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'Happiest Season': Imperfect lesbian Christmas film still is worth watching

Stars like Kristen Stewart, Alison Brie and Aubrey Plaza star in the movie "Happiest Season" and many people have mixed feelings about the film.  – Photo by Happiest Season / Twitter

The new romantic comedy "Happiest Season" attempts to intersperse a queer love story within a Christmas tale. The story centers around a lesbian couple, Harper (Mackenzie Davis) and Abby (Kristen Stewart), living a life of their own in Pittsburgh.

Things take a turn when Harper spontaneously asks Abby to come home with her for Christmas and meet her family. But, there’s one catch: Harper has yet to come out to her parents. She instead requests Abby to play along as her orphaned friend until after the holidays, when she promises to tell her parents about them. Abby reluctantly acquiesces.  

Abby walks into a perfectly-curated household, adorned with Christmas decorations and sophisticated dinners where Harper and her sisters compete for their parents’ admiration.

The movie tugs at your heartstrings in the best and worst ways. There are endearing, clandestine moments between the two lovers but also stretches of frustration when Harper leaves Abby teetering around her world of high school exes and her father’s polished campaign events.

"Happiest Season" is making waves on the internet for being one of the first queer holiday films. The film, equipped with a star-studded cast, tells an inclusive story that expands the LGBTQ+ platform but is also drawing conversation over questionable plot decisions.

The growing number of queer shows and films is wonderful to see, but there is always room for more representation. Some queer characters perpetuate worn out stereotypes that generalize gay people. We’ve seen the token gay best friend in a number of movies, whose sole purpose is to aid the lead and make punchlines related to their gayness. Might I add the lack of racial diversity among queer relationships in modern films.

"Happiest Season" breaks the traditional white conservatism of a Christmas movie and overused stereotypes, capturing the internal struggle of living in a heteronormative society. The characters have great dimension, including supporting roles by Aubrey Plaza as Riley, Harper’s ex, and the beloved Daniel Levy as John, Abby’s benevolent gay friend. 

It’s guaranteed that any role Levy inhabits is lovable. His nonchalant humor mixed with surprising moments of wisdom makes him all the more real to audiences. Riley enters the story as an ally to Abby, who was outed and got her heart broken by Harper in high school. She and Abby hit it off so well that many viewers were rooting for their love story.

The movie effectively portrays how anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs can force people to sacrifice themselves and hurt the people that they love. It also highlights that people can be at different places with their sexualities and how it might cause collisions within relationships.

Many people may see themselves in Harper, who has intense fears about coming out to her family. But, she also unloads all her trauma and family ideals onto Abby, failing to recognize the effects of her actions on the other end. The expectation to remain duplicitous and continuously accommodate took a toll on Abby in a different way. 

To add to the fire, Harper’s cynical sister, Sloane, outing her in front of the whole town wasn’t exactly a pro-LGBTQ+ message. 

In response to backlash toward the film, co-writer and director Clea DuVall told Elle, “I think the debate is less about the film and more about your philosophy on forgiveness and growth.” 

DuVall said that we don’t see many lesbian stories with happy endings and she wanted to deliver that in a traditional romantic comedy.

The movie arguably has faults when it comes to detailing a realistic lesbian relationship, but it is still worth the watch. It contains holiday cheer, budding friendship and depictions of real struggle, all essential elements to a Christmas movie. The ending, while controversial, warms your heart and renders you in a cheery state.

You can watch "Happiest Season" on Hulu now.


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