How the White Men Stole Christmas: Where are Women and PoC in Holiday Films?
Shelby Rosten | On 20, Dec 2013
This December, I was all ready to finish up my semester so I could curl up with hot chocolate and watch some of the great Holiday movies and give my poor brain a rest. Unfortunately, after a viewing a few favorites, ranging from Elf to The Santa Clause to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I realized that a majority of these Holiday favorites of mine have a serious lack of diversity.
In movies completely devoted to the time of year where families and friends everywhere get to spend time together surrounded by glittering lights and fattening food, there is still such a focus on the white male experience. Sure, we have Zooey Deschanel at her funniest in Elf. There’s Cindy Lou Who in Grinch. There’s my favorite Peanuts character, Lucy, being the boss in the Charlie Brown Christmas specials. But I have yet to come across a holiday movie with female characters or characters of color as the protagonist. The women in the movies are relegated to supporting roles, generally defined as a housewife or a love interest or somebody’s sister.
The women in these movies tend to sit in the background (and unfortunately since this is a time of elaborate holiday meals, the background is usually the kitchen) while the guys go off and have adventures, being Scrooges or Grinches or ever hopeful Linus-es. People of color are barely there, unless they’re that store manager from Elf or the black Santa Claus who the main characters annoyingly side eye in the name of “comic relief.”
Obviously, I turned to Netflix, because in times of trouble, Netflix comes to me speaking words of wisdom: Play Next Episode. After spending a while re-watching the tried and true Christmas-themed episodes of 30 Rock and The West Wing and The Mindy Project, I went through their Holiday Movie category. It looks much the same as my own DVD collection: The Polar Express, Charlie Brown, Jingle All the Way, I’ll Be Home for Christmas. However, when you really scroll through that list, things change and the dreaded ABC Family logo appears on the female-led movies, signaling the low-rent, made-for-TV quality sure to follow. Apparently, if you want a Holiday movie with some prominent women or people of color, it has to be cheap and poorly written and looked down on by all.
This is yet another instance where these groups are seen as a minority demographic, and therefore the big blockbuster Holiday movies aren’t female-focused. Instead, we are given these TV movies that do feature women and people of color, but because they are made for television. If we say we watch them or like them, it’s made fun of. There’s also the sad fact that most of these films we do have to choose from are all focused almost entirely on a romantic endeavor. Just read some of the descriptions:
12 Dates of Christmas: Unwillingly set up on a blind date with handsome Miles on Christmas Eve, Kate gets 12 chances to relive the date over and over again until she sets things right. At first reluctant to give Miles a shot, Kate learns acceptance from a holiday miracle.
Holiday in Handcuffs: When her boyfriend dumps her just before the holidays, aspiring artist Trudie desperately kidnaps a handsome stranger named David. Intending to present him as her new boyfriend at Christmas, she finds instead a genuine bond forming with her victim.
Christmas Cupid: Workaholic publicist Sloane Spencer is haunted by the spirit of a newly deceased client, actress Caitlin Quinn, who tries to persuade Sloane to forsake her single-minded life and reunite with a former flame to find true love by Christmas.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not too thrilled and excited to watch. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying these rather cliche and stigmatized movies, but there need to be more Holiday movies centered on the ladies and people of color, and they can be better than what we have now.
We all know that diversity in movies is something we all want. The current box office success of Frozen or The Hunger Games or Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas proves that. The Holiday movie genre is one that needs more of this, and it is now my personal Winter Break task to watch all of those forgotten, hidden away, lady-centric Holiday specials.
Have any Holiday favorites to recommend? Who are your favorite ladies or people of color in existing Holiday movies? Let us know in the comments!
Written by Shelby Rosten