We all know how Christmas movies on Hallmark and Lifetime go: Conventionally attractive woman at Christmas either hates Christmas or loves Christmas and she has an interesting enough job that there is a movie about her. By the end of the movie, she is in love with a man she met a few days ago, or a man she has known her whole life. These movies are all the same: completely unremarkable, nauseatingly heterosexual, designed by Target Christmas clearance, and at least for me, a muscle relaxer in film form.
In the 2010s, one of the jobs that Christmas movies decided is perfect for the format is blogger/journalist/writer. It is not a Christmas movie’s responsibility to represent exemplary journalism, but, generally, it is rare for female journalists across film or television to be portrayed accurately: as hard-hitting journalists who follow basic guidelines for reporting, especially when compared to male journalists depicted in film and television. The only honest portrayals of female journalists in film I could remember off the top of my head were Rachel McAdams in Spotlight and Holly Hunter in Broadcast News. In almost every other movie or TV show, the female journalists bend the rules by lying about their identity as a journalist or by falling in love or sleeping with their subject, like Kate Mara’s Zoe Barnes from House of Cards. And like every female protagonist in Christmas movies.
Since I am a blogger, who blogs, and Vulture is a blog, naturally I decided to watch every single Christmas movie in the Lifetime/Hallmark/Netflix landscape that is about a blogger, journalist, or writer and rank them according to how realistic the blogging, journalism or writing is. On this journey, I discovered that there are two plots for female protagonists who write in a Christmas film: cynical journalist reluctantly travels to Christmas town, falls in love; or: optimistic reporter wants to write about the Christmas spirit, and falls in love along the way.
A little more than halfway through this project (which was given to me by me), everything became a blur. I couldn’t tell if I was watching a movie I had already seen, or if I was watching my biography. Now that I’m sitting down to put this journey into words, sitting next to a Christmas tree, wrapped in a blanket, and it just started to snow, I wonder: am I trapped in one of these movies, or are all of them based on me? Who knows.
Here are 17 Christmas films about bloggers, journalists or writers, ranked by realism:
The plot: Aspiring journalist Amber Moore is sent from New York City, New York (!!) to the country of Aldovia to cover a press conference about the playboy Prince Richard, who is supposed to become king. It is just before Christmas. When it becomes clear that Amber cannot get a story through traditional journalism, like a real journalist, she infiltrates the castle by pretending to be Princess Emily’s new tutor. Chaos ensues! Richard’s hot cousin Simon plots to steal the throne away from him. Amber almost gets eaten by wolves while stalking Prince Richard and lets a royal horse run away in the process. Prince Richard finds out he is adopted in front of a bunch of people. Amber and Richard fall in love, then get engaged after knowing each other for two weeks (keep in mind that for most of this time, Richard thought Amber was a tutor from the Midwest).
Is the blogging realistic? Amber’s office, the Beat Now magazine headquarters, definitely has a New York media office vibe in that there is absolutely no privacy and the ceiling looks like it could collapse at any time. It is not possible that Beat Now magazine actually had a budget set aside to send an entry-level copy editor to a press conference in Europe at the last minute over the holidays, but this is not the film’s biggest problem. Amber steals someone’s identity and deceives her subjects (in addition to falling in love with her main subject, Richard) in order to get a story. Undercover journalism is only done when the story is not possible with traditional reporting. Amber could have easily told the truth about her identity and job and gotten the same exact story. And if you start to have romantic feelings for someone you’re supposed to be objectively writing about, you need to let someone else do the story. If Amber Moore did not fall in love with Prince Richard, she would be in jail.
The plot: Dumped because she isn’t a serious writer, Kim goes on a writer’s retreat at Christmastime. Did I mention that it is Christmas?
Is the blogging realistic? Kim is an aspiring novelist who cannot accept criticism and does not understand that fiction can be inspired by real life. No offense, but she deserved to get dumped for this alone. The Mistletoe Inn gets some details right, like that a white male writer from New York City in 2017 writes exclusively on a typewriter and dresses like Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge! But its understanding of the book publishing industry is that people magically get published if they are brave enough to send their manuscripts to publishers.
