One of the best—or worst—parts of the holiday season is the return of constant Hallmark and Hallmark-esque cheesy, romantic holiday movies. I admit to being part of the bandwagon who loves them. Last year, my fiancée and I cozied up to watch both of Netflix’s new entrances to the genre, Christmas Inheritance and A Christmas Prince. Her mom, who we spend a lot of time with during the holidays, is a huge Hallmark fan (she likes the predictable happy endings, especially in our current political moment). So, when I visit, we inevitably end up on the couch, watching old Hallmark classics, or whatever sequel they’ve come out with next.
But there’s one serious problem: There aren’t any LGBTQ+ movies in the Hallmark or Hallmark-adjacent canon. The most queerness we can expect from a holiday romance movie is a queer-coded one-dimensional side character without a plot of their own, like Amber (Rose McIver)’s friend in A Christmas Prince, Andy (Joel McVeagh). Andy’s character is gay-coded through stereotypical behavior; then, during one of the final scenes in the movie, Amber and her friends meet up with New Year’s Eve dates, and all of the dates are men— including Andy’s. It’s not at all explicit, but the audience assumes that these dates are romantic.
And keep in mind, A Christmas Prince is a Netflix movie, not a Hallmark one. This is unfortunate because we expect that Hallmark would be slow to create inclusive movies because of their more conservative demographic. But Netflix? Netflix has succeeded in breaking barriers and producing television shows and movies like Dumplin’, Sense8 (which was unfortunately canceled), Grace & Frankie, Dear White People, and Orange Is The New Black. (But Netflix has also been criticized for making mistakes, like renewing Insatiable for a second season.) If any production company could give me the queer holiday romance I want to see, shouldn’t it be Netflix?
Netflix would probably make headlines for producing even one feel-good, inclusive holiday movie with an LGBTQ+ lead and queer love story. Movies like Black Panther and Love, Simon prove that making movies about people beyond straight white men is profitable and popular. Plus, it’s easy enough to replicate the age-old setups designed for this genre, then give the plot just enough of a fresh twist when the protagonist’s romance is a same-sex one. I would absolutely love to see a bisexual, pansexual, asexual, trans, or non-binary lead character, but I expect that I might have to wait even longer for that. After all, Love, Simon was still about a fairly privileged middle class white teen, instead of the even more compelling side character Ethan, who is queer, Black, and femme.
I would personally love to see a holiday movie where a lesbian baker visits her small hometown for Hanukkah after her mom’s death, and falls back in love with her high school girlfriend, a local artist, who convinces her to stay. Or a movie where a gay journalist travels to Los Angeles over the holidays to cover a hot celebrity’s impending marriage—only to fall in love with the celebrity under the mistletoe, realizing he isn’t a playboy after all (there would be a happy ending, of course). Or maybe a bisexual woman who is about to take over her mother’s business goes on a trip where she discovers a family secret, leading her into the loving arms of a non-binary B&B owner who inspires her to choose her own career and path.
These movies practically write themselves.
Holiday films like The Family Stone succeed in having gay characters. In that movie, we even get to see Patrick, a black queer man, and Thad, a Deaf queer man, decide to adopt a baby together. They’re only a side story to the main plots about straight non-disabled people finding love during Christmas, but it was progressive for 2006, the movie’s release year. And the actor who plays Thad, Tyrone Giordano, is actually Deaf. Love the Coopers, a multi-narrative holiday movie about a family reunion, features a closeted gay cop, Officer Williams (Anthony Mackie). If comedy-dramas can get it (somewhat) right, then why can’t movies with more predictable, cookie-cutter plots follow suit?
Feel-good, cheesy rom coms need to keep pace if they want to engage viewers. According to 2017 research, almost half of all Millennials and Gen Xers don’t watch any traditional television, while over 70% of Millennials are watching streaming services like Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. Traditional networks like Hallmark and Lifetime could cater to younger audiences by producing the inclusive, diverse content that we want. Netflix and other streaming services could get onboard faster and be the ones to make history.
I’m not actually sure that I care who does it first—as long as they do it well and often. Then, I can finally sit back with my fiancée and her mom, and tune into the gay holiday movie I need in my life.