Fatherhood and Franchise Revivals: The Curious Case of Harrison Ford
Kathleen Loock / Europa-Universität Flensburg


Harrison Ford in Blade Runner 2049
Harrison Ford reprises his role of Rick Deckard in Blade Runner 2049. Ford’s return to this and to the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises see his characters becoming fathers.

Having played and repeatedly reprised the role of charismatic rogue, Harrison Ford counts as one of Hollywood’s most popular franchise actors. His iconic characters Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Rick Deckard have defined the Star Wars and Indiana Jones film franchises as well as two Blade Runner movies. Ford first portrayed these heroes in the late 1970s and early 1980s—the opportunistic smuggler Solo in Star Wars (Lucas, 1977), the adventurous professor of archaeology in Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981), and replicant-hunting Deckard in Blade Runner (Scott, 1982). Until the late 1980s, he returned to play the roles in the Star Wars sequels The Empire Strikes Back (Kershner, 1980) and Return of the Jedi (Marquand, 1983), and in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Spielberg, 1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Spielberg, 1989). Several decades later, Ford brought the characters that made him famous back onto the big screen in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Spielberg, 2008) (and a fifth installment that is currently scheduled for release in 2022), in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015, Abrams), and in Blade Runner 2049 (Villeneuve, 2017). In these franchise revivals, Ford’s characters return visibly aged, and, more importantly, they return as fathers.

Discussing the comebacks of aging white male actors such as Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Harrison Ford in the new millennium, Philippa Gates identifies fatherhood as a common theme of franchise revivals. By resurrecting their most beloved characters from the 1980s—Rocky, Rambo, John McClane, and Indiana Jones—Gates argues, Stallone, Willis, and Ford managed to sustain their flagging careers. During the 1990s, the middle-aged, muscled action heroes these actors embodied had gradually disappeared from the box-office blockbusters, where a new generation of “smaller, slimmer, younger, and more sensitive action hero[es]” took their place (Gates 276). Gates speaks of a “shift to more vulnerable heroes in a retrospective apology for the ‘masculinity’ of the preceding decade” (276). Stallone, Willis, and Ford’s most recent movies accommodate this move away from the hard-bodied hypermasculinity of the 1980s at the intersection of aging and fatherhood. The films “explore the problems that arise when the will is strong but the flesh is not so, when fathers have grown apart from their children, and when lone heroes can no longer fight evil on their own” (277). In her book Postfeminism and Paternity in Contemporary U.S. Film (2014), Hannah Hamad suggests that fatherhood not only “enables the staging of credible reentries into the star landscape” (71). Fatherhood also “negotiates an otherwise abject process of physical decline and social obsolescence, instead recasting it as a boon for heretofore derogated aging masculinities” (27). And fatherhood, one could add, makes perfect sense because it fuels the storytelling engine of Hollywood’s decades-spanning franchise cinema.


Hypermasculine action heroes of the 1980s, such as Rambo, began to disappear in the 1990s in favor of more sensitive action heroes.

Hollywood’s model of cultural reproduction is defined by a serial logic of repetition, continuation, and renewal. The enduring popularity and profitability of long-running film franchises hence depend on the return of familiar characters and actors, while the passing of time simultaneously introduces an element of generational renewal into ongoing narratives (see Loock, “Reproductive Futurism”). Unless, of course, filmmakers opt for a remake, prequel, or reboot, i.e., forms of innovative reproduction that break with narrative continuity and the franchise’s linear understanding of time (or, if they rely on digital de-aging technologies). The serial unfolding of individual installments over many years and decades, however, must address temporal constraints and account for the aging of stars. This, too, explains how fatherhood and the theme of generational succession have emerged as key elements in the resurrection of 1980s action heroes. Their purpose is to keep the story going: son-figures (or substitute sons) serve as sidekicks that attract younger audiences, while the older action heroes (who tend to be acutely aware of their aging bodies) speak to the earlier movies’ original audiences and exert cross-generational appeal.

