The Up Network specializes in Christian-themed drivel, which I know because my mom and I like to watch Judging Amy marathons, and occasionally the network with censor “crap” or cut out a scene. Given that Judging Amy and its stars, Amy Brenneman and Tyne Daly, are ardent feminists and Democrats, and the show itself skews heavily liberal (hi, my mom and I watch it together), it’s an odd Up choice. But so was Up’s Gilmore the Merrier Marathon, and I think that perhaps Up was cashing in on fans who didn’t yet have Netflix and the executive who made that decision did not realize that you can be Pro-Choice and have a baby at 17, take your daughter on Pro-Choice marches (the signs are in Rory’s bedroom), and own a “Give Bush a Wedgie” T-shirt. And so, yes, Marry Me has conservative messages, as most of these movies do, and it is wildly popular with its audience, spawning a sequel every year since its release in 2013. And yes, of course, in this day and age the film ends with a proposal before a first kiss.
I find that almost as galling as its backward politics.
I plan to die old, alone, and rich as hell. I’ve put a lot of thought into this on my commutes, and it works well whether or not I marry (because I’m old). The important part of my lifeplan is that I still live in Brooklyn (die in Brooklyn, scatter my ashes in Queens), that I’m rich from a lifetime of good decisions and a successful career (based on writing half-assed reviews of old made-for-TV movies).
Malinda Williams is Marci, a fashion-forward woman with her finger on the pulse of advertising or public relations; more time is spent talking about the job than what it is, these movies are all the same. You know Marci is serious about work not because she’s game to work through Christmas, but because she has short hair and tailored outfits.
It’s not work keeping her from visiting Atlanta for Christmas every year, it’s her family. She can’t so much as call home without a reminder that she’s single and childless, which is reason enough to spend the holiday in Chicago.
I have the luxury of having been born into the family that best fits me. People who are keenly aware of who I am, and people who support my dreams, hopes, goals, and interests, no matter how weird. This includes the men who married into my family, so I know I am exceptionally fortunate to be supported, wholly, even if it means working two part-time jobs to live in Brooklyn, where it’s easier to breathe than the endless meadows of Walkersville. I know not everyone is so lucky, and so I have a lot of sympathy for Marci, who loves her mother, even though her mother withholds love in the hopes of grandchildren. Some people have parents like this. Some people have a family of many aunts and cousins who can only love you if you stay in your hometown, marry young, and procreate, and I think that may be the most galling idea of all, that Marry Me For Christmas and its three sequels speak to a large audience.
Marci makes the last minute decision to go home because her favorite cousin will leave on December 26th to serve a mission in Haiti (with her small child and husband, played by Jason Weaver!). She brings an independent contractor she has on staff to help her land accounts (Adam, played by Brad James), a handsome guy whose own business failed, and who she doesn’t know at all, even though they spend all of their time together. He’s soon pressured to propose, and then Marci’s nosy, insufferable aunt suggests that partners in life are partners in business, so this movie goes quickly from The Proposal to a more sinister Lifetime film as Adam schemes to steal Marci’s company.
Marci feels pretty badly about being away for so long, and for being desperately single, when her family crows about finally getting engaged. She also feels guilty when it seems that her mother is severely ill. This is an odd plot point that amounts to nothing: routine blood work and bruising from “salsa class” (hm, yes salsa lessons). Most viewers will anxious await a leukemia diagnosis, and Marci’s mother’s off-key Christmas solo at church is deeply uncomfortable, and seems like an indication of a stroke. When this comes to a head, Marci’s mom explains the “salsa class,” and tells Marci that all that really matters is having her baby home for the holiday.
Except that isn’t what matters. What matters are diamond rings and grandchildren, and Marci’s mom doesn’t soothe Marci until Marci is engaged, for real this time, to a man who has bullied her as long as they’ve known each other. He hasn’t even taken her out for coffee or kissed her before he’s proposed to her, by the way, but that’s love for you.
Another red herring, and enormous disappointment, are all the ways Marci could have avoided Atlanta. Her father has died, her family is filled with judgmental busybodies, etc. It would have been poignant if Marci had avoided her family because she was still grieving the death of her father. Marci does have a Moment in the cemetery, but it’s with Blair, a family friend who has spent the holiday week with her family (and not his or his girlfriend’s, because he’s a hell of a stalker), and is…hanging out in the cemetery. A heart to heart reveals that Marci’s avoided Atlanta because she’s single! When she confronts Blair later, she confesses that he’s the reason she’s never had a boyfriend. (NEVER? COME ON, MARCI.) The lesson here is to bully, belittle, and take down a beautiful woman from birth to death, and she’ll marry you, bear your children, give up her business and life in a city, and move home to set up shop with you! Truly heartwarming.
Dan Savage recommends that when it comes to the holidays, your one card you can play is the denial of your presence. Marci had it right and she had her own business. Chicago is a big city, and she could have found a man who would have loved her without 30 years of bullying and belittling. Or she could have accepted her life for the beautiful life that it is. Work-life balance is tough, and she might have learned from a visit home the importance of working less and living more, without having to let it all go. Marci deserved better, and so does anyone else who’s family or culture supports this bullshit movie.