The Christmas Setup—Lifetime’s first gay Christmas movie—is here, and, well, it’s gay. At one point, Fran Drescher (a.k.a Kate) has her son, Hugo (Ben Lewis), and his love interest, Patrick (Blake Lee), wear old-timey hats and go Christmas caroling. Hugo makes a “bottom” joke talking about Christmas trees (that’s how I read it, at least). Another Christmas tree is compared to a drag queen. And when Hugo sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” at a drag bar, the audience cheers at, “Make the Yuletide gay.” See, I told you: Gay! Very gay!
And yet the Lifetime gay Christmas movie is just like every other Lifetime Christmas movie—that’s what’s so refreshing about it. You have a tale as old as time: Hugo is a stressed-AF lawyer who comes home to Milwaukee for the holidays. While there he reunites with Patrick, his hometown crush who sold his multimillion-dollar company and now works with his dad. A romance blossoms with lots of sweet shenanigans: They get trapped on the roof hanging Christmas decorations! Patrick plans a romantic date for Hugo with all his favorite foods! They kiss while looking at the Northern Lights!
Of course, trouble comes when Hugo receives an incredible job offer in London. What will he choose: career or the hot Christmas-tree man he’s been seeing for a week who makes cherry-and-chocolate cookies (…yuck). If you’ve seen any Lifetime movie, you know the answer.
Which, honestly, is comforting as hell. While coming-out stories are necessary, arguably just as important is seeing gay characters integrated into mainstream storytelling. The Christmas Setup could’ve easily been a heterosexual movie—minus, ya know, the maybe-joke about bottoming—and that’s why it’s groundbreaking. There’s no gay trauma porn, no identity struggles, no raging homophobic neighbors. Just a heartwarming Christmas romance between two men.
“The fact that it’s so unremarkable, in the context of the movie, that it is two men, is actually more progressive in its own way,” Lewis said in a recent interview about the film. “We hope this is just opening a door for even more diverse representation, for queer people of color, trans people, nonbinary people.”
It has shades of what Hulu just did with Happiest Season, its queer holiday rom-com centered on two women (Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis). What’s special about these movies is how normal they are. “I grew up watching and loving conventional movies like this,” Kristen Stewart told EW about Happiest Season. “Seeing [marginalized] people loving each other in the middle of something that’s so standardized was really exhilarating and freeing.”