Happiest Season

Happiest Season

When I came out to my parents, I sent an email that simply read something like, "Good news! The insurance will cover my hormones." I just didn't want to say the words. I didn't want to give them a chance to object, to ask questions, to do anything but understand that I was happy with it and that was that. For what it's worth, they didn't object, ask questions, or anything. Just awkward support. The gulf between when I hit send and when I got a response was intense, but what this film gets absolutely right is that the bigger, more intense gulf was between when I wrote it and when I hit send.

Between John's speech about that moment and the way in which Harper's admission that she felt like she was choosing between Abby and her family, the fears, doubts, and anger that comes with being in the position where we have to come out at all are captured here knowingly. It's that last part that matters most: the filmmakers (<3 Clea Duvall) get it.

This film has a lot of the same assimilationist claptrap that so many queer romcoms have, but there's a voice of dissent in there and a moving explanation for the feelings that don't center entirely on replicating straight norms. It's not the repulsive queer mess I want in my perverted heart, but it's at least aware that there's more to being gay than just being straight with better sex. When Abby talks about wanting family, whether the film speaks the words or not, she's speaking of chosen family, of finding the love and community the world promises us and (almost) never delivers. She finds, instead, that heteronormative family is fake, violent, and treacherous.

The fact that lessons seem to be learned in the end is disappointingly unrealistic, but at least there's acknowledgment from the family of just how toxic they were. In service to the rare happy ending, it throws away the comeuppance deserved by numerous characters here. There's a moment, though, where the violence of the closet is felt so keenly that the world stops. When Harper betrays Abby in the climatic fight scene, you can feel her heartbreak. In that moment, the walls of the closet slam down and Riley's pain, Abby's pain, and Harper's pain become crystal clear--and the construction of the closet becomes clear as well. You see that it is built intricately by Harper's family and the world around her, and that she is not strong enough to face it.

Because who the fuck could be? Every queer person who manages to come out in a hostile world, to a family that may or may not be hostile, is facing more than they can even imagine. Harper has a glimpse of it and can't take it. She runs in terror. It's not unfair of Abby to ask for more, but it's also not fair of the world to put anyone in this situation. It's a complete fucking mess (just like any good lesbian relationship).

Anger at this is justified, and that anger demands satisfaction from those that perpetrated this violence. The parents are right there, but the film veers into holiday happy ending instead of queer outrage. It's fantasy fulfillment, which is worth a little bit as a change in the landscape of queer film.

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