In the case of Harrison Ford’s franchise characters, I argue, fatherhood presents an unexpected narrative twist that leads to comic, awkward, or simply weird encounters with their respective franchise offspring. Unlike Rocky, whose son Robert Balboa, Jr. is born in Rocky II (Stallone, 1979) and can be seen in every sequel after that, or John McClane, whose children Jack and Lucy make their first appearance in Die Hard (McTiernan, 1988) and take on prominent roles in the two latest installments Live Free or Die Hard (Wiseman, 2007) and A Good Day to Die Hard (Moore, 2013), neither Indiana Jones nor Han Solo nor Deckard have been family men in the earlier movies. Their returns as fathers in franchise revivals are therefore puzzling—for audiences and, to a certain degree, for the characters themselves. Indiana Jones is completely unaware that he has a kid, Han Solo is estranged from his son, and Deckard believes that he must be absent as a father in order to protect his child.


Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney in A Good Day to Die Hard
John McClane’s children, who originally appear as young children in Die Hard, are adults and central to the plots of later films in the franchise.

In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indy first discovers that his young sidekick Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) is the son of Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), his love interest from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and is shocked when he later finds out that he is, in fact, Mutt’s father. Marion tells Indy about his son while they are both sinking into a dry sand pit. Once they escape from the life-threatening situation, Indy immediately takes on the responsibilities of fatherhood. Following traditional gender scripts and nostalgic ideas of family, heterosexuality, and reproduction, he insists that Mutt goes back to school (although he had previously encouraged Mutt’s free lifestyle) and marries Marion at the end of the movie. The Force Awakens presents Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) as failed parents of their already adult son Ben Solo, who now calls himself Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Trained to be a Jedi by his uncle Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Ben is seduced by the Dark Side and eventually murders his father Han when Han tries to convince him to renounce the Dark Side. In Blade Runner 2049, Deckard knows he has a daughter with replicant Rachael (Sean Young)—the first (and only) replicant-born baby. Rachael dies during childbirth, and Deckard keeps his distance from Ana (Carla Juri), who grows up in an orphanage and with foster parents to become a memory designer for the Wallace Foundation. Deckard is convinced that “[s]ometimes to love someone … you gotta be a stranger,” and only reconnects with the adult Ana at the very end of the movie.

For Harrison Ford’s characters, fatherhood doesn’t involve any actual parenting but instead sidesteps the paternal premises of postfeminist fatherhood in contemporary media culture (e.g., the men’s presence in the lives of their children and active involvement in taking care of them). Here, it serves as a narrative device that enables Ford’s comeback and ensures the continued existence of his franchises and their cultural and economic viability. The kids stand for the continuity and generational renewal of the franchises, and yet these revivals do not necessarily function as ‘legacyquel’—a “very specific kind of sequel […] in which beloved aging stars reprise classic roles and pass the torch to younger successors” (Singer; see also Albarrán-Torres and Golding; Loock, “Reboot”). When Mutt picks up his father’s iconic fedora and wants to put it on at the end of the movie, Indy makes sure that it stays on his own head “in a labored refusal,” as Hamad writes, “to cast Jones’ aging masculinity in terms of obsolescence” (77). Han Solo reappears in The Rise of Skywalker (Abrams, 2019), and Deckard’s reunion with his daughter Ana at the end of Blade Runner 2049 leaves ample room for further installments. These franchise revivals rely on the increased visibility of fatherhood and its reconfiguration as ideal masculinity in a postfeminist mediascape, but their representations of father figures seem to contradict related paradigms of involved fatherhood for the sake of franchise logic.



Image Credits:

  1. Harrison Ford reprises his role of Rick Deckard in Blade Runner 2049. Ford’s return to this and to the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises see his characters becoming fathers.
  2. Hypermasculine action heroes of the 1980s, such as Rambo, began to disappear in the 1990s in favor of more sensitive action heroes.
  3. John McClane’s children, who originally appear as young children in Die Hard, are adults and central to the plots of later films in the franchise.


