The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
It’s the Holiday season once again, which means people will be viewing several holiday movies, and a popular destination for holiday-themed films is the Hallmark channel. However, the Hallmark channel has a very rocky relationship with its LGBTQIA+ viewers. Back in December of 2019, the network pulled an ad for the wedding planning website, Zola, which featured a same-sex couple sharing a kiss at their wedding, because religious viewers were turned off by it. As a result, Hallmark and its parent company, Crown Media, faced backlash on social media. “Let me update it for you Crown Media: We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it and, welcome to 2019 where you better get ready for some real pressure,” queer journalist Kara Swisher tweeted on December 15, 2019.
Hallmark eventually reversed its decision, reinstating the ad after there were several calls to boycott the network. Since then, Hallmark has announced a lineup of films that center around LGBTQ+ stories. Recently, they even included a lesbian couple in the film Wedding Every Weekend, which several queer women seemed to respond to positively online.
This year, the Hallmark channel finally aired a family holiday film with main characters who are LGBTQIA+. The Christmas House, stars Jonathan Bennett from Mean Girls and Robert Buckley from One Tree Hill, and tells the story of a couple traveling home for the holidays for a family celebration, and seemed like it was going to be a promising step in the right direction.
As a queer person I'm excited for the film, and I’m happy to see that the network is catching up. It feels like a necessary step forward for queer representation. But I’m also hesitant to celebrate this change. I’m always excited to consume more queer content, but considering the network's rocky relationship with LGBTQ+ viewers, I worry that the film might water down the LGBTQIA+ experience in order to make the story more palatable for the network's religious viewers.
So far, I’ve seen positive reviews for the film, but there have also been dissenting critics who were disappointed in the way the movie centered the stories of straight characters more than gay characters. Realistically, the best queer representation cannot come from corporations – especially one that acts in the best interest of what's going to make them a profit, including when the religious right weaponizes the “family” rhetoric to disparage the need for queer family representations. Hallmark and their parent company, Crown Media, have always marketed the channel as a family-friendly network, but queer representation is family friendly, and to suggest that showing queer families isn’t family friendly sends the message to kids that being queer is something they should be ashamed of.
Several members of the queer community might view this new film as a hollow attempt to win back LGBTQIA+ viewers who lost faith in the network after the Zola incident, and they’re probably right. The film comes off as more of a form of performative allyship over anything else, especially since a majority of the film focuses on the overdone “coming out” narrative. A lot of us are tired of watching characters go through the coming out process, and would like to see representations of queer people just living their lives without so much emphasis on the struggle. Films like Season of Love, which centers the stories of three lesbian couples casually living their lives and celebrating the holidays, proves that filmmakers don’t have to straightwash an LGBTQIA+ storyline.
For the moment, I'm grateful that the Hallmark channel is making an effort to tell LGBTQIA+ stories. However, going forward I hope the channel is able to take this feedback from the queer community and improve the quality of their LGBTQIA+ stories.