There's a strong correlation between political preferences and TV viewing habits, and media analysts can consistently guess how someone will identify politically and vote based on the shows they watch. An industry study given to the LA Times by another network, on the condition that the paper did not reveal which channel conducted it, discovered that Hallmark's appeal is strongest in the Midwest and South, closely mirroring the electoral college map from the 2016 presidential election. While those who supported Hillary Clinton are more likely to favor dark comedies, unconventional families, antiheroes, and strong female leads, Trump voters prefer shows that depict traditional family values, male leads, and heroes who do the right thing. They also said that they are likely to turn the channel on shows that depict "gay people in sexual situations, negative portrayals of religion, and political humor."
This political breakdown of TV preferences stands in stark contrast to what shows garner the most critical attention, usually from outlets based in the very places Hallmark's main characters escape, like New York City and Los Angeles. The recently announced Golden Globe nominations for Best TV Comedy Series went to Black-ish, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Master of None, SMILF, and Will & Grace. Each of these shows pushes the limits of television by offering non-traditional representations of American life, while the Hallmark Channel's programming, on the other hand, intentionally reflects conservative, white, middle-class American values. The movies hardly ever portray people of color and almost always revolve around middle-upper-class small towns.
So if you think about what women across the entire country are watching on TV, it's not really surprising that 53% of white women voted for Trump. Unsurprisingly, there's a stark difference between self-identified Republican and Democrats on gender issues, with Democrats more than twice as likely as Republicans to say that more work needs to be done to bring about gender equality. Democrats are also much more likely than Republicans to say that men have it easier than women, at a startling 49% to 19%. Around six out of 10 Democrats say that changing gender roles has made it easier for women to lead satisfying lives, while only a little more than a third of Republicans agreed.
The popularity of Hallmark's movies among female viewers in red states seems to indicate just how deep the gender divide runs in America, and not in the ways coastal media outlets tend to frame it -- wage gaps, harassment, health care, and on and on. Rather than showing ideals of equality and independence for women, Hallmark highlights a return to the traditional family; through repetition, Hallmark movies reinforce and affirm conventional romance narratives and gender roles reflecting back the beliefs of their viewers.
The entertainment we consume reflects who are as individuals and who we are as a society. And if we follow the ratings, most Americans value family, small-town living, and honest work, where men are heroes, and women always appear in perfect hair and makeup. The people are white, there's never any cursing, and no one begins a conversation by stating their preferred gender pronouns. Maybe the best way to sum up an ideal resolution to the country's political divide is to turn to one of the specials itself, Harvest Wedding:
"It's good to see you, city-girl".
"You too, farm-boy."
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