References:

Albarrán-Torres, César
Alberto, and Dan Golding. “Creed:
Legacy Franchising, Race and Masculinity in Contemporary Boxing Films.” Continuum, Doi:
10.1080/10304312.2019.1567684.

Gates, Philippa.
“Acting His Age? The Resurrection of the 80s Action Heroes and Their Aging
Stars.” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 27 (2010): 276-289.

Hamad, Hannah. Postfeminism
and Paternity in Contemporary U.S. Film: Framing Fatherhood
. New York:
Routledge, 2014.

Loock, Kathleen. “Reboot,
Requel, Legacyquel: Jurassic World and the Nostalgia
Franchise.” Film Reboots. Ed. Daniel Herbert and Constantine
Verevis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP (forthcoming, 2020).

Loock, Kathleen. “Reproductive Futurism and the Politics of the Sequel.” [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film & Moving Image Studies 6.3 (2019): http://mediacommons.org/intransition/reproductive-futurism-and-politics-sequel.

Singer, Matt. “Welcome to the Age of the Legacyquel.” ScreenCrush 23 Nov. 2015: http://screencrush.com/the-age-of-legacyquels/.




“Forever Young”: Digital De-Aging, Memory, and Nostalgia
Kathleen Loock / Europa-Universität Flensburg


Digital de-aging allowed Robert De Niro to play the same character at multiple points in his life.
In The Irishman, digital de-aging allowed Robert De Niro to play the same character at multiple points in his life.

Digital de-aging, the process of making actors appear younger on screen than they actually are, is becoming the new normal in Hollywood. After first experimentations with computer-generated youthfulness in a flashback scene of X-Men: The Last Stand (Ratner) in 2006, and—already much more refined—in 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Fincher), TRON: Legacy (Kosinski), which was released in 2010, had 60-year-old actor Jeff Bridges play opposite his digitally rejuvenated self, who looked like the 32-year-old Bridges from 1982’s TRON (Lisberger). Having an older character interact with his younger self in this manner pushed the boundaries of digital de-aging, which has since further advanced and become an increasingly more convincing and, overall, more common visual effect in Hollywood cinema. From Orlando Bloom as unaging elf Legolas in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Jackson, 2013) to Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym in Ant-Man (Reed, 2015) and Ant-Man and the Wasp (Reed, 2018), from Robert Downey Jr., who plays a young version of Tony Stark in Captain America: Civil War (Russo & Russo, 2016), to the de-aged Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Gunn, 2017), Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Rønning & Sandberg, 2017), and Colin Firth in Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Vaughn, 2017)—(mostly male) actors are getting a digital facelift that erases their real age and chronology.


Over the past decade, digital de-aging has become increasingly more convincing and more common in Hollywood cinema, turning back the clock on (mostly male) actors.
Over the past decade, digital de-aging has become increasingly more convincing and more common in Hollywood cinema, turning back the clock on (mostly male) actors.

The practice has finally become so prevalent that 2019 has variously been called “a monumental year for de-aging in film” (Kemp), “a year haunted by the digital phantoms of movie stars as they once looked” (Dowd), and the year when “Hollywood has become unstuck in time” (Breznican). A total of six blockbusters—Captain Marvel (Boden & Fleck), Avengers: Endgame (Russo & Russo), It Chapter Two (Muschietti), Gemini Man (Lee), Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Abrams), and The Irishman (Scorsese)—de-aged their stars with the help of visual effects companies like Lola VFX, Weta Digital, and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). These companies have perfected their different techniques over the last few years, which involve “digital cosmetics” to smooth out wrinkles and remove blemishes with patches, blurs, glows, and digital paint, as well as tracking markers, scans, CGI models, performance capture technology, and reference material from past performances that is combined with the new footage. Considering the digitally edited faces of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci in The Irishman, director Martin Scorsese expressed worries about what he calls the “youthification” of actors he has known and worked with all his life (Rose). Digital de-aging is supposed to be an invisible effect in the service of unprecedented realism. But, as Scorsese’s misgivings and many critics’ voices show, it still remains a controversial filmmaking tool and one, I argue, that enters into competition with memory and nostalgia for the past.


