Two men kissed during a Hallmark Christmas movie this week, and the Earth continued to spin on its axis.
What a difference a year makes.
“The Christmas House,” which premiered Sunday night, is a sweet story of two grown sons returning home to help their parents transform their house into an epic winter wonderland, just as they used to do when the boys were little.
One of the sons, Brandon, is gay. His husband, Jake, joins him for the trip home, naturally. They’re in the middle of an uncertain adoption process, which leaves their nerves a little shot. At one point, after discussing the emotional ups and downs, they embrace and kiss.
It’s no big deal, and handled as such. Brandon and Jake’s relationship raises exactly zero eyebrows onscreen. Their sexuality is not its own storyline or, thankfully, punchline.
It is a big deal, though, that this all takes place on the Hallmark Channel.
Last winter, you may recall, the Hallmark Channel aired a commercial (a commercial, mind you) for Zola, a wedding planning and registry site, that showed two women getting married. One Million Moms, a division of the American Family Association, went apoplectic, calling on Hallmark to drop the ad and asking supporters to sign a petition promising to boycott the channel and all Hallmark products until Hallmark promised to return to its family-friendly roots and steer clear of commercials or movies featuring LGBTQ characters.
I wrote a column suggesting to readers that if they, like me, think movies and commercials are family-friendly when they include all sorts of families and reflect the beautiful array of families that populate our communities and acknowledge that love isn’t reserved for straight people, they should consider letting Hallmark know.
It’s tempting to only direct our voices toward the things that outrage us, but I think it’s equally important to use them to amplify and reinforce the things we believe in. Outrage shouldn’t be the loudest emotion when our culture tiptoes toward progress and inclusion.
A few hours after my column published, a Zola executive emailed me to say the Hallmark Channel had pulled the commercial.
An array of voices, from Ellen DeGeneres to William Shatner to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, publicly chastised Hallmark for caving to the homophobes. Two days later, Hallmark apologized for dropping the Zola commercial and pledged to work with GLAAD to better represent the LGBTQ community in its programming.
And here we are, one year later, with “The Christmas House” to warm our hearts.
“The Christmas House” isn’t even the first post-Zola flap Hallmark programming to feature a same-sex couple. A Hallmark Channel movie called “Wedding Every Weekend,” which first aired in August, included two women joining in holy matrimony.
“We truly are creating a brand and a channel where everybody can feel welcome and see themselves,” Annie Howell, chief communications officer for Crown Media Family Networks, told me Monday. “That’s a commitment we’re making well into the future.”
One Million Moms isn’t happy about that commitment, of course. The group is circulating a new petition asking supporters to boycott Hallmark Channel and Hallmark products “as long as Hallmark pushes the LGBTQ agenda.”
(An odd flex, if you ask me, since marriage and adoption make for a pretty family-friendly agenda.)
Anyway, Hallmark appears largely unfazed by the bigots this time around.
“It’s been really amazing to see the notes thanking us for having a Hallmark movie during the countdown to Christmas that included their experience and their family,” Howell told me. “That’s what we’ve said all along: Our holiday table is bigger and more welcoming than ever before.”
As it should be.
In a year when so much is going wrong and so much separates us — emotionally, politically, physically — it’s nice to witness a win for love and inclusion. And if you happen to agree, it wouldn’t hurt to let Hallmark know.
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