2018 Holiday RomComs Starring People of Color

2018 and the yea… two… several years prior have been ROUGH. And that’s a severe understatement. So I know myself, and many of my friends, are leaning heavily in the Christmas season this year. One way to do that is to sit with a blanket and a cup of cozy hot chocolate and watch cheesy Christmas movies. But usually these movies are alllll starring white people. I looked up several lists of this year’s Christmas romcoms and I saw more blondes than FOX News. (Some of them probably WATCH FOX News too…)

But thankfully, Lifetime, Netflix, and Hallmark (and, in a blessed update, TV One, BET Her, Freeform, and Bounce TV) have heard our cries and have finally provided some Christmas movies starring people of color. We celebrate Christmas and like seeing people fall in love too! There are a handful of titles on this list that look fun and cute and a great way to spend an afternoon, and hopefully more networks get on the bandwagon and every year we get more and more. (Also maybe some celebrating other holidays. Maybe I’ll write a Kwanzaa-themed romcom someday.) Until then, here’s what’s playing and where they’re airing. Leave a comment if I missed one!

Streaming

The Holiday Calendar, Netflix

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Starring: Kat Graham, Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us), Quincy Brown, and Ethan Peck

Airdate: Nov 2

I’ve heard good things about this story about a photographer who runs into a psychic advent calendar. Somehow that leads her to love, I’m ready to find out how. I’m brimming with excitement that she’s a photographer, like I sometimes am. I’ll likely start next week when Thanksgiving finally kicks off. No matter how hard I try, I can’t start Christmas earlier than that. But I’m glad this movie is already there waiting for me.

The Princess Switch, Netflix

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Starring: Vanessa Hudgens

Airdate: Nov 16

Vanessa Hudgens stars in a Meghan Markle meets Prince(ss) and the Pauper story about look-a-likes — a Duchess and a commoner from the Chi — who trade places and fall in love while dressing up.

(Someone tell Hulu and Amazon Prime to join in on the Christmas RomCom train!)

Hallmark

Christmas Everlasting

Starring: Tatyana Ali and Dondre Whitfield, Patti (Patti!) LaBelle, Dennis Hasbert

Airdate: Nov 24

Tatyana Ali is in not just one, but TWO Christmas romcoms this year! In Hallmark’s Christmas Everlasting, Tatyana’s character is a New York lawyer on track to become partner at her lawfirm. But her sister dies, leaving her to return to Wisconsin (Wisconsin?!) to help with the funeral, re-encountering her past. She reconnects with my fave romantic lead from Queen Sugar, Dondre Whitfield (I’ve been asking for him to have a romcom for ages, so I’ve been doubly blessed that it’s a Christmas one) her old high school sweetheart and a fellow lawyer. Not-Remy tells her she’s gotta live in her family home for 30 days before she can settle her sister’s estate, leading her to forming human connections and all that jazz (who doesnt love a good New York High Powered Lawyer Softens Up trope?).

A Majestic Christmas

Image result for a majestic christmas hallmarkStarring: Jerrika Hinton

Airing: Dec 2

Remember Dr. Stephanie from Grey’s Anatomy? She left the show to do other things and here’s one of those other things! This one’s another “girl goes back home” story but this time she’s an architect (okay Black architects!!) who has to change a historic local playhouse into a multiplex. Jerrika’s character has to convince the theater owner to save the playhouse, while also keeping her job and maybe falling in love in the process. So. Many. Tropes!

Memories of Christmas

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Starring: Christina Milian, Mark Taylor 

Airdate: Dec 8

Christina Milian’s character, Noelle, in this one sounds like a bit of a Scrooge who must tend to her Christmas-loving late mother’s house. She finds out that her mom hired Dave to decorate the house even though she died, and Grandpa Gene, I mean Dave (and the spirit of Christmas in the air!!!) must convince Noelle to embrace Christmas and further her mother’s legacy in the town. (I tried to get an AM to PM reference in there, but I failed.) Never forget Mark Taylor was in Seventeen Again! My 2000s hearts is singing!

A Gingerbread Romance

Image result for gingerbread romance hallmarkStarring: Tia Mowry-Hardrict, Duane Henry

Airdate: Dec 15

Tia Mowry-Hardict also stars in two Christmas movies this year. She also plays an architect (okay Hallmark!) who wins a contest to build life-sized gingerbread houses (what?!), which could lead to a promotion. Tia convinces a single, hot dad bakery owner to work with her on the project and falls for him AND HIS KID in the process. Omggg. Also it’s set in Philly!

