A few months ago, Mauricio Arévalo –a Colombian school teacher, and specialist in Spanish and diversity in education– published “Un album familiar,” a children’s book in which he told his son the story of their family: a Colombian family with one baby and two fathers.
Unlike what happens in some English-speaking countries, telling the stories of diverse families is still very unusual in Colombia. But for Mauricio, it was important that his son had the chance to know it and that he had the chance of seeing himself represented in culture. And so, he made sure it happened.
That is why I decided to talk with him when I began researching the importance of having more inclusive holiday movies.
The American industry of holiday movies is astoundingly large. For example, Hallmark alone released 41-holiday movies this year, and to that account, you also need to add the movies by all the other channels and streaming services. So, both the demand and offer are huge.
As we deep-dive in the reflection and work on race equality, sexual diversity, and the acceptance of different family structures, the demand for cultural products that reflects the changes we are making in society keeps soaring.
That was the explanation Mauricio gave to me: it is not that nowadays there are more Gay People or People of Color, but that, finally, the representation spectrum in our culture is expanding –not only in holiday movies but in general. An outstanding example of diversity inclusion in culture, as Mauricio recalled, is Sesame Street, which includes characters every time more diverse in terms of race, cultural and physical conditions to teach children how to live in a diverse world and how to enjoy it. Examples are Kami, a South African Muppet living with HIV, and Julia, an autistic Muppet.
Back to holiday stories, Mauricio recalled Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol,” which is the story of a rich, white man (probably heterosexual, though we can’t know that for sure): a dominating identity, for short, who is doing charity to other non-dominating identities. This is a way of understanding society’s structure and ideal functioning that has been changing for several reasons: interracial families are no longer a novelty, creating the need for these families to see themselves in holiday stories.
Holiday stories are about commemorating the Maccabees’ spiritual triumph over the Greeks or the birth of God’s son and the rituals that help us feel that something has ended and something new, fresher, is starting. We need those rituals so desperately at the end of the year when we can’t work anymore and want to get the heck out of town. We need to feel renewed. But we can’t feel that with rituals or stories that don’t speak to our hearts, in the same way, that Babylonian ritual for the New Year wouldn’t help us at all.
We need holiday stories that speak to intercultural and interracial families or families with diverse structures, stories that speak to sexually diverse people, and atheists.
If you are looking for 2021’s releases for holiday binge-watching, here are a few options.
With Love (Amazon Prime Video)
“With Love” tells the story of the Diaz family. It accompanies them during five different holidays (one per episode) as Lily (Emeraude Toubia) transitions from being newly single to caught in a love triangle, Jorge Jr. (Mark Indelicato) introduces his new boyfriend Henry (Vincent Rodriguez III) to the family, and the patriarchs of the family, Beatriz (Constance Marie) and Jorge Sr. (Benito Martinez) look for new ways to keep the spark alive.
“With Love” premiered on Amazon Prime Video on December 17.
The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night
This queer Muslim Brown romantic comedy tells the story of how “a queer Muslim woman adds another wild card to a gathering that’s already plenty unpredictable when she brings her new partner to her family’s holiday festivities.”
The Bitch Who Stole Christmas (VH1)
As a workaholic big-city fashion journalist, RuPaul arrives in a Christmas-obsessed small town and discovers a plot that could endanger the holidays for everyone.