The plot: The blogger is a man! The man blogger is a popular bed and breakfast reviewer (okay) who pretends to be a geologist while staying at One Tree Hill’s Bethany Joy Lenz’s bed and breakfast. Bethany Joy Lenz falls in love with the fake geologist.
Is the blogging realistic? No. If “bed and breakfast reviewer” is a real job I would like to know, because it sounds relaxing. There is no reason for a critic to pretend to be a geologist while doing their job. Speaking as a blogger, I don’t think it’s that easy for a blogger to pretend to be a geologist. Bethany Joy Lenz and her family were fools to fall for this charade.
The plot: Optimistic reporter Jennifer wants to write about the holiday spirit at Desmond’s, an iconic Chicago department store that’s struggling to stay in business. So, naturally, Jennifer goes undercover as a retail employee during the holiday season and writes daily blogs about her overwhelmingly positive experience working there. She quickly becomes the best employee ever (despite a lack of any previous retail experience?) and just happens to accidentally fall in love with Jack Desmond, the owner of the store, along the way. George Wendt from Cheers plays an elevator operator. Jennifer and her blog help save Desmond’s from being purchased by corporate overlords. It’s too bad this film came out 14 years after Macy’s bought Marshall Field’s. It could have made a difference, I think.
Is the blogging realistic? No. Like Amber in A Christmas Prince, Jennifer misleads her subjects about her true identity even though it would have been much easier for everyone (including herself) if she was honest about her story from the beginning. And she knowingly falls in love with her main subject, Jack Desmond. Also like A Christmas Prince, this film features a journalist who is a copy editor as a punishment, which suggests that copy editing is some low-level gig you have to do in order to become a writer. Copy editing is its own career, folks! (And also I am so sorry to all of the copy editors who have to copy edit unhinged blogs such as this one.)
The plot: Sara Canning (Aunt Jenna from The Vampire Diaries rip) is Caroline, a San Francisco based “social media travel writer” and Christmas non-fan with her own office. Her boss makes her travel to a small Christmas town in New Mexico to write about it, and she’s justifiably annoyed that she’s not going to, like, Santorini or Tokyo. Caroline falls in love with not only the small Christmas town in New Mexico, but also a man who lives in the small Christmas town in New Mexico.
Is the blogging realistic? No. The film flip flops on whether or not Caroline does any writing: she’s always talking about writing (relatable!), but then her blogs are all videos. The biggest offense which puts The Christmas Yule Blog toward the bottom of this ranking is that Caroline publishes her work without showing it to an editor first.
The plot: Lacey Chabert plays Hannah Dunbar, a big-time famous TV news reporter in San Francisco. All she cares about is her career, and she’s laser-focused on a new promotion that will take her to New York City, instead of caring deeply about Christmas. How dare she! A Santa Claus she meets at her holiday work party puts a curse on her so she wakes up the next day married to her college sweetheart with two kids. The movie is about giving up your selfish career to be a mom and wife. The only version of this film I could find was heavily pixelated and sped-up on YouTube, which made Lacey Chabert sound like Alvin, from Alvin and the Chipmunks, and made the whole thing even more surreal.
Is the blogging realistic? Hannah is a television news reporter, thank you very much, not a blogger. There isn’t a lot of journalism in this movie, but I will note two things: Hannah lives in a high-rise penthouse in San Francisco (one of the most expensive cities in the country), and in the alt-universe in which she is a mom, she gets a job offer (from her real universe job) after she goes viral because she … reports the news from her children’s Christmas pageant. Based on these two facts alone, Family for Christmas is not a realistic portrayal of a journalist.
The plot: Failed songwriter turned lifestyle/travel writer and overall horrible person (according to real-world standards, not Christmas movie standards) Aubrey reluctantly travels to a very charming Christmas town to write a blog. She’s cynical at first, which is fair because the town is obsessed with its Danish roots in an unhealthy way. But after a few days, Aubrey grows to love the town as much as she loves one of the guys who lives in it, who she writes about in her completely unbiased article. This movie is Danish propaganda.
