Hey Hollywood, we’re ready for more LGBTQ+ holiday movies


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Hey Hollywood, We’re Ready for More LGBTQ+ Holiday Movies!

By Annabeth Albert 

It’s that time of year again. The magical season of holiday movies is upon us! Streaming services and movie channels are awash in happy, romantic movies. I, for one, can’t get enough. I love holiday books, TV shows, and movies. But over the last few years, I’ve noticed something—my holiday romance reading has grown far more diverse with LGBTQ+ pairings occupying a significant portion of my book budget and many holiday romances featuring ethnic and religious diversity, but the movie selection has stayed predominantly white, middle class, and achingly heterosexual.

Every few years I watch Make the Yuletide Gay because it makes me happy, but it’s almost ten years old now and pretty much the lone entry in the queer holiday movie market. I was delighted to see that this year will feature a few ethnically diverse holiday movies, but we’re still waiting for the same sort of delightful holiday LGBTQ+ romances. Big city movers and shakers returning to small towns, bakers and toy makers, teachers and single parents, magical realism, reunion romances and second chances. The possibilities are endless and extend far beyond the coming out narrative.

As a bisexual woman, I’d love to see more diversity within existing movies simply by having more diverse backstories. Give that heroine an ex-girlfriend lurking in the background. Allow the hero to be coming off a breakup with a guy or nonbinary person. Give us strong secondary characters of a variety of sexualities and let them too have happy endings beyond the “single gay BFF” stereotypes. And yes, make LGBTQ+ people the stars of the show too. Give us happy endings and lots of them!

Luckily, where movies are falling short, books are succeeding wildly. There are so many amazing holiday novels across the LGBTQ+ spectrum brimming with holiday magic, guaranteed happy endings, and tons of good feelings. The time is right for more queer holiday movies, and I’ve got a list of favorites that would be perfect for adaptation to the big (or small!) screen.

To start, I’d like Santa to bring me a delightful lesbian winter romance. Fire on the Ice by Tamsen Parker features opposites attract female skaters at a winter sports competition. All the fans of Cutting Edge would love this one, and Blaze is the bad girl heroine we didn’t know we need. Another female/female pairing that would make an incredible holiday movie is Take Me Home by Lorelie Brown. It features so many of my favorite tropes: personal ad, fake relationship, big extended family on Thanksgiving, quirky secondary characters, road trip, and pets.

Then, we need a gay Hanukah movie. Why are there not more Jewish holiday movies? Much as I love existing holiday movies, they do tend to act like Christmas is the one-and-only Winter holiday. Luckily, Eight Nights in December by Keira Andrews is one of the most adorable New Adult holiday romances out there, and its twist on the forced proximity trope is both sexy and heartfelt. Her roadtrip reunion romance If Only In My Dreams would also make a fine addition to the holiday roadtrip movie genre!

And speaking of reunion romances, Second Chance by Jay Northcote isn’t precisely holiday, but it has all the elements of a perfect holiday movie — return to a small village, family, single parents, and reunion with an old crush. One of the heroes is transgender, and it would be amazing to see a movie handle that as deftly as this beautiful romance does. Like Andrews, Northcote is a master of the holiday romance and What Happens At Christmas is one of the best fake relationship holiday romances out there.

In addition to wanting representation for other holidays, it would be awesome to see a poly holiday romance of some ilk, see happy ending possibilities beyond the 1+1 = HEA standard. Both Fall on Your Knees by J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry and Santa Baby by Heidi Cullinan are m/m/m pairings that offer something a little different (and sexy!). Outside the Lines by Anna Zabo is another book that’s not precisely holiday, but the small-town game shop at the heart of the book would fit right in with all the small business-themed movies out there. The unique poly romance between a gay man and a bisexual man and his fabulous wife would give a fresh twist on all the struggling local business holiday movies.

Much as I love unique pairings and tropes, I also love old standards too. And there is nothing quite so beloved as the single parent holiday romance. I Heard Him Exclaim from ZA Maxfield is quite possibly my favorite holiday romance of all time, and would be a perfect fit for Hollywood with its silver fox Santa-in-disguise hero, big happy family, and adorkable uncle raising his cute niece . And is there anything more Christmas than a Christmas tree farm? The Christmas Proposition by KA Mitchell is another favorite of mine, and its family-run Christmas tree farm setting and heartfelt reunion romance give it lots of adaptation possibilities.

And these are just a few of the hundreds if not thousands of LGBTQ+ holiday reads perfect for a Hollywood happy ending. The time has come for a rainbow invasion of the traditional holiday movie genre. Our holiday movies need to reflect all of us—diverse religions, ethnicities, sexualities, and socioeconomic statuses. The season would be so much richer with more representation!

Groot: a classic grunter (though not a romance hero, of course).

