31 days of festive-ass flicks, day 23: this christmas

Day 23 of the 31 Days of Festive-Ass Flicks [CALENDAR] was This Christmas which I have seen before and already loved a lot even though it contains that stupid, violent, abusive, misogynistic piece of shit Chris Brown. [Spoilers, probably.]

I don’t have a lot to say about this movie because I just like it. It’s just one of those movies that is on tv a lot and I sit through it and I laugh and I feel very pleased and warm when it’s over. I love movies about families and I love movies about “dysfunctional” families — aka families that are at least partially realistic/have issues/kind of resemble mine sometimes — even more because love through hardship is NOT EASY and it’s important. Loving in a happy family is easy, being a loving, happy family through strife is not.

I like the Whitfields. These are people I want to know, that I want to spend time with. The women are sassy and strong. Then men are conscientious and loyal. These are good people who have had hard times emotionally and come out happy and successful. They are people currently enduring strife with… grace?

Plus, damn, what a cast. I love basically all these people. Loretta Devine! Idris Elba! Lupe Ontiveros! Mekhi Phifer! Columbus Short! Regina King! Plus, the actors do a Soul Train line at the end as themselves and basically that’s worth the entire movie in delightfulness.

There are problematic aspects: lots of slut-shaming and Regina King violently attacks her husband for cheating on her (though I honest can’t blame her which is worth examining in and of itself). But it’s a solid movie.

This was the first movie that made me think about the idea of the Other Holiday. With Nothing Like the Holidays, The Preacher’s Wife, and A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas, This Christmas makes four movies I’ve watched in this project with primary casts comprised of people of color. (I’m also watching Trading Places but it doesn’t really qualify in the same way.)

People of color don’t normally get to see themselves as a primary cast member period, let alone an entire cast. Like, that’s insane to me. INSANE. I keep trying to find the right ways to articulate this, but honestly, I’m just a white person with privilege trying to work this shit out. MOVIES ARE SO FUCKING WHITE. And I don’t get it. I just don’t. And I don’t understand how movies keep getting made with no characters of color. Or only secondary or tertiary characters of color. It’s such an idiotic thing to me that I honestly feel like I lose my mind trying to talk about it.

Movie companies still think we’re all racist. Movie companies are still treating white people as the default and people of color as the other. It’s INFURIATING. And we will never get to a place of actual, legitimate, valuable equality if we can’t even get past it in our media.

I wish I were smart enough to talk about this more clearly, but I just go into a rage blackout just thinking about it. And that’s coming from a place of extreme privilege. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to BE a person of color in this culture.

Another issue I wish I were smart enough to talk about is that all four of the movies I am talking about feature prominent incidents of gun violence. Four movies with people of color in leading roles, four movies featuring gun violence. Even taking Harold and Kumar off the table (for a variety of reasons, the first being that it isn’t grounded in reality in the same way that the other three are — even with the angel in The Preacher’s wife, haha) there are three holiday movies with young men of color using guns in threatening acts.

I don’t know how to talk about that or what it means, but I noticed it and I remembered it and I continue to think about it.

None of that helps me explain why I like This Christmas though. I like seeing representation! I like the story of the family at the heart of this movie. I like these characters! I love Ma’Dere and I love Joe and I love Kelli. I love the easy way they talk to each other and how authentic the dialogue feels between siblings. I love how smart and driven and loving and kind and devoted and scared and flawed and brave the various characters are, alone and in combination. And I always love a movie that comes down to the value of forgiveness and the joy and importance of being together as a family.