Is the blogging realistic? Once again we have a female blogger slash journalist who falls in love with one of her subjects but does not consider this a conflict of interest. Once again, we have an unrealistic and unethical depiction of a female blogger slash journalist in a Christmas movie.
Remember Amber, the aspiring journalist who stole a tutor’s identity? She’s queen of Aldovia now and she’s having a baby! But first, she must find out who stole a priceless royal artifact.
Is the blogging realistic? Amber is still blogging and it is fine. Amber’s investigation in this film is more like detective work.
The plot: Gossip Girl’s Georgina Sparks/Harriet the Spy/Michelle Trachtenberg stars as Megan, a reporter with a Live Laugh Love poster in her office who decides to investigate a “Secret Santa” who changed her life when she was a kid. This one is all a blur for me. I do not remember it at all.
Is the blogging realistic? I can only rely on the illegible notes I took while watching this film because I do not remember anything about The Christmas Gift, which I watched less than one week ago. The struggle of an aspiring serious journalist is fairly accurate: Megan wants to be a Pulitzer winning investigative journalist (there is a scene in which she awards a Pulitzer for investigative journalism to herself), but she’s stuck at Night Life magazine writing pieces like, “The best lip gloss to get you a proposal this Christmas.” While the actual reporting Megan does herself is decent, Megan’s editor encourages her to pursue her subject romantically in addition to misleading him about the story she’s writing. At the end of the movie, Megan’s co-worker and ex-boyfriend completely changes her story behind her back but keeps her name on it to make her look bad (this happens in a lot of these movies). The Christmas Gift is no Spotlight, but it’s not A Christmas Prince, either.
The plot: It is Christmastime and gossip reporter Greta stumbles upon access to “the West Coast Kennedys” (whatever that means) when she gets in a car crash on her way to report on them (a.k.a. stalk them while they are on vacation). At the time of the crash, she is in a tank top and shorts. The only outfit she has in her car is a wedding gown, so she puts it on and somehow almost dies in the snow? The most attractive and single West Coast Kennedy saves her. Naturally, she infiltrates the family, pretending she is not a reporter to get the juiciest story ever.
Is the blogging realistic?: Narrative miracles aside, it’s possible that this reporting is somewhat realistic. I have never met a tabloid reporter, but based on my incredibly biased assumptions about them, Greta’s instinct to get a story even if it includes doing things that are illegal is accurate. If she did not fall in love, she would be in jail.
The plot: Romance writer Kayleigh’s column is canceled right before Christmas. Then the editor who let her go becomes obsessed with hiring her back but she’s like “no, I have a Christmas blog now.” They fall in love.
Is the blogging realistic? Yes. It is, unfortunately, very common for a blogger to be laid off, regardless of the time of year.
The plot: Liz is an advice columnist for a small San Francisco newspaper. Her best friend is her 10-year-old niece. Tom is a … super-famous columnist for the big San Francisco newspaper that owns Liz’s small San Francisco newspaper. Tom has no friends and his dad thinks he is gay, but he is working on a pilot based on his life. Liz starts a Christmas column in a desperate attempt to save her newspaper from shutting down because for some reason the big newspaper is financing Tom’s pilot even though they don’t have enough money to do that. Anyways, Tom writes columns about how much he hates Christmas in response to Liz’s column. They fall in love somehow. What a riot.
Is the blogging realistic? 2005 was a different time. These columnists are rich, even for San Francisco standards. I would love to be them. I think this is a pretty accurate portrayal of journalism in the early 2000s, but I should ask someone who was a journalist in 2005. Were newspapers financing pilots for their employees back then?
The plot: New York City! Jenna (Type A Bethany Joy Lenz) and Kevin (pizza for breakfast type) get stranded in a small town in Indiana right before Christmas and have to stay at a bed and breakfast that is in trouble. Jenna and Kevin warm up to the couple that owns the bed and breakfast, and together the polar opposite co-workers write a blog in hopes that it will save the bed and breakfast from going out of business. At the end of the movie, Jenna and Kevin are in love and it is revealed that the owners of the bed and breakfast are Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. This movie is fun.
