This holiday season, in an attempt to expand the diversity of their viewers, the Hallmark Channel aired an ad featuring a kiss between two women for the wedding planning service, Zola.
“We are continuing to expand our diversity,” said executive vice president of Crown Media Family Networks, Michelle Vicary in her statement to The Wrap. “We are looking at pitches for LGBTQ movies … and we are looking to expand and represent the United States as a whole.”
However, reactions to Hallmark’s efforts for inclusion were anything but ideal.
In response to the ad, several extremists protested such as the anti-gay conservative group One Million Moms. The group of mothers work to fight the “suggestive tactics” employed by entertainment media and started a petition for removal of the ad, which received over 16,000 signatures.
“Shame on Hallmark for airing commercials with same-sex couples and even considering movies with LGBT content and lead characters,” the One Million Moms petition stated. “Family entertainment is not the forum to be politically correct by forcing tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality.”
Following suit, the Catholic news organization LifeSite also protested the Zola commercial and gained over 40,000 signatures.
“This is a good thing because it preserves children’s innocence and it allows parents to be the primary educators where sex and sexual morals are concerned,” the LifeSite petition stated. “Hallmark would be offending Christian viewers and Christian parents big time by experimenting with homosexual themes, and/or cooperating with the LGBT indoctrination agenda.”
Hoping to ease tension, Hallmark eventually pulled the ad from their channel.
“I think the whole situation is similar to how we are told as children that a bystander is just as bad as a bully,” explains Sinclair student, Nate Smith. “Hallmark has given into the bigots and is erasing LGBTQ representation to make some bullies complacent.”
Hallmark’s decision to pull the ad from their channel may have pleased their extremist fans, however, it angered the LGBTQ community and diminished their partnership with Zola.
“All kisses, couples and marriages are equal celebrations of love,” said Zola’s chief marketing officer, Mike Chi in his statement to NPR. “And we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark.”After seeing the hurt they caused the LGBTQ community, Hallmark plans on reaching out to Zola to reestablish their partnership and reinstate the ad.
Additionally, in a further attempt to make things right, Hallmark plans on working with GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, for better LGBTQ representation across their portfolio.
“Considering the kinds of people who watch the Hallmark channel, it probably wasn’t a good idea to run the ad in the first place,” said Sinclair student, Jacob VanTilburg. “But it’s still a shame that they pulled the ad. I think the whole ordeal just shows that same-sex marriage is still too controversial for the average Hallmark viewer.”
A possible motive behind Hallmark’s insistence on reaching out the LGBTQ community may be Netflix moving into their domain.
This season, Netflix aired six original holiday themed movies with one of them, “Let it Snow,” featuring LGBTQ main characters. Though Hallmark produces more films, airing 40 just this season, Netflix originals appeal to a much wider audience.
With Hallmark potentially jeopardizing its long existing fanbase in an attempt to reconnect with Zola and expand the diversity of their audience, it will be interesting to see what happens next.