On first inspection, the new LGBTQ holiday movie Happiest Season, which debuted on Hulu on Wednesday, was met with positive reactions from the queer community both for including gay characters in a Christmas narrative and for leading Kristen Stewart, an openly queer actress.
Many were happy to see a holiday movie include gay people; however, the movie’s main conflict featured coming out, a cliché trope in many queer movies that dampens the experience for some viewers.
The trope isn’t necessarily bad, musical theatre senior Marissa Nelson said, but when she’d first heard about the movie she had different expectations.
She was excited to see lesbian representation but would have preferred if the relationship portrayed was healthier. That could help normalize the sexuality and make it clear to heterosexual viewers that queer relationships can be a happy and common occurrence.
Nelson said she falls in the middle of appreciating all representation and resenting the overused coming out narrative. She is tired of the way many recent queer movies fixate on coming out.
Although the coming out narrative is frequently used because it’s understandable to most audiences, many queer people who had a bad coming out experience dislike it because it’s sometimes too real.
Nelson had a difficult coming out experience and wasn’t met with complete acceptance. As a result, the movie reminded her of her own situation, and it brought up mixed feelings.
“It went a little deeper than I thought it was gonna go,” Nelson said. “And it touched me in some ways, just thinking about my own situation and stuff. So I liked it in some ways and didn't like it in others.”
However, as someone who had a very casual coming out experience, psychology junior Liam Rhodes said he enjoyed the film.
He likes seeing how others experience coming out and likes that movies are making it more accessible to see all the different ways coming out can go.
He thought the movie was well-written and well-executed, and he enjoyed seeing LGBTQ representation in a mainstream film.
Seeing a queer character played by a queer actress was also important, he said. The movie could be a valuable experience for those with internalized homophobia or self-hate.
“I think it's important for those who are maybe not out yet and are struggling with it,” Rhodes said. “I feel like for them, it's easier to see people in media live a normal life.”
Although he hasn't seen the movie yet, Austin Eyer, musical theatre assistant professor, hopes it will be a positive experience, mirroring the happiness he felt watching the coming out episode of "Schitt’s Creek."
“As someone who didn't have a good coming out process, it was really nice to see a positive one represented,” Eyer said.
Eyer hopes Happiest Season can give another queer person that same feeling of acceptance and optimism. He said the coming out narrative could provide insight to straight people, particularly those who are supportive parents but just don’t have the understanding of what queer people go through.
It’s important to remember that as much as people might be tired of seeing the same story, it is a step in the right direction, Eyer said. There would not have been a lesbian-centric holiday movie 20 or 25 years ago, and if there was, it wouldn’t be happy, he said.
“Before even the ’90s, it probably would have ended with one of the lesbians dying,” Eyer said.
English lecturer Colin Hogan said that Happiest Season being a romcom is interesting to him and uplifting in a way.
“Comedies are very much about union. They're very much about keeping people together and about having a community come together,” Hogan said.
Queerness is commonly the thing that disrupts community in media, Hogan said. Despite including an overused trope, the movie can still do good if it brings people together, he said.