Martin Scorsese relied on the digital de-aging of actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci to tell his character-driven, decades-spanning mob epic, The Irishman.

To be sure, the increasingly realist aesthetic of digital de-aging has been lauded as a breakthrough for visual effects technology and storytelling. It has proven to solve problems with the rules about time and time travel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and made it possible to realize the science-fiction premises of movies like TRON: Legacy, Terminator: Genisys (Taylor, 2015), and Gemini Man, where time warps and cloning drive the plots, as well as decades-spanning epics such as The Irishman, that center on the long-term development of (aging) characters, without layers of make-up, prosthetics, or casting different (i.e., younger) actors in the same roles. Advocates of the practice have pointed out how de-aging supports the suspension of disbelief as it allows filmmakers to create less disruptive links between the past and the present. “Youthified” actors have also commented on how de-aging might impact the longevity of their careers. In The Irishman: In Conversation, the Netflix special feature that has Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci talking about the production of The Irishman, De Niro weighs in on the de-aging technology, predicting that, “We’ll all be able to act for another 30 years.” At a screening of Gemini Man, Will Smith joked about the future use of his data and how he will no longer need to stay in shape: “There’s a completely digital 23-year-old version of myself that I can make movies with now. … I’m gonna get really fat and really overweight” (King).


In Gemini Man, 51-year-old Will Smith plays opposite a 23-year-old version of himself.

More skeptical observers of the trend have expressed their fears about the legal implications of digital de-aging technology and the data it amasses and about the diminishing prospects for young actors to land a breakout role. They are also worried about the gray area in which Hollywood’s de-aging efforts and inexpensive, accessible deepfake software seem to converge, arguing that “the drive to fool the viewer is the same” (King). Most notably, however, there is disagreement about whether the technology has sufficiently advanced so that de-aging does not have an “uncanny valley” effect (Masahiro). Despite the high degree of verisimilitude digitally rejuvenated faces have achieved in Hollywood, something seems to be off with “youthified” versions of familiar actors on screen that threatens to disturb audiences and cause discomfort. The uncanniness of a de-aged Will Smith or Robert De Niro can be located in the occasional weird sheen on their altered features as well as in the unnatural movements that either seem inhumanly fast and smooth (in the case of Gemini Man) or belong to an elderly, less intense actor rather than the one that digital de-aging technology has created. “You can make a seventy-something Robert De Niro look young (or at least, come somewhat close to it),” writes Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri, “but you can’t really make him act young. Especially for an audience that remembers what a young Robert De Niro did look like, and sound like, and move like.” This observation is as important as the fact that Gemini Man’s young, muscular Will Smith is nothing like the lanky, mustache-wearing Will Smith audiences know from the 1990s sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (NBC, 1990-1996).

I suggest that there is an alienating disconnect that has ultimately less to do with the technical perfection and realist aesthetic of de-aging and more to do with the ways in which the digital doppelgänger interferes with a star’s intertextuality (i.e., the ways in which an actor’s previous films and—aging—star persona determine readings of his or her performances) and, above all, with the memories, desires, and nostalgic longings that audiences associate with a familiar actor’s actual younger self. A de-aged Will Smith or Robert De Niro, in other words, may serve Hollywood’s storytelling purposes, yet the discrepancy between what audiences recall and what they see onscreen may pose an existential threat to how people understand (and remember) themselves and the world in which they live in relation to popular culture. By following an actor’s work over many years and decades, audiences synchronize their own memories and lived experiences with movies, TV shows, and career trajectories, often with a nostalgic glance backwards that helps to construct and maintain a coherent, consistent sense of identity in the present. If digital de-aging produces “youthified” versions of familiar actors as it helps aging performers to stay “forever young,” it produces alternate realities that threaten to overwrite audience memory and eventually detract from the illusion that de-aging technology seeks to create.



