My heart broke at the end of Happiest Season and the pieces continued to fall away as the night wore on. It didn’t explode out joyful exuberance that there was finally queer representation on mainstream television. No, my heart broke slowly and painfully as the true message of the movie sunk in. The messages being - Queer people should always have to settle for less than. The closet is justification for bad behavior. And toxic, and unhealthy relationships don’t count for LGBTQ+ people.
If the character Abby (played by Kristen Stewart) had been a straight woman returning home with her boyfriend for the holidays the movie would have flopped on its head. No viewer would have tolerated watching an hour and a half of Abby being disregarded, disrespected, and frankly discarded by her boyfriend only to see her take him back in the end. No matter WHAT his reasons were, the audience would have erupted in outrage at the prospect of her skipping over the smoking ex-boyfriend/doctor to stay with the guy who didn’t even have the decency to protect her from his families barbs.
But it’s a queer movie, and that’s just “how those relationships are”. Except that they’re not. Three years ago this coming February I took my wife to my parents home for the first and only time. After 6 years apart, every one of my 6 siblings and I got together to celebrate my mom and stepdads anniversary. I watched as several in my family ignored, dismissed, and downright offended my partner. In one instance, my then-Fiance was asked to crouch down behind the family as we took family photos so they could take the “one without her”. You know, the one they could hang in their living room.
I watched my future wife treated the way Abby was treated only I was long out of the closet and I was furious at my parents. I let my anger be known then and I let it be known after. When we left, I promised myself I would NEVER allow the woman I loved to ever experience that again. Even now I feel myself choke up as I write these words and think about that trip. When we were invited the next year I turned them down with no regrets.
Look, the closet is and can be a safe place and no one should ever be forced out of it. But let me be clear, the closet is NEVER an excuse to hurt your partner. It is NEVER an excuse to watch them humiliated and shamed as you hide in the background. And it certainly isn’t a place to store your partner while you relive your high school days.
The Happiest Season sent the message loud and clear that a toxic relationship is not only okay, but also should be expected in queer relationships. And I’m telling the Abbys of this world, you don’t deserve that. You don’t deserve to be ignored, minimized, or dismissed. And to the Harpers of this world, still bowed down by your family ties, if you must remain in the closet that is fine. But if you can’t protect and value the woman you love then you’ve got no business being in a relationship.
What really gets me about the movie is that the rest of it was great. The humor, the wit, the characters, and scenery were all on point. Sadly the writer just forgot to view queer couples through an equal lens.
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