By Jonathan Shuffield
I don’t do Christmas movies. It’s just not in my blood. I have friends who binge the Hallmark channel this time of year, but I have an aversion to contrived story lines and manipulated emotions. Then someone mentions Michael Urie, Kathy Najimy and Jennifer Coolidge and before I know it I am on the couch with my dog Reggie and we are watching the Netflix offering of “Single All The Way.”
I am not here to review the flick, honestly it is exactly the things I avoid; contrived story lines in an effort to manipulate the viewers’ emotions. It plays to the lowest hanging fruit and makes no effort to hide it. Was it fun to watch these three actors? Yeah and I would do it again for them, but it’s not a good movie…..sorry.
What is intriguing to me is the reaction it has received in the LGBTQIA community. The conversations being thrown around. The fact is it is a romantic Christmas movie centered around gay characters in a family setting released on a mainstay streaming service. Those are the important pieces of this situation. Instead we are arguing over representation and believability? What?
Since when have we watched a Hallmark movie between straight people and thought, “yep, that is completely accurate and makes sense from watching all of my straight friends fall in love?” This is OUR version of a Hallmark…..excuse me….Netflix Christmas! That’s it! There is nothing more to see here! The Hollywood machine has done what it does best, it’s boiled us down to the most “acceptable” and neutered versions of ourselves. They have decided what the masses can digest and served us up on a platter.
Do these things make me mad? Hell yes! I long to see versions of myself on screen, not the Hollywood version of gay. I want to see a reflection of my dating life, which admittedly may be more of a horror film. Do I demand more of Hollywood? Yes I do. Is it realistic to think it all changes over-night? Nope. Sometimes incremental movement in a better direction is all we can expect.
I do not consume mass media in order to find myself as I did when i was younger. I know that I will not find my image there. I will make my own art and tell my own stories. The fact is on a cultural level we have a mainstream romantic Christmas offering. We, as “gay” people, have not helmed this type of ship before. It does not and could never “represent” the queer experience in an authentic way. It is a piece of culture that we can finally claim and that is all.
Buckle up, because we are going to see a lot more of these types of holiday drivel. We began to show up as side stories in Hallmark movies and now we lead the script. It may not represent us in an honest and relevant way, but it is a needed step in order to claim more ground for ourselves in mainstream media.
As a side note, for those of you ready to pounce on me over “accepting” what we are given. I would say follow the indie artists and filmmakers and writers and musicians who are working every day to paint a real picture of our existence. People working to have the conversations about every letter of our coveted alphabet soup. Those are the people worth following and worth talking about. Hollywood will never give you what you long for, every other minority group has been waiting just as long. Enjoy this movie for what it is…..or don’t. Just don’t hang your argument for representation on some mirror that was never built to reflect you.
Just a thought.