Image Credits:

  1. In The Irishman, digital de-aging allowed Robert De Niro to play the same character at multiple points in his life.
  2. Over the past decade, digital de-aging has become increasingly more convincing and more common in Hollywood cinema, turning back the clock on (mostly male) actors.
  3. Martin Scorsese relied on the digital de-aging of actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci to tell his character-driven, decades-spanning mob epic The Irishman.
  4. In Gemini Man, 51-year-old Will Smith plays opposite a 23-year-old version of himself.


References:

Breznican, Anthony. “The Irishman, Avengers: Endgame, and the De-aging Technology That Could Change Acting Forever.” Vanity Fair 9 Dec. 2019. Web. 9 Mar. 2020. https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2019/12/the-de-aging-technology-that-could-change-acting-forever

Dowd, A. A. “Gemini Man Uses De-Aging Technology to Make a Case against De-Aging Technology.” AV Club 15 Oct. 2019 Web. 9 Mar. 2020. https://film.avclub.com/gemini-man-uses-de-aging-technology-to-make-a-case-agai-1839041610

Ebiri, Bilge. “So, How Is the De-Aging in The Irishman? Incredibly Impressive.” Vulture 27 Sept. 2019. Web. 9 Mar. 2020. https://www.vulture.com/2019/09/the-de-aging-in-the-irishman-how-bad-is-it.html

Kemp, Matt. “‘Holy
Grail’ Digital Effects Rewinding the Clock for Actors.” AP News 12 Jan.
2020. Web. 9 Mar. 2020. https://apnews.com/43f8ed7e9a753c2191c9af7f4754bd6c

King, Darryn. “The Game-Changing Tech Behind Gemini Man’s ‘Young’ Will Smith.” Wired 24 Sept. 2019. Web. 9 Mar. 2020. https://www.wired.com/story/game-changing-tech-gemini-man-will-smith/

Masahiro, Mori. “The Uncanny Valley.” Trans. Karl F. MacDorman and Norri Kageki. IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine (June 2012): 98-100. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6213238

Rose, Steve. “Will Hollywood’s New Youthifying Tech Keep Old Actors in Work for Ever?” The Guardian 10 June 2019. Web. 10 Mar. 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/jun/10/will-hollywoods-new-youthifying-tech-keep-old-actors-in-work-for-ever




“The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: Christmas Classics Old and New
Kathleen Loock / University of Flensburg


Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel is a Christmas classic in Germany as well as in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Norway, and Switzerland.

In Germany, Christmas is not Christmas unless one has watched Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel (Three Wishes for Cinderella), an East German/Czechoslovakian co-production from 1973 directed by Václav Vorlíček. Based on a variation of the familiar Grimm Brothers’ fairytale by Czech writer Božena Němcová, this movie delivers magic, memorable music (by Czech composer Karel Svoboda), and beautiful winter landscapes (filmed around Moritzburg Castle near Dresden) along with a surprisingly feminist female lead, who is not only smarter than the prince but also beats him at horse-riding and marksmanship. The popularity of Drei Haselnüsse remains unbroken. More than forty years after its first release, the movie has become an essential part of the German Christmas viewing ritual and a holiday staple in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Norway, and Switzerland as well. Drei Haselnüsse is comparable to It’s a Wonderful Life in the United States. Jonathan Munby describes Frank Capra’s 1946 Christmas classic as “a mythical text” that has assumed the status of “the Christmas movie, the Hollywood carol, the benchmark against which all other Christmas films are judged” (55, emphasis in original). If Munby argues that It’s a Wonderful Life provides “an ontological guarantee of Christmas itself” (56), the same is certainly true for Drei Haselnüsse in other parts of the world.


