edge noted that a group of four “Irish lads” were being honored for contributions to American culture and said there’s a bond between the group and America that can’t really be explained.

Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder sang U2′s “Elevation” and “One.” Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen brought his alter ego Borat to the stage as part of the U2 tribute, pretending to mistake Biden for former President Donald Trump. Singers Brandi Carlile, Hozier and Jamala — from the U.S., Ireland and Ukraine, respectively — closed out the show with an emotional version of “Walk On.”

U2′s Bono is also known for his philanthropic work to eradicate poverty and to raise awareness about AIDS. Jamala, whose home country of Ukraine has been embroiled in nearly a year of bloody warfare after the Russian invasion, touched on that history of social activism as she introduced the night’s final song.

“It’s fitting that on the night meant to honor them they have once again used their platform to spread a message of peace. Honestly to be here in this bright warm hall this evening is really something extraordinary for me, when there is so much darkness in my home country Ukraine,” she said.

The honorees came to the theater from a White House reception where Biden praised them before a star-studded East Room crowd as an “exceptional group of artists.”

“Thank you for showing us the power of the arts and ‘We the People,’” Biden said.

AP White House Correspondent Zeke Miller contributed to this report. Follow Santana on Twitter @ruskygal.


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Tattoo Removal Studio Offers Freebies To Regretful Kanye West Fans



A London tattoo removal studio is offering free sessions to people who no longer want Kanye West inked on their bodies.

Naama Studios first posted the offer last month, saying it would remove tattoos of the rapper, who has changed his name to Ye, free of charge.

The business later shared videos of two happy clients who had taken advantage of the deal, promoted with the tagline “Yeezy come, Yeezy go.”

“When you have a tattoo inspired by someone you admire and they end up making headlines for all the wrong reasons…” the post read.

“We understand that tattoos can be triggering for some people and not everyone can afford to remove their tattoos,” the business told The Washington Post. According to the Post, several people had already started to process of getting Ye tattoos removed, and around ten more had reached out to Naama for consultations. The procedure reportedly costs up to 2000 pounds (roughly $2400).

Ye lost fans and placed his business empire in crisis after making a series of antisemitic and hateful statements in public since early October. He was repeatedly suspended from social media platforms and dropped by most of his professional partners.

On Thursday, he openly defended Adolf Hitler and Nazis during a trainwreck interview on Alex Jones’s Infowars show, accompanied by white supremacist Nick Fuentes. Later that day, he was suspended from Twitter for tweeting a swastika merged with the Star of David.


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Theo James Was Shocked By ‘Ginormous’ Prosthetic Penis Used For ‘The White Lotus’ NSFW Scene



Actor Theo James has a massive…sense of humor when it comes to starring in nude scenes for HBO’s “The White Lotus.”

Appearing Friday on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” the actor — who went viral for a steamy scene in the second season premiere of the comedy-drama series — revealed that the fake “pee-pee” he wore for the NSFW scene in the show was “ginormous.”

The much-talked-about nude scene features James, who plays businessman Cameron Babcock, stripping completely naked to change into a swimsuit while Harper (Aubrey Plaza) watches in the bathroom.

“The truth of it was, you go into these scenes, and you have a conversation with the director and the producers and they go, ‘Okay, for this, we’re going to use a prosthetic,’” the 37-year-old recalled of the popular scene. “And you say, ‘Okay, that sounds good.’”

However, despite giving his input to makeup chief Rebecca Hickey about wanting to sport a more modest faux penis, things didn’t quite go according to plan.

“I said, ‘Honestly, I just want it not to be distracting,’” he told host Jimmy Fallon.

“It needs to be ‘Regular Joe.’ Because the scene, you know, it’s not about the pee pee; it’s about power play and sex. It’s about whether he did it deliberately or whether it was an accident and what that means. She says, ‘I got you. Yeah, I got you. Regular Joe.’” James continued.

To James’ surprise, “Regular Joe” was not what he received.

According to the British actor, when he arrived on set, Hickey approached him with a fake penis so outrageously large that it looked like she had “a hammer.”

“I mean, it’s bigger than that. It’s like she stole it off a donkey in the field. The thing is ginormous. And me and the director, Mike White, are sitting there going, ‘That’s… average, is it?’” he joked.

