The Hallmark Channel will debut two dozen new holiday movies this year as part of its “Countdown to Christmas” — and none center on a same-sex couple or feature LGBTQ characters.
However, that may change. Bill Abbott, CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, Hallmark’s parent company, said the network is “open” to the idea of making the TV Yuletide gay.
“Have you talked about incorporating stories about same-sex couples at Christmas?” The Hollywood Reporter asked in an episode of its TV’s Top 5 podcast recorded November 15.
“We’re open to really any type of movie of any type of relationship,” Abbott replied.
Hallmark is the leading name in holiday entertainment. In addition to the 24 titles premiering on the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries will debut 16 of its own festive films.
However, the network’s programming suffers from a lack of diversity. In addition to its absence of LGBTQ representation, this year’s slate of films featured only four Black lead characters — a decrease by one from 2018. But Abbott pushed back against the notion that Hallmark is prioritizing a white Christmas.
“I think that generalization isn’t fair either, that we just have Christmas with white leads,” Abbott told THR. “In terms of broadening out the demographic, it’s something we’re always thinking about, always considering and we’ll continue to make the movies where the best scripts are delivered to us and what we think have the most potential.”
In a separate statement to The Wrap, Michelle Vicary, Crown Media Family Networks’ executive vice president, also made a commitment to LGBTQ representation. Vicary said the network is “continuing to expand our diversity. We are looking at pitches for LGBTQ movies … and we are looking to expand and represent the United States as a whole.”
LGBTQ representation on television has seen impressive gains in recent years. GLAAD’s latest Where We Are on TV report showed that 10.2 percent of series regulars on broadcast TV’s 2019-2020 season would identify as members of the community.
These gains have not been mirrored in TV holiday fare, which has traditionally shied away from queer issues. However, this year’s gay kiss in Lifetime’s Twinkle All the Way and same-sex romances depicted in Netflix’s Let It Snow and Freeform’s Ghosting: The Spirit of Christmas represent significant milestones in the queering of the genre.
Predictably, Abbott’s remarks were met with backlash from the right. Several commentators have disfavorably compared Hallmark’s commitment to diversity to Chick-fil-A’s recent decision to cease donating to anti-LGBTQ charities. “But in a culture that values offensive sex acts, profanity, and violence overall, the Hallmark channel is doomed,” bemoaned PJ Media’s Megan Fox. “The diversity activists will never be satisfied until everything white people like is canceled, including white people themselves.”