A screenshot of the Netflix movie "Holidate."

‘Holidate’ Reinforces the Cultural Expectation of Marrying Young

The new Netflix film questions the common family expectation of being in a relationship, but it falls into the very cliche it attempts to critique.
November 15, 2020
8 mins read

With the holidays right around the corner, college students have started bracing themselves for the dreaded question they get asked at every family event: “So … have you been seeing anyone?” If you haven’t been asked this question, you’re either in a steady relationship or lucky enough to have a family that doesn’t feel the need to pry into your personal life. The latest film to hit Netflix, “Holidate,” addresses exactly this issue. But while this movie attempts to shed light on those who choose to forgo marriage and embrace the single life, it disappointingly falls prey to the cheesy, outplayed rom-com tropes.

“Holidate” features Emma Roberts as Sloane, the last single child of three siblings. While attending her mother’s Christmas dinner, Sloane faces distasteful looks and invasive questions from family members. She is interrogated about why she didn’t invite her cheating ex-boyfriend and asked when she plans on getting married. Sloane unconvincingly tells her family that she’s happier being single and doesn’t mind spending the holidays alone.

While returning an unwanted Christmas gift at the mall, she meets Jackson (Luke Bracey), a professional golf player who is tired of spending holidays with women who get attached after one evening. They decide to become platonic “holidates,” solely reserved for taking the other home on special occasions.

After spending a year’s worth of holidays together, the pair expectedly fall in love and become a couple. This ending is extremely predictable, and there was a part of me rooting for Emma Roberts’ character to reclaim her independence by the end of the movie.

From the first few scenes, the movie appears to be a promising film that could end with both parties going their separate ways and enjoying their lives as single individuals. But of course, dismantling outdated ideas about marrying young would be too controversial.

If you’re going into this movie thinking that Sloane will have a “coming of age” experience about reaffirming her individuality and standing up to her family’s constant harassment, you will be sadly let down.

In the film, Sloane’s aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth) spurs the idea for a holidate when she brings a mall-Santa to the family’s dinner. Aunt Susan is seen as lonely and despicable, but she should be praised for her daring nonconformity. Though she also ends up falling for one of her holidates, she is one of the only characters in the movie that expresses unashamed authenticity.

Instead of challenging the social norm that people should get in a relationship as soon as possible to avoid pitiful looks and dying alone, “Holidate” plays into the cliche of two characters pretending to be a couple and ending up in love. While the movie attempts to make fun of these predictable rom-com endings, “Holidate” is unable to escape from the genre.

Though the tide is quickly turning on society’s view of marriage, many parents still believe that it will ensure their child’s safety and satisfaction. For decades, marriage has been a highly regarded and strictly enforced tradition in many countries around the world. However, younger generations are re-evaluating the sanctity of marriage and finding other ways to be successful without romantic partners.

Just because an individual chooses to stay single doesn’t mean they aren’t happy or need another person to make their life more fulfilling. “Holidate” misconstrues the concept of marriage and reaffirms the old-fashioned belief that finding “the one” should be everyone’s goal in life. The idea that getting married and settling down is the be-all, end-all is an archaic sentiment that future generations are quickly throwing out the window.

According to recent data from the CDC, marriage rates reached an all-time low in 2018. Though the reasons for this decline span far and wide, some of the more notable reasons include strenuous financial situations, less interest in the legality of the matter and being unable to find the right partner. In the age of Tinder hook-ups, individualism and self-care, marriage is a banal concept that future generations are reimagining.

In my book, “Holidate” falls short because it gives little acknowledgment to the individuals who have no desire to be in a steady heteronormative relationship. Polyamory, homosexuality and asexuality are increasingly popular options that should be regularly explored, especially in the film industry.

In the future of Christmas movies, perhaps writers and directors can introduce plotlines with more unconventional characters. Having gay, polyamorous or asexual minorities would make for more gripping romantic conflicts and give representation to individuals who rarely see themselves portrayed on screen.

While the movie is undeniably a second-rate film, some of the snarky one-liners are almost clever enough to incite a laugh or two. The actors did a phenomenal job playing their roles but were limited by a corny, overstated script. Instead of poking fun at the mundanity of rom-coms, the film might’ve done better embracing the cheesiness wholeheartedly. Ultimately, “Holidate” would fare better in Hallmark’s 25 days of Christmas instead of the No. 1 spot on Netflix’s trending top ten.

With a score of only 45% on Rotten Tomatoes, it might be better to skip over this movie and go straight for a cinematic masterpiece that has a more relatable single protagonist (aka “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”). Though the holidays are often thought of as “cuffing season,” individuals should remind themselves that there is no need to rush into a relationship just to please their family members. As millennials and members of Generation Z grow up in a more progressive society, there is hope that one day, families can sit down at Thanksgiving dinner without questioning one another about their relationship status.

Danielle Kuzel, Florida State University

Writer Profile

Danielle Kuzel

Florida State University

Psychology major at Florida State University who loves writing, thrift shopping, family and her cat. Hoping to make a difference through writing, advocating and standing up for issues that are important.

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