James then quipped that both he and White immediately ran off to call their “respective partners” to profusely apologize, like “I’m so sorry.”

“It was nine inches flat and about four inches wide. We were like, ‘What the hell is that?’” he added, laughing.

Speaking to Entertainment Tonight in October, James shared it “felt natural” to go sans clothes in front of the camera for the scene in the primetime Emmy-winning series.

He jokingly added, “It is in my contract that I’m not allowed to do anything without being completely naked.”

Just a month later, James told the outlet that audiences didn’t get a chance to see the initial scene they planned because it was “way too much,” so they “toned it [down].”

“The original derivation of it, it’s kind of full-frontal, if you know what I mean. We shot that and it felt too much, too aggressive,” he told Entertainment Weekly in November. “What we came to is a bit more opaque, and that’s exactly what Mike does so well. You’re never sure a hundred percent of the characters’ intentions.”

“The White Lotus” airs new episodes on HBO and HBO Max at 9 p.m. on Sunday nights.


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Prince Harry Hits Out At ‘Baseless’ Story That Pits ‘Him Against His Country’



Prince Harry is shutting down a recent report that accused him of telling a friend “Those Brits need to learn a lesson” ahead of the couple’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey last year.

The global press secretary for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex told HuffPost that “this is a baseless hit piece masquerading as journalism.’”

“This story is riddled with inaccuracies, not least of which is a quote erroneously attributed to Prince Harry,” the spokesperson said Sunday.

“To accuse a man who spent 10 years serving his country of wanting to teach that same country a lesson is not only an attempted distraction but an unfortunate and predictable tabloid strategy,” she added. “To pit him against his country is shameful and manipulative, especially when Prince Harry has never spoken ill of the British public.”

The Sun did not immediately respond to a HuffPost request for further comment.

The story and response come on the heels of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s recent, three-day tour of Boston, where they were for the Earthshot Prize Awards.

As the tour nearly coincided with the release of Harry and Meghan Markle’s forthcoming Netflix docuseries, a palace source prior to the trip said the Prince and Princess of Wales wouldn’t “be distracted by other things.”

A trailer for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s six-part series with the streaming giant dropped on the second day of William and Kate’s royal tour, leading many to question the timing of its release.

In the teaser, a voice asks Harry, “Why did you want to make this documentary?”

“No one sees what happens behind closed doors,” the prince responds. “I had to do everything I could to protect my family.”

“When the stakes are this high, doesn’t it make sense to hear our story from us?” Meghan later adds in the clip.


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Kenan Thompson’s Herschel Walker Is Confident About His Erection On ‘SNL’



He addressed Tennessee GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Cecily Strong) as “your Highness,” called Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell (James Austin Johnson) “Mr. McDonald,” and admitted there are still “so many” bad things about him people don’t know.

At the end of a long tale of bad things, “Walker” concludes: “Anyway, she didn’t want to keep it, so I drove her down to the Planned Parent Trap.”

When voting by mail was mentioned, “Walker” noted: “You gotta remember, they still gotta count votes by female.”

The Republican brain trust was so rattled they decided to lock Walker in a room — just for a few days.


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‘Weekend Update’s’ Colin Jost Knows The Password For Dinner With Trump At Mar-A-Lago



“Weekend Update” co-anchor Colin Jost skewered Kanye West on “Saturday Night Live” for his recent string of jaw-dropping antisemitic statements, and included a tip about a Mar-a-Lago password.

“You guys are not gonna believe this, but Alex Jones and Kanye West got together this week, and it didn’t go great,” Jost noted.

“Kanye West [now known as Ye] made antisemitic jokes, and said ‘I like Hitter,’ which is also the password he used to get into Mar-a-Lago,” where he had dinner with former President Trump last week, Jost quipped.

“At this point, I don’t think Kanye’s off his meds, so much as he’s immune to them,” Jost added. “We’re basically dealing with the omicron variant of Kanye,” complete with “the brain fog of long-haul Kanye,” he added.

“What I don’t understand about this Kanye stuff, is if Jews do control the media” — as Kanye insists — “then how are we still seeing a new interview with Kanye every day?” Jost asked.

Check it out below at the start of “Weekend Update.”

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