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Comedian Amy Goodmurphy didn’t ever think she would be in a Hallmark movie.
“I had told my agent, ‘I’m not really a Hallmark person, it’s not really my interest,’” Goodmurphy tells the Straight from her home in Vancouver. The actor, performer, and podcaster is openly queer, and she had long been skeptical about the cis-hetero world of holiday romcoms.
But The Holiday Sitter, the Hallmark Channel’s first Christmas movie with a gay leading couple, piqued her interest.
“I would be a disgrace to the queer community if I didn’t say about damn time,” Goodmurphy jokes, “but I’m very happy to have been a part of it.”
The movie stars two gay actors, Mean Girls’ Jonathan Bennett and newbie George Krissa; is directed by local (queer) TV and film stalwart Ali Liebert; and features LGBTQ2S+ representation both in front of the camera and behind it. Besides three actors and the director, the producer and second assistant director (and likely more folks besides, Goodmurphy adds) are also openly queer.
Goodmurphy was swayed upon finding out that it wasn’t just a gay romcom, but that her supporting character—Bennett’s best friend Ellie—is also queer.
“That really is true to my life. Because my partner and I are gay, and all of our best friends are gay men,” Goodmurphy says. “That is something you don’t see a lot … [Productions] don’t want ‘too much gay.’ Well, that’s not what this was about. It was a realistic story.”
How realistic is perhaps up for debate. In classic Hallmark fashion, the story centres around a series of credulity-stretching coincidences: Bennett’s character Sam is a workaholic (obviously) who has his Hawaii vacation plans cancelled because his sister needs him to look after her kids (sure) while she and her husband go to pick up a child they’ve adopted (right before Christmas?). But Sam’s bad with kids (of course) and ends up roping in handsome neighbour Jason (Krissa) to help. (Goodmurphy is pretty loose with the details: “I think he lights the kitchen on fire at some point.”)
And it was filmed in the summertime, in Langley, in the midst of another swelteringly hot BC summer. In some scenes, she had "three ice packs hidden" under her clothes to stay cool.
“It’s supposed to be snowing and freezing. I was sweating,” Goodmurphy says. “I think we had to stop a couple of times. It was like, ‘Amy’s got to get hosed down.’”
Like most Christmas movies, the exact set-up isn’t important. What matters is it’s a queer romance—airing at the end of the year of the Big Gay Romcom that’s also brought us Bros, Fire Island, and Spoiler Alert—from a bastion of feel-good festive fluff whose name is a shorthand for holiday romances.
“I love Christmas movies. I can name you five to 10 movies that are such a big part of my growing up and annual traditions to watch. And not one of them has a queer leading storyline,” Goodmurphy says.
Of course, there’s been a few in more recent years—such as Clea DuVall’s 2020 Happiest Season, featuring a happily-ever-after lesbian couple who honestly should have broken up, or Netflix’s Single All The Way in 2021 that may have just been an extended TaskRabbit ad. But holi-gay choices remain slim compared to the absolute churn of straight yuletide romances. Holiday Christmas movies continue to be somewhat notable because each one represents a surprisingly large addition to such a small canon.
“I don’t care what [the movies] look like. If it’s queer, I’m going to watch it,” Goodmurphy says, laughing.
The historic dearth of queer representation in mainstream media means young people used to be starved for a chance to see themselves reflected. Goodmurphy’s own introduction to queer representation on screen came from the MTV reality show Road Rules, which had just the barest glimmer of lesbian interaction in the early 2000s.
“There was a girl on there that was gay and she had a crush on another girl on the show and they like, talked about it. I think they even snuggled or something once,” Goodmurphy recalls. “I was like, ‘I have to watch every episode. Mom, I can’t come for dinner, Road Rules is on.’”
She says she hopes “people tune in just to support the change and see something different,” but Goodmurphy is proud of being involved in something that young LGBTQ2S+ people might connect with.
It’s a movie for all ages, because of course it is; it’s a cutesy cookie cutter Christmas film that’s trying to appeal to the widest possible audience while still getting plaudits for having two men fall in love.
There’s plenty of critiques to be made about queer movies continuing to mostly star conventionally attractive, cisgender, non-disabled white actors; or telling stories that feel “straight” but with one character gender-flipped; or relying on a few tried-and-true tropes like coming out. But incrementalism is still progress. And in a year that has seen renewed and sustained attacks on the LGBTQ2S+ community, an earnest movie with two very handsome men who kiss and a supportive lesbian friend still feels like a step forwards.
Most of all, it’s a movie Goodmurphy would have loved to see when she was young.
“It’s for the queer kids growing up,” she says. “It’s for baby Amy.”
The Holiday Sitter will premiere on Hallmark Channel on W at 8pm EST/5pm PST on December 11.More