While there are so many unexpected aspects of The Bitch Who Stole Christmas–namely, that it exists at all–maybe the most unexpected is what a quiet (if not eviscerating) champion it is for print magazines. All, of course, while mocking the shit out of how antiquated it is to even try to run one. As a writer for Gorge Magazine (ah yes, always the innuendo with RuPaul), Olivia St. Lapel (Krysta Rodriguez, most recently recognizable from Halston) has been tasked with an undercover assignment tailored to the Christmas season. More precisely, her editor-in-chief, Hannah Contour (RuPaul), has demanded an exposé on the ultra festive, yuletide cheer-loving town of Tuckahoe (it’s a real place, but rendered as an alternate reality version of itself here).
Written by Connor Wright and Christina Friel as a satirical nod to the Hallmark movies that arrive by the boatload at this time of year, The Bitch Who Stole Christmas purposefully addresses that these are the types of movies that also allow its viewers to slip into the comfort of believing that nothing has really changed since the mid-twentieth century (least of all gender role expectations). That small-town America quaintness and charm is within us all to enjoy if we just “believe.” And that means a local grocery store with an aisle stocked full of “splashy” magazines like Gorge.
Then again, Hannah is sure to iterate to her best writer that sales for Gorge are down more than ever, which is why so much is riding on scandalizing readers into buying copies of the forthcoming issue with this exposé so that greater circulation will ensue. And later, Contour also reveals that the magazine has been operating at a loss (quelle surprise). One Hannah has had to pay for in order to keep the lights on, so to speak. And yet, that’s just one of many thankless aspects of calling oneself “editrix”: paying out of your own pocket for the title.
In addition, the seeming overall lack of awareness about magazines in the collective consciousness is made apparent by Olivia going undercover with the pseudonym “Maggie Zine.” The townspeople are none the wiser to how “familiar” that name sounds. Nor is Hazel Delashes (played by Ginger Minj), the innkeeper at the Tuck’d Inn, tipped off when Olivia accidentally looks at a series of objects in front of her to come up with a word for her profession other than journalist, only to end up saying “journalist.” Luckily, Hazel assumes that means she makes journals. Which isn’t far off the mark, as that’s what helping to contribute to a magazine ultimately is. But sure, we can let Hazel think “Maggie” is in the business of designing and hand-crafting journals for writing in, or whatever.
But maybe even companies that distribute blank journals are more profitable than any magazine… what with there being far more writers than readers in this world. Throughout the script, there are plenty of shade-ridden nods to the irrelevance of print, with phrases like, “As dead as print magazines” and full-stop “print magazines are dead” bandied freely. Again, it’s designed to heighten how out-of-touch the average Hallmark movie is with reality in having their leading woman always portray some career-obsessed, New York-based type who works at a fashion magazine (heaven forbid it could at least be a literary magazine for a touch less sexism).
Even when 13 Going on 30 came out in 2004, it was made apparent that Poise, the magazine where Jenna Rink (Jennifer Garner) worked, wasn’t going to last much longer. Not just because she was sabotaging the sales herself, but because readers are fickle in the twenty-first century–after all, there are so many “digital options” available to them. As Britney once said, “Everyone has been doing emails.” And the last time it could maybe legitimately be believed that magazines were “financially stable” as an enterprise likely occurred in 2006 with The Devil Wears Prada, itself based on a book released in 2003. In other words, “the fall” was already happening as far back as the early 00s. Enough to actually be portrayed in mainstream film.
So the point is, the jig was up long ago in trying to pass a movie off with a plot centered on the “high-powered” world of magazine publishing. Which is part of what makes The Bitch Who Stole Christmas so campy: its constant wink-wink references to knowing that nobody really works at a magazine (and gets paid adequately, or at all, for it) unless they exist in the universe of a rom-com.