Christmas Made to Order

Starring: Alexa PenaVega (Spy Kids)

Airdate: Dec 23

The Spy Kids kids are all grown up and starring in Christmas movies! But here’s the thing: the male lead? ALSO AN ARCHITECT (but a white guy this time). (Who do we blame for this Hallmark? All those fixer upper shows?). Architect Steven hires a holiday coordinator (Gretchen, PenaVega) to make his house Christmassy but in Hallmark’s own words: “neither expected it to bring them closer to each other.” (Read it aloud in breathy italics. Then laugh.) But will Gretchen stay in the Christmas love she and Steven have formed or will she take another opportunity? Sounds angsty!

A Midnight Kiss

Starring: Carlos PenaVega

Airdate: Dec 29

So, Alexa PenaVega’s HUSBAND is also in a Christmas RomCom and I am so sad about the missed opportunity to pair them TOGETHER, but I think they did that last year with Hallmark’s Enchanted Christmas. (I suppose once you get in the Hallmark Christmas business, you keep on doing them.) Lisa and her family of party planners (this is a thing? Let’s just go with it I guess) are about to host a big New Year’s party for a tech entreprenuer. Lisa recruits her brother’s friend (her brothers ffrriieennnddd) and the two fall in love while working together. (hnng)

Lifetime

My Christmas Inn

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Starring: Tia Mowry-Hardict, Jackée Harry, Tim Reid

Airing: Nov 21

In Tia Mowry’s second romcom of the season, Jen is on the verge of a huge promotion in San Francisco when she inherits an inn in Alaska. She heads north to see what’s up and meets Steve and a lovely Christmas-loving community. Could Alaska beat San Francisco for her heart? This movie also stars Tia’s Sister, Sister co-stars Jackée Harry and Tim Reid. It’s a mini reunion!

Jingle Belle

Lifetime Holiday Movies

Starring: Tatyana Ali, Cornelius Smith Jr, Keisha Knight Pulliam, 

Airdate: Nov 25

In Tatyana Ali’s second holiday romcom of the season, Ashley Banks gets to hang out with Rudy and Vanessa Huxtable, aka Keisha Knight Pulliam and Tempest Bledsoe co-star! Isabelle (Ali) returns home (somebody always returning home in these things) to see that her high school sweetheart, who she left out in the cold to go study music in New York, is directing the Christmas Eve Paegent. Can they work together and rekindle that flame? Will they sing beautiful songs? Will we cry when they kiss after their sing together at the paegent?! Find out on Jingle Ball Z!

This one airs one day after Ali’s other one on Hallmark, so make a marathon out of it with your DVR.

A Twist of Christmas

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Starring: Vanessa Lachey 

Airing: Dec 1

Nick Lachey’s wife, Vanessa, who I just learned is Filipina, stars as a working mom who meets a working dad when they mix up their toys at the department store. Okkaaaaay, yes, a let’s track down these toys and track down the love in our hearts story. Let’s. Go.

The Christmas Pact

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Starring: Kyla Pratt, Jarod Joseph, Kadeem Hardison & Jasmine Guy

Airing: Dec 2

Grown Penny Proud, ahem, Kyla Pratt, aka Sadie in this movie, and her childhood best friend Ben made a Christmas pact behind their church (aww) I presume to be friends forever and to keep up their annual traditions no matter what. They planted a tree (aaawww) and, according to Lifetime: “With each Christmas that passes by, Ben and Sadie’s Christmas tree grows taller and stronger; and so does their love.” SO DOES THEIR LOVE, YOU GUYS!! I bet they decorate it together at the end and kiss and then they flash forward to their kids playing under the tree or something. Also DWAYNE AND WHITLEY STAR?! IMDb has no details on who they play yet, but… is it December 2 yet?

Every Day is Christmas

Lifetime Holiday Movies

Starring Toni Braxton

Airing: Nov 24

I read the title of this in Toni’s signature tenor. I hope there’s a Toni Christmas song to go with this movie, which is apparently a Christmas Carol!! Alexis is a money manager who doesn’t like the spirit of Christmas, so some spirits of Christmas come visit her, “forcing her to risk the one thing money can’t buy: her heart.” Let’s just hope her Yuletide Beau is man enough for her. 

