Queer Representation in Holiday Films Isn’t Quite Enough


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By Whit Fuller, Arts Writer


After the holiday season has come and gone, it becomes obvious how few queer holiday offerings there are. Despite the growth of LGBTQIA+ holiday films on the Hallmark channel and a few films available on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu in recent years, the current queer representation in holiday films still isn’t quite enough. 

Make the Holidays Queer

The Hallmark Channel’s decision to air “The Christmas House” last year — its first film with a same-sex couple as one of the main plot lines — garnered a mixed bag of responses from its audience. The film highlights Brandon and Jake, a couple applying for adoption as the Christmas season rolls around, eventually arriving home to spend it with family in their seasonal “Christmas House.” Actor Jonathan Bennett played Brandon in the film, alongside co-star Brad Harder. Bennett, who is openly gay, stated his enthusiasm at being able to bring queerness to the Hallmark channel in an interview with MetroWeekly

​​“It feels like I’m part of progress, and it feels good,” Bennett said in the interview. “I can only imagine what younger me would have thought when he saw representation like this in a movie.” The actor echoed the need for media representation — an important sentiment expressed by members of many minority communities increasingly in recent years.

Response to Representation

Following the “The Christmas House” premiere, several openly queer Hallmark enjoyers took to Twitter to emphasize their joy at seeing themselves depicted in a piece of holiday media, so much so that its sequel “The Christmas House 2: Deck Those Halls” joined Hallmark’s line-up just before Christmas in 2021.

Most were thrilled to see on-screen queer representation from such a popular purveyor of Christmas film and television — Hallmark is synonymous with the genre — but there were others who weren’t so happy. Other tweets emphasized a displeasure with the network for showing a same-sex couple on screen, or cited the channel’s historically conservative views with displeasure at their new direction.

As a network historically showcasing an overwhelmingly white, cisgender, heteronormative holiday narrative, it’s no surprise that a substantial portion of viewers would be upset, just as they were when Hallmark showed commercials that depicted queer couples. The network has continued to produce queer storylines in spite of the backlash.While Hallmark’s latest queer release, “An Unexpected Christmas,” features Becca, an out lesbian character played by Alison Wandzura, there are only inklings of a romance set up for a potential sequel.

These two films, and the response to them over the holiday season, are the start of queer representation for the network. There is still a long way to go. Queer people deserve stories that depict their identities, romances, day-to-day lives and existence in relatable and honest ways — and that includes cheesy and nostalgic holiday tropes. 

A Wider Holiday Outreach

Where networks like Hallmark and Lifetime are scratching the surface of queer representation in holiday media, streaming services are offering queer-centric narratives with all the tropes and delightfully corny holiday frills. 

Netflix’s “Single All The Way” centers on roommates Peter (Michael Urie) and Nick (Philemon Chambers) who return home for Christmas and fake a romance that leads to real love. There are several queer one-liners and quirky family members trying to set up two separate relationships. This is a wonderful queer holiday film with all the endearing elements of the rest. 

In a total reversal, Hulu’s “Happiest Season” is about lesbian couple Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis) who go home for the holidays. Harper isn’t out to her family yet and they are forced to pretend to be platonic roommates. This film offered plenty of drama and emotional connection, examining the complex experience of returning home for the holidays as a queer person.

These films center queerness during the holiday season without sacrificing authenticity or the over-the-top elements in holiday film and television. Where Hallmark and Lifetime pave the way for queerness via cable, streaming services like Hulu and Netflix are able to more readily modernize their narratives and formats in big ways. 

Not Enough Queer Holiday Cheer

There is no denying that seeing queer representation on screen, in the holiday genre and beyond, has become increasingly important. It allows for celebration of queerness in tandem with a variety of story lines which only elevates the experiences and traditions we hold near.

As we enter 2022, the handful of queer holiday films offered in the last two years are not enough. Every queer person should be able to see themselves represented in holiday media. Until that is possible there is work to be done.


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