Anna Ver Beek
Hallmark is truly an international company. According to the corporate information page on its company website, Hallmark distributes its cards in 30 languages to more than 100 countries around the world. In addition, it has 2000 employees around the world. But, what exactly is it exporting? Is Hallmark selling cards that, as their website claims, “make the world a more caring place by helping people laugh, love, heal, say thanks, reach out and make meaningful connections with others”? Or is Hallmark, along with companies like Coca-Cola and Walmart, speeding along what Sociologist George Ritzer calls the McDonaldization of the world.
In Honduras, Hallmark cards are not only common, they are a status symbol. By purchasing a Hallmark card for a birthday party, you advertise yourself as a highroller. And just like in the US, if you don’t buy someone a Hallmark card, you’ve skimped on their birthday and aren’t truly showing your love. Hallmark has become so ubiquitous that kids will trace characters off cards to give to each other if they can’t afford to buy a card outright.
Some would simply argue that Hallmark is creating a world where we will all say, “I love you,” “I’m sorry” and “Happy Birthday” more often. However, this come at a cost. By exporting products and marketing them heavily to over 100 countries, they pressure people to say the words in precisely the same schmaltzy way? Will Hallmark’s flair for syrupy prose and its skill at convincing people around the world that they haven’t really said how they feel until they’ve “said it with Hallmark” lead to mass-market emotions? The particular ways cultures express their feelings to those they love are perhaps one of the last bastions of individualism and cultural identity—expressed within a particular cultural context and language. Just what will be the effect of the Hallmarkization of sentiment around the world? What do we have stand to lose? And once it’s lost, how exactly do we get it back?
By. Anna Ver Beek