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'My dream come true': How LGBTQ history was made with the 'Happiest Season' soundtrack

By Suzy Exposito, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

The 2020 holiday season has arrived, but don't go dashing just yet: Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, travel is more perilous than ever before, and millions of Americans will be missing their families for the first time ever this Christmas.

But for many LGBTQ people, steering clear of family for the holidays is a longtime tradition, and not always by choice.

Released on Thursday, the new Hulu original film "Happiest Season" sheds light on an all-too-common dilemma for gay couples during the holidays: both coming home and coming out to their respective families. Actresses Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis play girlfriends Abby and Harper, whose deepening bond is tested when they visit Harper's family for Christmas — and, for fear of a fallout with her conservative parents, Harper introduces Abby as her roommate.

The film was directed by Clea DuVall, who first cut her teeth as an actress in '90s films like "The Faculty," "Girl, Interrupted" and the queer cult classic "But I'm a Cheerleader." DuVall co-wrote "Happiest Season" with comedian Mary Holland, and tapped the Grammy-nominated songwriter and GLAAD board member Justin Tranter to executive produce and co-write the original soundtrack. "I said, 'A queer holiday movie?'" Tranter tells The Times. "This is literally my dream come true!"

Written and performed by an entirely LGBTQ cast, the track list features new Christmas tunes by queer pop luminaries such as Sia, Shea Diamond and sister act Tegan and Sara. "Christmas music taps into this nostalgic, heartfelt place where I want to believe that something good can come of us, the humans that are ruining the Earth," says Tegan Quin, whose glossy synth-pop song "Make You Mine This Season" became the prototype for the rest of the soundtrack. "Maybe we don't deserve an asteroid, we deserve love!"

"A lot of us don't feel comfortable going home during Christmas," says Diamond, a singer-songwriter and Black transgender activist, who wrote and performed "Mrs. Claus" and "Blame It on Christmas" with Bebe Rexha. "We know the lives that we lead would not be supported (by) the family. We've always kind of snuck our relationships into our family's lives, like, 'This is my friend!' With 'Happiest Season,' you see that tension represented in a major studio film for the first time."

 

Over Zoom, Tranter, Diamond and Tegan Quin discussed the cultural impact of a movie like "Happiest Season" and the many reasons Christmas belongs to queer people, too.

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A: Christmas is a time for family, but so much of our cultural programming posits LGBTQ people against the ideal of the family. Many people go years without seeing their birth families at all. Why is it so important for the LGBTQ community to claim Christmas for ourselves?

Diamond: Christmas is about coming together. And that's something that many of us in the LGBT community have not been afforded. To reclaim Christmas is very powerful. (Why should) we be discarded during the holidays? To that I stand up and say, I'm Black and I'm trans, g — ! And I love Christmas.

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