The Hallmark Channel, producer of all your favorite schmaltzy Christmas movies, is facing a stiff online backlash after pulling multiple ads featuring same-sex couples kissing. The ads were pulled as a result of pressure from the conservative group, One Million Moms.
The controversy started when Hallmark aired a series of ads for wedding planner site Zola, including one that featured a lesbian couple.
One Million Moms, though, was apparently appalled at this perfectly innocuous advertisement for a website that reflects the real world and shows two consenting adults in a loving relationship.
In a statement on its website, the organization expressed outrage that families were exposed to such displays of affection for one’s spouse. Hallmark has previously said it’s open to making movies about couples who are gay, and the organization is not OK with that: “Shame on Hallmark for airing commercials with same-sex couples and even considering movies with LGBT content and lead characters.”
And according to the organization’s update after the ad was removed, Crown Media Family Networks CEO Bill Abbott confirmed the ads were pulled after the complaints, and said the ad’s airing was an error.
If this all seems extremely dumb and cowardly on Hallmark’s part, it gets worse. After confirming to the New York Times that four of Zola’s six ads were rejected because they featured the lesbian couple, the network equivocated this simple kiss between two women with far more “controversial” fare.
“We are not allowed to accept creatives that are deemed controversial,” an account representative for Hallmark responded.
The Hallmark Channel spokesman suggested on Friday afternoon that the issue was the couple’s kissing. “The decision not to air overt public displays of affection in our sponsored advertisement, regardless of the participants, is in line with our current policy, which includes not featuring political advertisements, offensive language, R-rated movie content and many other categories,” he said.
Yes, Hallmark apparently considers two grown women sharing a short kiss at their wedding in an ad for a website on the same level as, say, airing Deadpool.
For its part, Zola said it’s pulling all of its ads from Hallmark Channel in response to all this, saying in a statement, “All kisses, couples and marriages are equal celebrations of love and we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark.”
We’ve reached out to Hallmark for additional comment.
Molly Biwer, senior vice president for public affairs and communications at Hallmark, told the Associated Press, “The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value… The Hallmark brand is never going to be divisive. We don’t want to generate controversy, we’ve tried very hard to stay out of it … we just felt it was in the best interest of the brand to pull them and not continue to generate controversy.”
Welp, too late for all that now because Twitter has taken up the backlash against the channel with the #BoycottHallmarkChannel hashtag.
Of course, this being Twitter in 2019, there’s backlash to the backlash, with supporters of Hallmark’s decision fighting back using the same hashtag.
I swear ppl just want something to boycott or be mad at. News flash, you don’t have to be included in every single thing, nor should you care to be. There do not need to be A lgbt couple or black person in every film or show. ESP on damn hallmark station! #BoycottHallmarkChannel
— Marathon Steve🏁 (@Bearded_phantom) December 15, 2019
And then there are, of course, a bevy of tweets along the lines of “Boycott Hallmark? Easy cause I never watch it anyway LOL.”
So, ironically, Hallmark wound up doing exactly what it claims it didn’t want to do: generating divisiveness and controversy even as it sticks its head in the sand.
Happy holidays, everyone.