Why Happiest Season is The Festive Movie I Need This Year

Okay, let me talk to you about gay stuff for a moment.

And not just the horror gay stuff that I love so much – yeah, sure, horror is certainly the genre within which I think the exploration of bigotry against LGBTQ people is best explored, and I will be talking about Spiral for the rest of 2020 to anyone who’ll listen.

But, let’s be honest – for a long, long time, stories about queer people have been excuses for the dirge of misery-porn that comes when mainstream media deigns it time to nod their heads sadly and care about homophobia for as long as it takes for Sean Penn or Jared Leto to win an Oscar. Tragedy and homosexuality are better-acquainted bedfellows than most actual gay couples in media are – ask the sea of noble fictional LGBTQ people who died so that the straights could learn a lesson. About how not to be gay, obviously.

Which is why I’m so happy to see a movie like Happiest Season, Clea DuVall’s lesbian Christmas romcom, getting so much buzz (and not just because I’ve been writing my own seasonal lesbian romances, hey, hey!). Most importantly, honestly, it’s great to see actual LGBTQ people (like Clea DuVall, star Kirsten Stewart, and Aubrey Plaza, part of the supporting cast) getting to tell their own stories about what life is like to be un-straight; the best media about queerness is told by people who are actually queer, an obvious truth that seems to have slipped by the majority of mainstream media for way too long now.

Because we’re able to actually see these stories in the three-sixty-degrees that they deserve to be told in. Yes, sure, being LGBTQ still sucks for a lot of people, thanks to the garbage compulsory heterosexuality that pervades pretty much every inch of pop culture. But to act as though that’s the only part of our lives worth telling is to miss out on the joyous parts about sharing something so special with a community of people who can relate to your experiences on a fundamental level. Of what it feels like to fall in love – with yourself or with the people that you were told you never could – when it feels like you were once so far from letting yourself even think about that.

Christmas movies are built for the warm-and-fuzzies, and it makes me so happy to see a movie about LGBTQ people that engages with that – instead of the face-first barrell towards tragedy, Happiest Season promises a little of that well-earned romcom angst amongst a genuine and loving celebration of what love looks like for people who have been told that they can’t have the kind they want. We need more movies that have time to craft stories about LGBTQ people that aren’t there to win Oscars with prestige tragedy, but to reflect the real joy that exists in this community – and to give us something that doesn’t want to toss our cinematic representations off a roof the first chance it gets. I, for one, know what I’m going to be watching this Christmas – and, in a year as bloody strange and hard as this one, that feels pretty damn nice.

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By Louise MacGregor

(header image via Variety)

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