It's that time of year when all of the usual holiday classics return to TV, but that shouldn't stop us from adding our own holiday favorites to into the annual rotation. For LGBTQ folks, there is a long and growing history of Christmas episodes and specials that tell our stories and/or come from our favorite gay icons. Whether serving an outright queer narrative, or a straight one with themes that allow for queer appreciation or interpretation, it's time the pantheon of classic holiday television programming was revisited from an LGBTQ point of view.
Here are our picks for ten Christmas specials and episodes sure make your yuletide gay...
RuPaul's Drag Race Season 3 Episode 2 - "The Queen Who Mopped Christmas
No, not that deeply underwhelming 2018 holiday special from this seemingly indefatigable franchise. It's the third season debut that was the show's own winter wonderland. This episode also gives us everything we want from Drag Race: a fashion challenge that demands some camp, crackling chemistry between the contestants, and Shangela popping out of a damn box.
The Golden Girls Season 2 Episode 11 - "'Twas the Nightmare Before Christmas"
True to form, this holiday episode finds the Miami foursome's Christmas plans delayed by armed robbery and Blanche's quaking horniness at the sight of any man in a Santa suit. But when a storm cancels each of their flights, leaving them stuck together for the holiday, the girls discover the importance of something every queer person can relate to: the family you find. Also, it's now official canon: "Surfin' Safari" is a Christmas song.
Pose Season 1 Episode 3 - "Giving and Receiving"
Speaking of chosen families, one of the signature episodes of Pose's first season was also one of the most important Christmas episodes of all of time for how it examines the specific emotional and financial pains that can strike marginalized people this time of year. The AIDS epidemic shadows the community, but the House of Evangelista is brought together through a triumphant win in the Snow Ball and the love of their compassionate mother Blanca. It's a bittersweet new essential Christmas classic.
Please Like Me Season 3 Episode 10 - "Christmas Trifle"
As with most episodes of the Australian comedy series Please Like Me, the Season 3 Christmas special is at once funny and tragic, heart-warming and infuriating, and it imbues all those qualities at a Christmas dinner where a dropped gravy boat acts as a dark omen for the rest of the meal. Josh Thomas's show was a landmark series for those who sought it out, and we all got to spend this particular Christmas agonizing over Josh and Arnold's doomed romance.
Dolly Parton's Home for Christmas
What could be gayer than Christmas in Dollywood? This holiday special arrived shortly after the release of Dolly's holiday album of the same name, and took us through her hometown and amusement park for the kind of unassuming cheer that you'd expect from Ms Parton. The superstar-hosted Christmas special is less common these days — with many lost to time — but thankfully, this one is preserved for all to enjoy on YouTube.
Lady Gaga & The Muppets Holiday Spectacular
You don't even need a holiday album to promote on your holiday special, you can just have a regular ol' pop album. Lady Gaga may not remember ArtPop, but with this bizarre cross-promotional special, how could we at home forget? A wild mix of holiday songs and tracks from the album, featuring the Muppets and a slew of celebrities like RuPaul, Elton John, Kristen Bell, and a pitchy Joseph Gordon Levitt.
Schitt's Creek Season 4 Episode 13 - "Merry Christmas, Johnny Rose"
Naturally, the Christmas holiday highlights the "privileged expectations vs. drab reality" concept of Schitt's Creek and its fallen Roses. Most shows default to an expected "so long as we're together" story on their Christmas specials, a theme that is a natural fit to what the series is about. Schitt's Creek is happy to deliver that message in its own typically sweet-but-snooty fashion. Plus Catherine O'Hara's Moira Rose mentions her "Christmas pills".
My So-Called Life Season 1 Episode 15 - "So Called Angels"
We've discussed this episode before on Primetimer, but it bears repeating. Twenty-five years later, Wilson Cruz's Rickie remains a revelation, and this Rickie-centered Christmas episode shines a light on the still under-examined issue of LGBTQ teen homeless. Good for more than some emotional holiday melodrama, it also gives a final moment reveal of singer-songwriter Julianna Hatfield sprouting wings and flying off into a silent night.
At Home With Amy Sedaris Season 1 Episode 7 - "Amy's Not-So-Holiday Special"
A Christmas special is already a ripe proposition for Sedaris' brand of winsome subversion, and this episode does not disappoint. She dances with some snowmen and penguins, gets maimed by an evil doll, and Cole Escola's Chassie riffs on the ickiness of "Baby It's Cold Outside". Plus, Jane Krakowski sings about glue.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
If you're looking among the accepted Christmas canon for possible queer representation, the mean green one is it. Even if it's ultimately an assimilation story, The Grinch's position as an outsider to a community defined by nuclear families and traditions is easily interpretable as a queer narrative. Queer icon The Grinch represents all of us who are dealing with the season's noisy heteronormativity, yet are ultimately swayed by the pageantry of it all in spite of ourselves.
Chris Feil is a freelancer writer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His previous work can be found at Vulture, Vice, Paste, and The Film Experience. Follow him @chrisvfeil on Twitter.
TOPICS: Christmas, At Home With Amy Sedaris, The Golden Girls, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, My So-Called Life, Please Like Me, Pose, RuPaul's Secret Celebrity Drag Race, Schitt's Creek, Dolly Parton, Lady Gaga, Holiday Programming, LGBTQ