So much for making the yuletide gay. Hallmark Channel is rolling out a total of 40 original holiday-themed movies across Hallmark and its sister network Hallmark Movies & Mysteries — not one of which features an LGBTQ character taking center stage.
And Lifetime, the network’s closest competitor in the made-for-TV holiday movie space, has a similarly poor track record: Out of 30 new original Christmas movies, none feature primary storylines about LGBTQ couples.
LGBTQ characters have appeared in Hallmark and Lifetime movies past and present — this year, Lifetime has four movies which feature queer relationships in supporting positions — but none have carried a holiday movie of their own as the co-owners of a candy cane company or lovers in Dollywood or whatever the premise may be.
Netflix, which has also moved into holiday programming with films like “The Knight Before Christmas” and the “A Christmas Prince” franchise, offers far fewer seasonal originals than Hallmark or Lifetime, but only one of its six new holiday movies for 2019 features an LGBTQ storyline: “Let It Snow.”
Based on a 2008 young-adult novel billed as “‘Love Actually’ for teenagers,” the movie adaptation of “Let It Snow” adds a queer love story that wasn’t in the book, between Dorrie (Liv Hewson, who is nonbinary) and Kerry (Anna Akana) — one of several teenage couples who find onscreen romance.
Executives at Hallmark parent company Crown Media and Lifetime say they’re aware of the omission — and hope to remedy it in the future. (A rep for Netflix declined to comment for this story.)
“We are continuing to expand our diversity,” Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming for Crown Media Family Networks, told TheWrap. “We are looking at pitches for LGBTQ movies … and we are looking to expand and represent the United States as a whole.”
In other respects, Hallmark and Lifetime have made a concerted effort toward inclusion over the past few seasons. Hallmark’s 2019 slate features multiple movies starring people of color and at least two films centered around Hanukkah instead of Christmas.
Nearly all of Lifetime’s originals feature at least one non-white character in a major role.
“As Lifetime has a diverse group of people working behind the scenes, we’re always looking at the environments we create with our holiday movies to ensure they are reflective of the world we live in,” said Meghan Hooper White, senior vice president of original co-productions and acquisitions for Lifetime and sister network LMN. “We want to see ourselves. While we are proud of the great strides we have made in having many inclusive and diverse storylines … we can always continue to expand.”
GLAAD’s annual “Where We Are on TV” report, published earlier this month, found that LGBTQ representation hit at an all-time high in 2019, with 10.2% of series regular characters in the 2019-20 broadcast television season falling under the non-straight umbrella. Cable saw a similar increase year-over-year. However, GLAAD also noted in the report that 20% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 identify as LGBTQ, and the scripted TV landscape has yet to meet that proportion.
“I think that we are making great strides,” Vicary said. “And we are, [but] like the industry, there is a lot of work to be done to catch up in that area.”