Elizabeth Simins MA Critical Studies Thesis 2021
Ghosts of Queerness Yet-to-Come: The Horrors of Heterosexuality in a Decade of Made-for-TV Christmas Movies
This paper broadly examines 140 made-for-TV Christmas movies released between 2005 and 2020 alongside a variety of scholarly texts on subject matter including popular romance readership, queer interpretations of horror, cultural studies, and critical heterosexuality studies to argue that the pleasure experienced by queer viewers in the made-for-TV Christmas romcom audience may be more akin to that traditionally generated by horror than romance. Christmas movies paint a bleak view of the world for presumed-heterosexual women—all women according to the genre’s internal logic—one in which only a once-a-year force known as Christmas Magic can save them from the misery of the magic-free heterosexual dating pool. The largely generically consistent narrative structure of Christmas movies, intended to be watched in bulk during annual marathons, uniquely qualifies them to expose the horrific and uncanny aspects of a world in which anything other than heterosexual marriage is perceived as a tragic failure. For queer viewers, a truly happy ending might entail the heroine’s realization that heterosexual marriage isn’t the only valid relationship model, and that her near-universal dissatisfaction with men may suggest something that can’t simply be solved by the timely arrival of “the one.” That she never does, thanks always to the timely intervention of Christmas Magic, is a chilling and constant reminder to queer viewers of the impossibility of their own existence in the Christmas movie’s supposedly charmed world. However, like horror viewers whose terror is confined to a movie’s running time, queer viewers may breathe a sigh of relief as each Christmas movie comes to a close, secure in their knowledge that Christmas Magic has no purchase in the world off screen.