I have what is perhaps a slightly obsessive preoccupation with romantic comedies. The meet-cute, the third act misunderstanding and subsequent breakup, the grand kiss in the rain after the run through the airport following the flashmob declaring one’s undying passion for another? My bread and butter. Rom-coms are my area of expertise, one of the few things that still manage to make my heart sing in this year that won’t end, and the genre through which I make my living as a writer. And after watching Happiest Season, I’m convinced it’s time to blow them up.I should first begin by saying that my fatal flaw, it could be argued, is that I will follow a blazered, bleach blonde Kristen Stewart wherever she leads. So despite the number of valid critiques I’ve read on Twitter to the contrary, I enjoyed Happiest Season, which follows Abby (Kristen Stewart) as she spends Christmas with her girlfriend's uptight, conservative family. And, twist! Her girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis) isn't out to them yet. But as the first studio-backed release of a queer holiday romantic comedy, Happiest Season demands that we examine it not only through the lens of what it’s accomplishing successfully, but the ways in which it tries to adhere to a form that wasn’t created with the Harpers, Abbys and yes, the beloved Rileys of the world, in mind.
This content is imported from Giphy. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.For the past few decades, the romantic comedy as a genre has remained pretty steadfast in its approach to happy endings; the blueprint for what constitutes a satisfying narrative arc is almost disappointingly clear-cut. And who is framed as central to those stories—the straight, white couples with their troubled pasts and their problematic families—as consistent as they are overdone. As a queer woman, I’ve spent much of my life engaging with traditionally straight-centric romantic comedies, and have longed for a movie that lived up to the promises Happiest Season made: queer women centered in a story that offered them the warm, fuzzy, holiday-cheery conclusion we deserve. But I miscalculated, because that’s precisely where Happiest Season struggles—in its attempt to pour itself into the container of the classic, heterosexual romantic comedy, beat for traumatic beat. The starkest holdover comes in the way the movie weaponizes the public humiliation trope—a fundamental element of the traditional rom-com—to an almost alarming degree. You've seen it before in My Best Friend's Wedding when Julianne is loudly serenaded at the family brunch. Or in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days when Andie plays the role of the clingy girlfriend to cringe-worthy levels. Or in When Harry Met Sally when Sally loudly imitates an orgasm at Katz's Diner.When queer people have been told, time and time again, that we’re unworthy of love and of care, these scenes of humor or temporary heartbreak can’t be easily dismissed as a hurdle in pursuit of a kiss in the rain that sets one’s universe to right.Our leading lady is expected to be put through the gauntlet of deeply embarrassing tasks in exchange for winning the heart of her love in the end. In fact, it’s framed as a small, but hilarious, price to pay for the ultimate prize of lifelong partnered bliss. But that trope, like so much else about the form, must be reconsidered when applied to queer people. For so many of us, the act of being turned into an object of ridicule, even for a moment, is deeply rooted in trauma—and that ridicule coming at the hands of a loved one who is unable or unwilling to place your happiness above their own, is all too familiar.When Abby is accused of shoplifting, or left to watch Harper deny their relationship in front of everyone Harper loves, it lacks the same type of comedic relief. When queer people have been told, time and time again, that we’re unworthy of love and of care, these scenes of humor or temporary heartbreak can’t be easily dismissed as a hurdle in pursuit of a kiss in the rain that sets one’s universe to right. They have to be handled with much more care, or better yet, upended completely.Courtesy of HuluQueer people and queer artists are operating within a space that is delicate and liminal. We are expected to offer universality to straight people and give specificity to queer folks everywhere in one fell swoop. This is the type of compromise that calls for certain acrobatics of our work, and they won’t always be easily achieved. But it begins with examining the history of the form, and how that history is rooted in whiteness, classism, and heterosexuality. What do our stories gain when we reframe who and what deserves to be seen? Or when we remove the wealthy, cis, able-bodied white people from the center, and point the camera on queer people of color, poor people, or disabled people instead?We have the opportunity to move into a future that goes beyond what we’ve always known, one that reinvents and reimagines the possibilities of the genre: romantic comedies that are funny and honest and filled with as many different voices as possible, without depending on the same moments of trauma for our main characters. I don’t believe that a new generation of queer rom-coms should be born in the image of the films that came before them. I believe they can be better. Related Story10 Funniest Christmas Movies Ever This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.ioAdvertisement - Continue Reading BelowMore FromMoviesHere’s Everything We Know About ‘Spencer’15 LGBT Holiday Movies to Stream This Season
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