When The Happiest Season debuted on Hulu in November, having been shuffled to the streaming service after the COVID-19 pandemic closed cinemas around the world, the significance of its release was somewhat muted. It was originally touted as the first major studio lesbian romantic comedy, following in the footsteps of 2017’s Love, Simon in breaking new ground for queer representation within genres exclusively imagined as heterosexual in a theatrical context. And while that fact essentially remains true, the set at Christmas film’s move to Hulu obscured that distinction, meaning The Happiest Season launched at a time when Netflix and an increasingly large number of cable channels are releasing a slew of holiday rom-coms. This places the movie it into a different conversation about how the snowy cottage industry of “Cable Christmas Movies” is navigating similar questions of inclusion, with three channels (Hallmark, Lifetime, and Paramount Network) also using queerness as a point of articulation this holiday season.
Directed by Clea DuVall, The Happiest Season has structural advantages compared to your average Hallmark or Lifetime Christmas movie: it has a veritable movie star in Kristen Stewart, supporting players like Aubrey Plaza and Alison Brie, and the budget to hire a stacked supporting cast and ensure it doesn’t aesthetically look like it was produced at the rapid pace of a daytime soap opera. It’s not really a fair fight in terms of filmmaking or the depth of the ensemble, but The Happiest Season was nonetheless faced with the same narrative question as the year’s other attempts to “Queer the Christmas Movie” on cable: how do you reconcile the continued struggle LGBTQ individuals face in finding love (and living life) with the genre’s sweeping, romantic happy endings?Continue reading