December 3, 2013 | by Lateefah Williams
Dearth of black LGBT characters in holiday films
Hollywood, gay, LGBT characters, Washington Blade

Hollywood may be consciously or unconsciously sending a message about its beliefs of black LGBT individuals. (Photo by Oreos; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

It’s holiday season — that time of year when people from all walks of life spread holiday cheer and warm and fuzzy Christmas-themed movies fill the big screen. If you are black and LGBT, you are probably already accustomed to not seeing yourself or your family depicted in films. While there is a dearth of black LGBT characters in movies yearlong, the absence is particularly notable during the holiday season.

It may also sting more during the holiday season because it comes with the backhanded whammy that Hollywood may be consciously or unconsciously sending a message about its beliefs of black LGBT individuals. During the year, when the occasional black LGBT character makes his or her appearance in a mainstream film, that character is often the butt of jokes or depicted in a comedic role. It is rare to see loving black LGBT families depicted in mainstream movies.

Thus, when holiday season rolls around and family-oriented movies dominate the box office, it’s hard not to notice the glaring omission of black LGBT characters as a message that such characters are either deemed to be inappropriate in family-friendly films or that Hollywood is completely out of touch and doesn’t realize that it has erased black LGBT individuals from black families in holiday movies, despite the fact that most black families I know have a gay relative in their extended or immediate families.

I started thinking about this topic after discussing “The Best Man Holiday” with a friend who is also an African-American lesbian. While I don’t necessarily rush to see every romantic comedy that straight black folks rave about, my friend openly avoids such films, taking a hardline stance about not seeing herself or families like hers depicted in these black films.

I did choose to see “The Best Man Holiday” and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As an upwardly mobile black professional, I saw aspects of myself depicted in several of the characters, both male and female. While there was not a gay or lesbian couple in the film, I still saw dynamics of relationships that I have been in.

Unfortunately, there is also still a lack of quality black films, so it’s hard to not be supportive when one comes out. That said, the lack of black LGBT characters in roles similar to the characters in “The Best Man Holiday” is troubling. It would be great to see a movie in which a loving black gay or lesbian couple and their children are spending time with other couples, gay or straight, and their children, while enjoying the holiday season and reminiscing about old times.

A quick search of black LGBT characters in mainstream holiday films with predominately black casts came back with one result: “Holiday Heart,” which features an openly gay drag performer in an uplifting role. That’s it. That’s the list, and you can certainly argue about whether or not “Holiday Heart” is mainstream or independent.

While there aren’t many holiday movies with predominately white casts that depict loving LGBT couples and their families during the holidays, there are some. OK, maybe there’s one film that meets all of the ideal criteria. “Too Cool for Christmas” features a gay male couple and their two daughters during the holiday season. It is a family-friendly movie that depicts a loving family headed by a gay couple.

We continue to make progress in LGBT rights. Through exposure and dialogue, the black community’s views have shifted markedly on marriage equality and LGBT rights.  Let’s hope Hollywood will realize this and catch up.

Lateefah Williams’ biweekly column, ‘Life in the Intersection,’ focuses on the intersection of race, gender and sexual orientation. She is a D.C.-based political and LGBT activist. Reach her at lateefah4@hotmail.com or follow her on Twitter @lateefahwms.

1 Comment
  • I think they're all still afraid that bringing LGBT people of any kind up in holiday movies is a touchy subject. I think the only way this is going to happen is if someone does it as an independent film, and it does well enough that mainstreem is willing to give it a chance.

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