Christmas Lost and Found

Starring: Tiya Sircar (from The Good Place!)

Airing: Dec 7

If you watch The Good Place (which you totes should be doing) you know Tiya Sircar as Real Eleanor/Vicki (spoilers on whether that’s one character or two, real ones know what’s up). Well she stars as a NYC event planner who spends time with “Grandma Frances” in Chicago for the holidays. There’s a holiday ornament scavenger hunt, a love story, and wise lessons. (But I hope they explain why Indian actress Sircar has a white Grandma. It happens, but I hope they get into it.

UPDATE! I was tipped off to some recent additions by TV One and BET Her, so I’m adding them to the list! If I’ve missed any others or new ones get announced, please let me know!

TV One

Merry Wishmas

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Starring: David and Tamela Mann (who also are among the film’s executive producers), Kim Fields, Towanda Braxton

Airing: Dec 2

Kenni (Tamela Mann) guess the trope: returns home! This time, to Columbia, South Carolina. She reconnects with high school friend Jessie (David Mann) and he introduces her to people from the local wellness facility. When the Jessie is threatened with losing the facility, Kenni tries to help save it, but they may need the miracle of Christmas in order to make it happen. You know there’s gonna be some church and some sangin’ if the Manns are involved, so buckle in!

Coins For Christmas

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Starring: Stephen Bishop, Essence Atkins, TC Carson, Kelly Price and Karlie Redd

Airing: Dec. 16

I’ve loved Essence Atkins since Smart Guy! She stars as Madison, a single mom who wants her teen kids to have a great Christmas, but she’s fired and her bank account is frozen (been there), so she gets a gig working for a (also secretly broke) football player, who she clashes with. Yessss opposites attract!! She’s bookish and he’s sporty, will they make it out of the poorhouse together?!

Bounce

A Stone Cold Christmas

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Starring Demetria McKinney

Airing: Nov. 25

This one is another Christmas Carol take, this time with Mia Stone, a businesswoman and grinch of a boss who only cares about money. But the love of her life makes her consider her decisions, as well as some ghosts from her past present and future.

BET Her

One Crazy Christmas

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Starring: Tammy Townsend, Terri Abney, Sean Blakemore, Kiana Dancie

Airing: Nov 17

Sabrina (Tammy Townsend) must face her ex-husband at Christmas dinner when their daughter Leslie (Terri Abney) brings home her new fiance Juan. A dinner time movie with some family mess! Anyone looking to avoid theirs can look no further than this hopefully juicy story.

Freeform

The Truth About Christmas

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Starring: Kali Hawk

Airing: Nov 25

Part of Freeform’s Kick Off to Christmas (their lead-in to 25 Days of Christmas), this one sounds like the romcom version of Scandal, honestly. Jillian, a political consultant, is about to work spin for her mayoral candidate boyfriend when she’s given some sort of truth serum before meeting his family. Who doesn’t love a “can only tell the truth” trope?!

No Sleep Til Christmas

Starring: Odette Annable

Airing: Dec 10

From TV Guide: “The Christmas rom-com stars the married couple as two insomniacs who discover they can only get a good night’s sleep when they are sleeping next together. Odette stars as Lizzie, a high-end event planner who’s facing down her biggest event yet: her own New Year’s Eve dream wedding to her fiancé Josh (Charles Michael Davis).” This is SUCH a fanfic trope!!

 

🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

And don’t forget while you’re cooking your holiday eats, loading the dishwasher, or resetting your DVR, that you can play John Legend’s new Christmas album, A Legendary Christmas.

Be merry, friends!

 

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I Was Quoted in Bitch Magazine on the New “Annie” Movie

A while back, I wrote this article on Annie for Black Girl Nerds (still super proud of it’s title), then Emily Hashimoto of Bitch Magazine asked for more of my thoughts on having a black girl lead in a movie, which I happily provided. Here’s the quote:

“Having more images of [young women of color] on film, which everyone absorbs from a very young age, could be so inspirational and allow girls to look at themselves as heroes, as conquerors, as worthy of rising above whatever problems they may have, because someone who looked like them was able to do it, even if it’s just on film,” writer Constance Gibbs explains.

