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Performative Change in LGBTQ Christmas Movies

 The Christmas season is upon us! Perhaps one of the only bright spots in an otherwise dismal year is all the great new Christmas content we’re getting from a variety of networks and streaming services. Among those are the first ever LGBTQ+ Christmas movies: The Christmas House, The Christmas Setup, and Happiest Season (produced by Hallmark, Lifetime, and Hulu respectively). 

 While all three of these movies are a step in the right direction, it’s necessary to point out some of the major flaws in these movies. 

 All these movies are referred to (and advertised) using the phrase “LGBTQ,” they only focus on cisgender, gay relationships. The fact that the relationships are cisgender/gay is not really a problem, however, it does continue to perpetuate the narrative that the majority of the LGBTQ+ community is made up of cisgender gay people. The real problem lies in referring to the film as an “LGBTQ” film. Using this wording implies a representation the films do not bring. 

 There are also a few problems with the actors. Out of the three movies, two of them cast actual married couples. While this is quite a cute idea, it seems as though these movies would not have happened otherwise, given that none of the other Hallmark movies produced this year cast a married couple. Besides this, all the actors/actresses portraying an LGBTQ character identify as part of the LBGTQ community, except one. In Happiest Season, the actress Mackenzie Davis, who plays one half of the main couple, does not openly identify as LGBTQ. It is an ongoing argument as to whether straight actors should be allowed to play LGBTQ+ characters. While I do believe that an actor should be able to play any role, regardless if their sexuality matches that of the character, for something as groundbreaking as this film, it seems like a missed opportunity to cast an LGBTQ actress. Overall, the movie would be much more powerful if an LGBTQ actress was cast; it would certainly lend a more personal touch. It’s worth mentioning that Victor Garber does play the straight father of one of the characters, however, the story is not about him. Even if the casting is not perfect, all the actors are excellent and will give their own touch to each of the movies. 

 One major problem with all three of these movies (and the majority of Christmas movies) is that all three casts are predominantly white. Out of all three movies, only three characters in the main casts are played by non-white actors. Adding onto this, all of the LGBTQ+ characters are played by white actors and actresses. The LGBTQ+ community is incredibly diverse; allowing only the stories of white couples into mainstream media makes it harder for BIPOC in the LGBTQ+ community to have their narratives heard. If major companies continue to make only white stories, it becomes more ingrained in society that the LGBTQ community is only white cisgender people. Even though these three movies provide a new narrative never seen in a Christmas movie before, the lack of racial diversity in these films shows that major film companies still have a lot to learn in terms of true diversity in their films.  

 Finally, let’s focus on the content of these movies. Both The Christmas House and The Christmas Setup seem like cute, classic holiday movie themes, characteristic of both Hallmark and Lifetime movies. If you take a closer look at the plot of Happiest Season you’ll find that it’s a storyline characteristic of many LGBTQ films一 it's a coming out story. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of major streaming networks making a coming out movie and calling it representation. The “coming out” narrative is so overdone in popular movies that it seems the only way to get any LGBTQ representation is to tell them through coming out. There is so much more to the LGBTQ experience than coming out, and it’s disappointing that the only way they could think to tell this story was through a coming out narrative. There are already plenty of movies centred on the plot of “coming out,” but adding that storyline to a movie marketed as a Christmas movie takes away a little of the Christmas magic. 

 I am super excited to see all of these movies, as are so many other people, but it’s important that we keep pushing for more accurate inclusion. All in all, it is amazing that these major networks have decided to include more diverse narratives in their holiday movies, allowing even more people to experience the holiday magic of a cheesy Christmas movie!

 

Giulia Vilardi is an undergrad student in the Behaviour, Cognition and Neuroscience program. In her free time she enjoys reading, playing flute and making art. She always appreciates a good music recommendation and can't get through the day without at least two cups of coffee!
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