Like me, I'm sure you're beginning to think about the holidays. The Hallmark Channel and Lifetime are already running holiday romance movies 24/7. This year, not only do they have holiday movies for the Black community, they even have one that has a Jewish storyline. Wonder if they have a Chanukah bush? These new movies are an attempt to be diverse and inclusive.
So, Hallmark and Lifetime, how long are we going to have to wait for that LGBT holiday romance movie? After all, the channels produce at least 32 new movies each for the holiday extravaganza — 64 films between the two of them. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV and other streaming services also add to the holiday-movie producing spectacle with many of their own. We don't exist, but we should, since the demographics, ratings and advertising dollars for LGBT shows are already there.
GLAAD, which serves as the leading authority and watchdog of media for the LGBT community, recently reported in their Where We Are on TV Report, "Broadcast television exceeds GLAAD Challenge in just one year as percentage of LGBTQ series regulars reaches all-time high." Take a look at how well LGBT characters are doing on TV. Is there any question that the gay couple on "Modern Family" is why that show has high ratings? Same for "Will & Grace." In daytime, Ellen is queen. There's nothing that controversial about LGBT characters on TV any longer. Even in the news divisions, Rachel Maddow is the ratings queen of news, while all TV networks and cable news outlets have LGBT reporters. And what's up with all the gay male meteorologists?
At the movies, the money is rolling in — three movies last year with major LGBT characters made over $100 million at the box office. Universal even has a program to increase LGBT participation on screen and behind the camera.
Hallmark and Lifetime movies are so formulated that plotlines show the difference between the two channels. On Hallmark, a couple meets, begins to fall in love, and each person knows that they're perfect for the other; then, a dramatic moment when the two are about to have their first kiss is interrupted by someone. In the end, the audience has to wait until the last scene to have that first kiss. On Lifetime, the first kiss comes at about the 90-minute mark, and more of the storyline follows.
Which demographics are waiting breathlessly for those kisses? Women and gay men. So ratings won't be hurt. The competition to witness the first gay kiss will most likely make it a hit. As for advertisers, they're already there. Can you imagine Target, to name one, pulling their Hallmark advertising budget over a gay kiss? The reality is new advertisers want to be in on the event, and even if not, the backlash would be too much to overcome.
The formula you have, we all love, and it will work just as well for a gay couple. We can wait 90 minutes for a first kiss. We can even wait two hours, as long as it's between people like us. So, Hallmark, Lifetime: How about a gay Christmas in 2020?
Mark Segal is the publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News.