Christmas films tend to be saccharine, cheesy, entirely predictable – and a world away from cutting edge cinema. Yet every year we lap them up.
New festive films this year include: A Castle For Christmas, filmed in Lothian, where Brooke Shields falls in love with a Scottish duke; Love Hard, which sees Nina Dobrev searching for ‘the one’, only to find herself catfished; and Princess Switch 3 – plenty of tinsel, baubles and cringeworthy lines.
But what is it about this cheesy – yet comforting – genre that makes us want more every year? Our expert has the answer.
1. ‘Safe’ feel-good hormones…
Believe it or not, there’s a scientific reason why we welcome schmaltzy films the second December hits.
“There’s a hormone called oxytocin, which is produced when we want to bond emotionally with each other,” explains Noel McDermott, CEO and psychotherapist.
“During Christmas – when we’re meeting people we haven’t seen in ages that we love – oxytocin levels go through the roof.
“Particularly because it’s produced mostly in safe, loving relationships with people we’re non-sexual with.”
Oxytocin is a result of eye contact and physical contact, he says. And over Christmas, we’ll see family and friends who we have “very fond, strong, bonded emotional relationships to”.
2. Double ‘loved up’
Oxytocin isn’t the only positive hormone stimulated over the festive period.
“We’re also getting a lot of reward hormones for being pro-social,” McDermott says. “So any activity we’re involved in that bonds us in some way to other human beings.
“We get a bunch of reward chemicals in us – which spur us on to want to do more.”
But how do all these pleasurable hormones link to cheese-tastic Christmas films?
The more we experience positive reward hormones and oxytocin, the more we want – McDermott says.
“At this time of year, because we’re focused on pro-social activities, these films make a lot more sense because they produce similar types of hormonal responses in us.
“So we feel ‘loved up’ when we’re watching them, but we’re feeling ‘loved up’ anyway. So it’s a perfect match and combination.”
McDermott adds: “The faults in these films – they’re not deep stories, they don’t have complex plots – are immaterial. They make us feel close to other people.”
3. Comfort in habit
It’s a ritual for many of us – either re-watching the old classics, or seeking comfort in a new movie’s unsurprising plot.
Comfort, predictability and structure are “absolutely essential for psychological security and stability” says Noel.
He continues: “The predictability of these films means we can relax, not be anxious, know exactly what’s going on, and just really enjoy it.”
And after a tricky year of yet more Covid-related lockdowns, anxiousness over the world reopening and concerns over new variants – safe predictability might be exactly what we need right now.