Is the blogging realistic? Sure! Jenna and Kevin’s New York City apartments are way too nice, and both of them would have roommates. In a work meeting at the beginning of the movie, their boss says “traffic is down at Epiphany magazine” and says that they “need to push for the holidays.” This is hauntingly realistic.
4. Random Acts of Christmas (2019), Lifetime
The plot: Single mom and freelance investigative journalist Sydney is investigating a Christmas charity after receiving a free bus pass from someone dressed as an elf. Sydney relentlessly follows every random act of kindness that occurs in pursuit of finding the person who is the real “Secret Santa” of Chicago. Turns out, the Secret Santa of Chicago has been right under her nose (and his mouth in her mouth) the entire time: he was pretending to be another freelance journalist reporting on the same story. They fall in love. Patrick Duffy is in a few scenes.
Is the blogging realistic? Sydney is under a lot of pressure at work because her editor says her articles are boring, which makes sense if the story that excites her the most is charitable acts around the holidays. The journalism remains pretty harmless until the end of the movie when Sydney suddenly becomes a broadcast reporter. The biggest conflict of interest isn’t Sydney’s fault: the man she falls in love with pretends he’s a journalist. It is not her fault that he is lying to her about his identity to make sure she writes a positive story.
The plot: Emory, played by Bridget Regan (Rose from Jane the Virgin) who we look at very respectfully, is a travel writer with a book proposal that she keeps avoiding. Emory reluctantly travels to a small Christmas town to write about it, but has to share a house with a man and his daughter because it was double-booked or something. Would you believe me if I told you she not only falls in love with the Christmas town, but with the man as well?
Is the blogging realistic? Yes, mostly. A travel magazine would not have a ground-floor office with its name on the doors, but maybe travel magazine offices are one of my many blind spots. Emory is a serious travel writer who is ignoring a book proposal like every single blogger/journalist there is. In one triggering scene, we see Emory’s desktop with folders including “unfinished articles,” “to edit,” “important!,” “inspiring,” and “personal.” Then the camera dramatically pans to the opposite side of Emory’s desktop, where there is a folder called “book proposal.”
The plot: Charity Jones is given the assignment of a lifetime: a holiday spread in The Times Square Journal! Charity must find out where Erik Gallagher, a millionaire, is getting the money to give generous and very expensive gifts to people in need every Christmas. Turns out it’s because Santa Claus is real. Charity falls in love with the man she writes about and learns the true meaning of Christmas, which is Santa Claus. Wow!
Is the blogging realistic? Yes and no. Charity wants to be a real journalist who breaks stories “like Watergate” and at one point in the film she says she might write a ranking. She files the final draft of her big article on a content management system on her phone from a coffee shop even though her laptop is open. Charity does fall in love with the man she is doing serious journalism about and as an aspiring serious journalist, she should know better than this. But I’ll give it a pass because the man is hot, and she does not allow anything romantic to happen until she is done with the article. Christmas Unwrapped tries harder than most theatrical films about female journalists do.
The plot: Amber (the aspiring serious journalist who stole a tutor’s identity and ended up with everything) is not only engaged to Richard, king of Aldovia: she has a blog!!! It is called Amber’s Blog. The only problem? The kingdom of Aldovia is facing an economic crisis, which Amber must solve even though the royal family is censoring her blog and she’s about to get married ON CHRISTMAS DAY.
Is the blogging realistic? I am aware that it is confusing (even inconsistent) to name the sequel to a film that I already declared the worst depiction of a journalist/blogger in a Christmas movie as the best depiction of a journalist/blogger in a Christmas movie. But please also consider that I took this ranking very seriously, and that I am right. Instead of stealing a tutor’s identity to get the story, Amber goes undercover as a regular person in order to get some scoop from a credible source: an Aldovian who lost his job for suspicious reasons. Amber follows the money as well as her source’s information and with the help of hot cousin Simon, Princess Emily, and her journalist friends, she saves Aldovia from an economic crisis by exposing a financial criminal, she protects her blog from censorship, and she still manages to get married on Christmas Day.