In another article I wrote for Black Girl Nerds, I talk about “People of Color and the Empowerment Fantasy” and the lack of stories starring PoC protagonists who get to have superpowers. The great thing about Annie is that she is a poor girl who gets to live richly. There are very few stories where people of color get to live that fantasy. There was a film in the 90s called Blank Check where a kid finds a millionaire’s signed but blank check and he puts $1 million on it and deposits it. Then he has days and days of fun until he spends all the money. Could that film have been made with a black kid? I doubt it. We rarely get to rise out of the media portrayal of blacks in poverty (which is why The Jeffersons and The Cosby Show and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air were so important, showing the other side of the coin), so movies like Annie are important in showing black kids, especially poor black kids, that they can be themselves and have fun and that its still possible to escape whatever problems they’re living in. It’s all about hope; sometimes that hope is all you need to see a better future for yourself even when things are bleak.

Anyway, please read the rest of the article In Praise of Difficult Girls | Bitch Media.

P.S.

She called me “writer Constance Gibbs.” Ahh! 2015 is about living up to that title even more than this year.

Gina Prince-Bythewood on Beyond the Lights and her start in television (I get a covert shout out!)

BTL1Shannon M Houston, writer for Paste Magazine, got to interview Love & Basketball writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood about her latest movie Beyond the Lights. Before the interview, she asked me on Twitter what I would ask Gina. I knew that she wrote for A Different World at the beginning of her career, so I wanted to know if she’d ever return to television. Shannon asked the question and I got a covert shout out and a response! Here’s the quote:

Paste: Your name came up the other night while I was tweeting with Black Girl Nerds during a podcast. One of the co-hosts is a big fan of yours, and she suggested I ask you about transitioning from TV to film, and whether or not you’d consider a return to TV.
Prince-Bythewood: TV was such a great training ground for me. I was very fortunate to have gone right from film school to A Different World. Going to work every day with three black women running the show made it normal for me. Later, I worked with J.J. Abrams, which was amazing. I learned a lot from him. I love TV!My So-Called Life was one of my favorite shows growing up. I love writing it, because I loved watching it. But ultimately, I knew I wanted to get into directing. I wanted that big canvas, so I left after five years.

I will do TV again eventually. I’m actually writing a pilot now, but I’d never attach myself to a show that’s expected to do 22 episodes over five years. I just couldn’t do that. But with TV now, it’s great because you can create shorter seasons, or you can be on the peripheral.Her response makes a lot of sense–she used TV to propel her career into the direction she wanted, but still loves the genre. I wonder what her pilot is about (and how I can write for whatever show it is!) and if we’ll see it on television someday. Something Gina says later in the interview also really resonated with me because it’s something that’s also important to me:

GPB1Prince-Bythewood: When we allow Hollywood to have “black film” as a genre it limits us. They do one film a year with a black cast, and that’s their black film. I want us in every genre—sci-fi, romance, period pieces—that is really my fight.

This is what I want as well. I want black films and TV shows to be seen as more than just the “urban” film/show of the year. Gina mentions that Scandal isn’t a black show–and neither is How to Get Away with Murder–but they have black leads and that often makes people want to dump them into an “urban” category, but that’s not what they are. They are TV shows, political and law shows (however loosely they accurately portray real life haha), with black leads. They don’t have to be shoved into a box that only black people are allowed to unlock. We need more television and film with black stars and we need them in all genres. The Marvel Black Panther film isn’t out until 2017 and Will Smith’s next movie is a con movie (as fun as those are), so when will I get to see a black person leading a science-fiction movie? Or a fantasy film? I need studios to get rid of the idea that making a “black” film or show doesn’t intersect with making a romance or sci-fi/fantasy or period piece. They aren’t mutually exclusive ideas and can still appeal to wide audiences (read: white audiences too) .

I loved this article, love that Gina answered my question, and love that she and I have similar ideas on widening the genres black stars are allowed to lead in. I hope her pilot gets made, but in the meantime, I just hope that she has more films on the way, because I really enjoyed Beyond the Lights and we need more films like it.

For the rest of the article, go here: Gina Prince-Bythewood On Beyond the Lights, and Dismantling the “Black Film” Genre (Paste Magazine).