Broadcast News is many things: James L. Brooks rom-com, 1987 Oscar nominee, one of the few films to accurately portray the specific world of journalism (along with Spotlight, which will always be the most accurate purely because it took pains to dress its reporters poorly). One thing I’ve never heard Broadcast News referred to as, though, is a holiday movie.
Seeing as most of us are throwing out the rulebook on the 2020 holiday season as a whole, it feels like an opportune moment to reevaluate what we mean when we talk about “holiday movies.” Does a movie have to explicitly feature Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or New Year’s in order to qualify? Or is it possible that the simple act of watching our favorite movies during the holidays can envelop them within the seasonal fold?
Vulture’s Rachel Handler recently made a skillful argument for the inclusion of the 2010 ballet thriller Black Swan as a Hanukkah movie, but I would go so far as to insist that a movie doesn’t even have to take place in winter to be holiday-relevant. Now we find ourselves back at Broadcast News, a movie I have watched on or around Christmas every year for the better part of a decade; but why?
In defense of my cinematic holiday tradition, Broadcast News boasts not one, but two moments that I would argue are Christmas-adjacent. In one scene, the film’s overworked news producer protagonist Jane (Holly Hunter) snaps at her handsome, goony crush-slash-rival Tom (William Hurt, who, I should mention, sucks) about his questionable news judgment and reluctantly gets on board with a major story he’s brought to her.
It’s a thrilling scene, but the thing that makes it Christmas-ish for me is Jane’s choice of headwear; a bright-red scarf is tied around her head, babushka-style, as she yells at Tom. In the background, we see trees festooned with Christmas lights, leading me to believe that it is—if not Christmas—then at least Christmastime. Also—also!—as an Easter egg, Jane actually says the word “Christmas” in this scene, though it’s not super relevant to anything in particular.
The other Christmas-adjacent scene in Broadcast News comes later in the film, when Jane has decided she likes Tom (which, as a devotee of his romantic rival Aaron–who is played to nebbish perfection by Albert Brooks—I simply cannot abide, but I digress). She agrees to go with him to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, semi-affectionately known in D.C. as “nerd prom,” and even though the annual dinner is typically held in April, there is something so deeply, ineffably Christmassy about the way Jane dresses to attend the event. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
Okay, technically the most Christmassy thing Jane could actually do is layer a parka over those bare shoulders. Still, though, it does not escape my notice that she is literally dressed as a gift. Check out that bow! When Aaron gets a look at Jane in her dress, he tells her, wide-eyed, “You look like this…porcelain thing! You look beautiful,” which inevitably puts one in the mind of life-size dolls under the tree and trips to see the F.A.O. Schwarz (R.I.P.) windows all decked out for Christmas.
Even devoid of all this context, Broadcast News would still feel like a holiday movie to me, if only because I now associate it with watching the film in pajamas as the snow—or, occasionally, freezing rain–falls outside and Christmas lights cast a bright, blurry reflection on the darkened windows of my apartment. (The actual viewing of the movie can happen anytime in December, because, true to form as a deranged holiday person, I start putting up Christmas decorations immediately after Thanksgiving.)
Of course, Broadcast News isn’t the only not-quite-seasonal movie worth co-opting for the holidays. Maybe your Christmas viewing tradition involves all of the Star Wars movies; maybe you sit through The Philadelphia Story to get to the one scene where Katharine Hepburn wears a stocking cap. The important thing about a not-quite holiday movie is not the content of the movie itself, but the amount of ’tis-the-season cheer you bring to it.
To be clear, I have nothing whatsoever against traditional holiday movies, but honestly, rewatching Love Actually every single year can start to get a bit dull. (We get it! Love actually is all around! Stop narrating, Hugh Grant!) Why not look for the holiday spirit within a regular movie, if only to give yourself an extra challenge? After all, anything can feel festive if you enjoy it with a homemade hot toddy in hand and a pile of presents and wrapping paper by your side.
As a lifelong Broadcast News fan, I can’t contain my viewing of the film to just the Christmas season; I watch it when I’m bored, when I’m sad, and when I’m regrettably hungover. The amazing thing, though, is that my brain’s association of Broadcast News with Christmas automatically makes the movie feel as familiar as a beloved pair of fleece-lined slippers, even if it’s the height of summer. To those uninitiated with the concept, I say go forth and find your not-quite holiday movie! May it bring you peace, joy, and a bourbon-spiked sense of coziness all year round.