Contains spoilers for Happiest Season. Trigger warning: Coming Out.
In 2020, I had been waiting all year for Christmas to come around to see one film: Happiest Season. The first-gay Christmas rom com produced by a major studio and directed and co-written by queer icon Clea DuVall herself. Sadly, what was promised to be warm, holigay viewing was something much more depressing.
You’ve probably already heard discourse on this film (I mean it’s been a year since it was released), but I wanted to give my two cents. A brief plot summary: Abigail (Kristen Stewart) is invited by her girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis) to come to her family home for Christmas. The problem? Harper hasn’t come out to her parents. DUN DUN DUN. And so, you have a film where Abigail is forced back into the closet by Harper, Harper plays straight and ignores her girlfriend practically the whole time, and even when her sister outs her at the Christmas Eve party she denies its true. At the end when they finally get their happily ever after you’re meant to be satisfied.
It's safe to say I was underwhelmed. I didn’t want to be underwhelmed. I wanted this to be a joyous sapphic film I could return to every Christmas and lose myself in the festivities, much like my straight counterparts can do with the countless heterosexual ones at their disposal. But instead of making the yuletide gay, its focus on the trauma of being closeted and the hardship of coming out stifles the festive spirit.
I’m not saying it’s not a valid narrative to explore. Especially with how it’s handled in this film, I actually think it’s really well done. This scene where John (Dan Levy) speaks with Abigail about coming out always moves me to tears. If the film had been a romance drama and owned its exploration of the complexities of coming out and had the premise of love cannot conquer all rather than forcing a happily ever after, it could have been a superb film. But I think I can speak for many of us when I say I’m so tired of stories centring on coming out.
I want Christmas films where we see found families enjoying their unique traditions. I want a person who’s been monogamous their whole life falling in love with multiple people at Christmas and discovering polyamory. I want a tween going on an adventure with Santa to save Christmas and at the end they’re gifted a binder. I want a polyamorous person who leaves their gift shopping till the last minute and goes above and beyond to get presents for their polycule (hijinks guaranteed).
Yes, coming out is a major part of the queer experience, and it can be absolutely devastating, but it’s not what defines our existence. There is so much that comes AFTER that, so much beauty and joy that I wish would be given the chance to see the light of day.