James Stewart and Donna Reed in It's A Wonderful Life and Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel
It’s a Wonderful Life and Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel are both considered to be definitive Christmas movies.

The enduring popularity of such movies raises questions about the ways in which popular culture shapes memories, experiences, and ideas of Christmas and about the desire to repeat and replay the same stories every year. Beyond the sense of comfort and reassurance that Christmas classics seem to provide, they also draw attention to a “deluge of new Christmas movies” (Rebecca Alter) that is not only cranked out by the usual suspects Lifetime and Hallmark during their seasonal programming of made-for-TV holiday romances but also by Netflix, which began to produce its own share of original Christmas fare in 2015. How do these new Christmas movies relate to the old classics? What are they offering viewers? And do they affect the cultural logic of Christmas as both a local and a global festival?


Graphs showing an increase in Netflix original Christmas films.
There has been an increase in Netflix Christmas Originals since 2015.

While the origins of Christmas can be traced back to Roman times, Christmas traditions as we know them (with tinseled trees, filled stockings, Christmas cards, and Santa Claus) only emerged in the mid-nineteenth century when the rambunctious, carnivalesque holiday was reimagined as a family-centered, domestic affair that took place in the home, no longer in the public sphere (cf. Miller, “A Theory” and “Christmas”; Nissenbaum; Sigler). Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843) fueled this “invention of tradition” (Eric Hobsbawm), which “claims links with an ancient past but is really an almost entirely new festival” (Miller, “Christmas” 13), through an emphasis on the carnival tradition of the temporary inversion of established (social) hierarchies and visitations from the dead (Mundy 164). Literary texts were important for the construction of modern Christmas, but as John Mundy has pointed out, the reinvention of the holiday “relied as much, if not more, on visual imagery” (164) ranging from illustrations in books and magazines, advertisements and Christmas cards to holiday movies: “[S]ince the end of the Second World War, Hollywood films have increasingly dominated big-screen representations of Christmas and ensured that movies, including their soundtracks, have become an integral aspect of our contemporary experience of the Christmas festivities, whether at the cinema or on television and DVD” (Mundy 165).

Over the past decades, the list of Christmas classics has kept growing with movies such as Miracle on 34th Street (Seaton, 1947; remade in 1994 by director Les Mayfield), Die Hard (McTiernan, 1988), Home Alone (Columbus, 1990), The Muppet Christmas Carol (Henson, 1992), or the improbable Bad Santa (Zwigoff, 2003). Christmas movies attain their status as classics through regular repetition, which encourages and sustains ritualized consumption practices. Television plays a crucial role in canonizing these films after their theatrical releases and in endowing them with a timeless, festive quality. In Germany, the Christmastime programming schedule for Drei Haselnüsse is published well in advance each year, creating excitement for the holiday and the prospect of ample opportunities to (re)watch the familiar movie on television. In addition, Drei Haselnüsse is also available on Netflix, along with the streaming service’s Christmas originals.


The 2019 programming schedule for Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel
The 2019 Christmastime programming schedule for Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel on German public television.

In recent years, Hollywood has grown reluctant to produce new Christmas movies due to “the constraints of release windows and limited marketing opportunities” (Snart). Netflix, the “catch-all disrupter” (Heritage), has occupied the niche with “a series of original films operating somewhere between the Hallmark channel and the multiplex in terms of production values” (Snart). Unlike Hallmark or Lifetime, however, Netflix produces Christmas movies for global audiences. A Christmas Prince (Zamm, 2017) and co. all contain essentially the same ingredients that made It’s a Wonderful Life or Drei Haselnüsse Christmas classics in their respective countries (from the carnivalesque de-stabilization or reversal of power structures, to miraculous interventions, and a festive winter atmosphere) without trying very hard to replace or compete with their precursors. If Christmas classics tend to have dark, serious, or sad undertones, Netflix’s original movies are their shallow, feel-good counterparts. They postulate postfeminist ideas of domesticity and family life, painting Christmas as a holiday which emphasizes “the continuity of home and tradition” (Miller, “Christmas” 437).


