It's that time of year again: the holidays, which single people are sometimes dreading. With the holiday season upon us, many singletons are mentally preparing to be asked about their love lives from eager family members even though they'll likely wind up at the kids' table anyway. Just me? This is why the holiday season is a perfect time to cuddle up and watch films (even if it is alone) for pure escapism. The only problem with that is so many Christmas films have the tired bring-a-man-home trope, and it's time that it's put to bed for good.
Don't get me wrong, I love a good holiday rom-com. But like many people who are single, I identify with them and probably not in the most positive or healthy way. Films that portray a single woman desperate to bring a man home (usually to please their family or feel better about themselves) conveys a dated mindset.
Like Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) drunkenly singing "All By Myself" in her pajamas or Kate Winslet's The Holiday character briefly breathing in stove fumes in desperation, these films place way too much emphasis on having a significant other during the holidays and feeling sorry for ourselves if we don't. Not to mention, it takes away from family time and personal goals and accomplishments one's had throughout the year that are worth celebrating. You can't physically bring a hard-earned career home to show mom and dad, and that's frustrating. But films like these don't make that any better.
Here are just a handful of movies that show a woman agonizing over the fact that she must bring someone home, or have someone, to please herself or her family for Christmas.
The Holiday (2006)
This Nancy Meyers' flick is a fan favorite (I can recite every word), but when you get passed the unrealistic premise and understand what really happens, it sort of loses some of its magic. Amanda (Cameron Diaz) and Iris (Kate Winslet) are living in LA and London, respectively, and have horrible breakups just before the holidays. To get away from it all and distract themselves from being single for Christmas, they take part in a home exchange. But in their journeys to escape reality and find themselves, they both end up finding new men which ultimately lead to their restored confidence and happiness (versus from within themselves).
Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
Bridget Jones's Diary (which I'll admit is another one of my favorites), is the poster child of bring-a-man-home-for-Christmas movies. The original movie trailer literally starts with the words, "There is one question that brings fear into the heart of everyone who is single." Then it opens with a scene of singleton Bridget (Renee Zellweger) continuously being asked how her love life is during Christmas at her parents' house. Bridget excessively drinks and smokes to get through it. And like Kate Winslet's character in The Holiday, Bridget allows so much of her self worth to depend on a man — both men, by the way, can't even fully commit to them.
Almost Christmas (2016)
When a big family reunites for the first Christmas since their mom's death, recent divorcee Rachel (Gabrielle Union) finds herself single and uncomfortably having to explain why she's there alone. After going through ups and downs with her family, Rachel ends up reuniting with a childhood love which makes her feel whole again, verses getting a happy ending for herself and her daughter on their own.
Holiday Engagement (2011)
Perhaps one of the most extreme cases of the bring-a-man-home-for-Christmas trope is in Holiday Engagement. The story is about a recently-dumped, thirty-something woman (Bonnie Somerville) who's too ashamed to tell her family she's single when she goes home for the holidays. So, she actually hires an actor (Jordan Bridges) to pretend to be her fiancé to avoid hearing her mother "preach to [her] about how [she's] going to be a spinster or lesbian."
Marry Me For Christmas (2013)
And perhaps the second most extreme case of the bring-a-man-home-for-Christmas trope is in the TV movie Marry Me for Christmas. Also desperate to please her family and avoid being asked about when she's getting married (or told she'll be an "old maid"), a single woman (Malinda Williams) has her employee pose as her fiancé in front of her family. Beyond unnecessary (and ridiculous), to say the least.
Of course, not all romantic holiday films include this trope. Some celebrate love in other ways, such as Serendipity, Just Friends, While You Were Sleeping, It's a Wonderful Life, Sleepless in Seattle, Love Actually, and The Family Stone (in its own polarizing way). And there are a ton of Christmas movies that aren't very romantic at all. Take classics like Home Alone, The Santa Clause, Christmas Vacation, and Miracle on 34th Street. There have also been recent portrayals of wild rebellion against Christmas like Bad Santa and Bad Moms Christmas.
But the truth is this trope is a sad, tired stereotype about single women that typically does resurface around Christmas. The holidays are the time to reflect on people who are special and important in one's life — significant others included. But having a partner shouldn't be the be all and end all to someone's holiday experience. The notion that it is certainly shouldn't continue to persist on screen, especially since it isn't even representative of modern life.