I’m fond enough of this word that I’ve thought a good deal about its prevalence and its power in romance. The fact is, the grunt does a lot of work in romance novels; it’s a meaningful shorthand for a lot of things. Sometimes, a hero grunts because he’s generally got a grouchy, taciturn personality, and this is a quick way of showing it. Sometimes he’s jealous. Sometimes the grunt is a mode of communication that hides a wound—a response designed to close a painful point of discussion. Other times (this is a personal favorite), the grunt is really a defensive reflex of shyness, the only noise a hero can bring himself to make in a social situation where he feels overwhelmed. Also, of course, it’s a pretty reliable communicator of sexual desire and pleasure (I’ll spare you my thoughts about this iteration of the grunt: but I do have them!).  

That’s quite a burden for one little sound. The interesting thing is, I think that may actually be the point of the grunt—as a noise, it must bear the weight of all different types of communication the hero struggles to execute successfully. For me, as a reader, that means there’s usually another, more meaningful shorthand happening with my grunting heroes: they are performing a certain type of cis-gendered masculinity, a masculinity that suggests certain kinds of communication are off-limits or somehow threatening to men. And I’m along for the ride, in part, because I expect—and want—to see that performance break down at some point on the journey to happily-ever-after.

I imagine that Darcy is always grunting on the INSIDE.

In real life, a man who grunts in your face constantly when you’re trying to introduce yourself or show him a brochure about something you’re interested in or, god forbid, ask him about his feelings, is probably going to seem noticeably (and maybe disturbingly?) unusual. The truth is, in the day-to-day, there are all kinds of more subtle, more insidious ways men in patriarchal cultures are taught not to be open and honest about their feelings—we need only remember how many times we’ve heard that a young boy’s teasing or bullying of another child means that he, in fact, “likes” his target. There’s evidence everywhere that we cling to ideas like these—that when it comes to emotions, men not only can’t communicate beyond monosyllables, but that they shouldn’t have to, that men are somehow more mysterious, more attractive, more manly if they are stoic and gruff, that men have to be helped along to process of acknowledging their deepest feelings.

What all this means for me, personally, is that when I settle in to a romance with a certain type of uncommunicative hero (miss me on a hero that in any way bullies or humiliates the heroine), I’m often reading his frequent grunts—especially the non-sex-related ones—as a beast of this burden.

Just as in real life, that burden isn’t only carried by the characters who are wearing this well-rehearsed mask of masculinity. In romances featuring M/F pairings, in particular, it’s no surprise that the heroine is often bearing all the weight of having an uncommunicative partner. We may (though not always) see her stuck doing a lot of exhausting emotional labor: laying her own feelings bare while trying to decode his, probing and speculating on even the smallest signals or offerings he might give her. Soon enough and she may be trying to read a whole world of emotion from—what a surprise—a single, well-timed grunt.

A strategy to try?

But if reality doesn’t always give us a solution to these complicated barriers to communication (patriarchy: let’s put it in rice), the pages of our romances often do, and over time, I’ve come to realize that the primary pleasure for me in reading about a grunting hero is coming upon the moment he stops grunting. In many romances, this happens over time. In Runaway Girl, after chapter ten, the only time readers are going to get a grunting Jason is during physical—uh—interludes with the heroine, and that ends up being a meaningful absence, corresponding with Jason realizing some of his deeper feelings for Naomi (and some of the deeper problems he’s been carrying since his military service). The grunt does less work, and Jason—coming to understand himself in a new way—does more. 

In other books, the grunting hero’s transformation will be more explosive, and as a reader I’m a sucker for those high-drama moments, too—what’s the turning point that makes the hero talk, or scream, or cry? What’s the thing that makes him realize that he’s got to break from the monosyllables that keep him contained, that prevent him from maintaining connection, intimacy, love? Grunting heroes often give good grovel, as it turns out, and they can give powerful, memorable declarations, too. In these cases, the grunt has done the work of making these moments shine, a spotlight on the hero’s transformation.

All this might press us to ask difficult questions about whether the romantic partner of a grunting hero is getting short shrift in having to wait it out, about whether we’re celebrating a narrative where a man’s communication is some kind of long-awaited reward for a heck of a lot of unnecessary suffering. I’ve asked myself these questions, and wondered how it correlates to my own personal strengths and weaknesses, and my own culturally-inscribed notions of what is traditionally masculine. Why should I, after all, feel like fanning my face just because Whit shows up to make a noncommittal noise to his brother at a critical moment? Shouldn’t I always want my heroes to do—to say more, right from the start?

A video of all the times Tom Hardy (MacLean’s inspiration for Whit) grunts in the series Taboo.

Maybe so, especially since the world would be a better place if we all knew how to communicate clearly, effectively, compassionately, and if we all held each other to this standard. But in many of our most complicated relationships, this can feel like the work of a lifetime, with progress and setbacks all along the way—and so I think there remains a unique pleasure for me in watching a character undergo this journey over the course of a few hours of reading.

Like the grunt, the romance novel itself is doing some work for me—it’s letting me exist, for a time, in a world where a certain version of stoic, uncommunicative masculinity is going to meet its ultimate match. That it meets this match, almost always, in service of the partner the grunting hero loves?


Readers, imagine me—grunting in happy assent.

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About the Author

Kate Clayborn is a writer and a lifelong student — and current teacher — of literature of all sorts. She is the author of the Chance of a Lifetime series (Kensington Books) and an avid sarcasm enthusiast

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