Netflix tweeted about users watching the movie A Christmas Prince 18 days in a row.
Netflix’s Twitter account makes creepy comment about repeat viewers of A Christmas Prince.

Netflix’s creepy tweet exposing repeat viewers of A Christmas Prince in 2017 seems to indicate that the streaming giant is not interested in the kind of repetition that would transform its originals into timeless Christmas classics. Instead, Netflix wants to create new, serialized content based on its most successful formulas, such as the annually released sequels A Christmas Prince: Royal Wedding (Schultz, 2018) and A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby (Schultz, 2019). In times of “peak TV,” Netflix employs Christmas as an algorithmic keyword that promises a global viewership both familiarity and novelty. The “deluge of new Christmas movies” (Rebecca Alter), which was recently ridiculed on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show, generates an upbeat, sugary, harmless Christmas spirit. These films are all about getting viewers into a cozy, seasonal mood, and they stand out among the season’s timeless classics, which, like Drei Haselnüsse and It’s a Wonderful Life, always also contain critical comments about class, gender, and how we live together.


Stephen Colbert makes fun of the deluge of new Christmas movies on The Late Show.



Image Credits:

  1. Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel is a Christmas classic in Germany as well as in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Norway, and Switzerland.
  2. It’s a Wonderful Life and Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel are both considered to be definitive Christmas movies.
  3. Table and graph by author.
  4. The 2019 Christmastime programming schedule for Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel on German public television.
  5. Netflix’s Twitter account makes creepy comment about repeat viewers of A Christmas Prince.
  6. Stephen Colbert makes fun of the deluge of new Christmas movies on The Late Show.


References:

Alter, Rebecca. “The
Definitive Guide to 2019’s Deluge of New Christmas Movies.” Vulture 25
October 2019. Web. 29 October 2019. https://www.vulture.com/2019/10/81-christmas-movies-on-hallmark-lifetime-netflix-and-more.html

Heritage, Stuart. “Why Does netflix Keep Making So Many Cheap TV Movies?” The Guardian, 10 July 2019. Web. 29 October 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/jul/10/netflix-secret-obsession-tv-movies

Hobsbawm, Eric. “Introduction: Inventing Traditions.” The Invention of Tradition. Ed. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1983. 1-14.

Miller, Daniel. “A Theory of Christmas. Unwrapping Christmas. Ed. Daniel Miller. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993. 3-37.

Miller,
Daniel. “Christmas: An Anthropological Lens.” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7.3 (2017): 409-442.

Munby, Jonathan. “A
Hollywood Carol’s Wonderful Life.” Christmas at the Movies: Images of
Christmas in American, British and European Cinema.
Ed.Mark
Connelly. London: I. B. Tauris, 2000. 39–58.

Mundy, John. “Christmas
at the Movies: Frames of Mind.” Christmas,
Ideology and Popular Culture
. Ed. Sheila Whiteley. Edinburgh: EUP, 2008.
164-176.

Nissenbaum, Stephen. The
Battle for Christmas: A Social and Cultural History of Christmas
. New York:
Knopf, 1996.

Snart, Stephen. “The Christmas Chronicles Review: Kurt Russell’s Santa Can’t Save Netflix Turkey.” The Guardian, 21 November 2018. Web. 29 October 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/nov/21/the-christmas-chronicles-review-kurt-russells-santa-cantsave-netflix-turkey

Sigler, Carolyn. “‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’: Misrule and the Paradox of Gender in World War II-Era Christmas Films.” The Journal of American Culture 28.4 (December 2005): 345-356.