Hallmark Is Taking the Gay Out of Christmas Carols
Hallmark, a chain of stores whose name is shorthand for “bullshit sentimentality for the lowest common denominator,” is selling a Christmas ornament that changes the word “gay” in the Christmas carol “Deck the Halls” to “fun.” The product description does nothing to address taking out the word “gay.” It only adds confusion:
"When it comes to Christmas sweaters, gaudy can be good! Hang up this flashy sweater to make your tree’s outfit complete. With its catchy phrase, Don we now our FUN apparel! everyone will be in on the joke."
I’m not sure what they mean when they say “everyone will be in on the joke.” It’s a really odd choice, actually. Is the joke about ugly sweaters? Because it’s distractingly obvious that the word “gay” has been switched out. Is that part of the joke? That “fun” is code for “gay”? That would be somewhat of a reversal when it comes to how the definition of that word “gay” has progressed. Is the joke that ugly sweaters are flamboyant, and thus “gay,” and now that we’ve changed the word to “fun,” you don’t have to be gay to enjoy them? I’m seriously asking.
It was hot enough to burn the dead lovebugs on my car’s hood. Farmland and pine trees were on the horizon, streets named after eight reindeer and brown wreaths hung on mailboxes. It’s not a holiday for the people of Christmas, Florida.
Christmas sits between Orlando and Cape Canaveral. The yuletide name of the community comes from the Second Seminole War. On December 25th, 1837, more than 2,000 US soldiers built a supply fort for the war. They never saw a day of battle. The place today seems like an outpost vibrating with its pioneer past.
Highway 50 runs straight into Country Craft ‘n Christmas. This year-round holiday store looks like a winter cottage airdropped into Florida-cracker land.
“First thing that I do in the morning, change out the numbers,” Becky Hamilton said.
Hamilton opened her doors in 2001, as owner and operator, always wanting to own a X-mas gift store.
Hamilton is more than just a business owner in Christmas, she is part of the historical association. She handed me some pamphlets for the Fort Christmas Museum.
“Why do I keep seeing the same last names popping up everywhere?” I asked.
“The town started with 21 pioneer families,” she said. “There are still descendants living in the community today.”
She then made a comment under her breath about cousins marrying through the years. As I left, she gave me a baseball-shaped gingerbread cookie and an “I Love My Cat/Christmas, Florida” nail file for my wife.
Up a couple blocks from Hamilton’s store is the Christmas Post Office. People come from all over to this post office to get their Christmas, Florida, postmark for their holiday mail.
The post office employee seemed caught off guard when I walked through her door.
“Do you get a lot of people during the holidays?” I asked.
She told me that there are lines out the door, so long that they run all the way around the side of the building.
I asked her about this mailbox which read: “LETTERS TO SANTA.”
The incident: A woman was unhappy with the Christmas dinner she bought.
The appropriate response: Complaining to the people that she bought the dinner from AND THEN SHUTTING UP AND NOT TELLING ANOTHER PERSON ABOUT IT BECAUSE NOBODY FUCKING CARES.
The actual response: She went to the Daily Mail, and sat there holding up her sad little dinner in a bag while some poor idiot took photos of her.
Nina Chaplin (pictured above, disgusted) paid $60 per person for her family to eat at a chain restaurant called The Cricketers. Which is one of those chains that isn’t Applebees, but the menus are so sticky it may as well be.
The dinner, apparently, was not very good. The meat seemed to be frozen rather than fresh, and the Christmas pudding was “rubbery.”
Later in the article, Nina brings her dead mother into it:
"Mrs Chaplin said she felt ripped off after paying almost £400 for the meal for 11 at The Cricketers in Rainham, Kent. She had decided to take her family out for Christmas lunch as a treat for her father, Bob Lander, 62.
‘This time of year is always hard for my dad because my mom died at Christmas some 13 years ago, so we always try to make it extra special for him,’ said Mrs Chaplin, 41.”
While I have a certain amount of sympathy for in those circumstances, she then goes on to say that she feels the most sorry for her father, who “suffers from emphysema and had saved up his pension money to pay for his meal.” So you took him out for a “treat” to help him deal with the death of his wife, and he had to pay for it himself out of his own pension money? Jeeeeeez.
As a Muslim from a Christian family, Christmas has historically been complicated for me. Converting to Islam as a teenager, part of what I wanted from my religion was a new identity; the differences between Christians and Muslims held more value for me than the similarities, so I abstained from my family’s Christmas celebration. The boundaries between religions were crucial to my personal reinvention. I believed that there was no way of interpreting Christmas other than through the theological lens in which Christ was the son of God; because this violated my understanding of Islamic monotheism, tawhid, I had to stay as far from Christmas as I could.
In later years, I gave up on my Christmas boycott. I now join in my family’s annual party—with a discreet trip to Denny’s first, because everything at the family dinner has pork in it and Denny’s is the only thing open—and apparently celebrate the birth of someone’s savior, but not mine. I’m now confident enough in my own Muslim selfhood to not let it be won or lost by a holiday. Anyway, the boundaries don’t always mean to me what they once did; but for numerous Muslims with Christian families, Christmas can be a difficult choice. Besides the theological question of whether celebrating Christmas means that you join in the worship of a human as God, there’s the matter of what constitutes proper Muslim behavior. Celebrating Christmas could be classified asbida’a, “innovation,” the corruption of an Islam that’s imagined to be otherwise pure and pristine through mixture with the practices of other communities.
For pro-Christmas Muslims, the esteemed place of Jesus in Islam might offer a rational defense for sharing in a Christian holiday; the Qur’an not only recognizes Jesus as a prophet, but also supports the story of his miraculous birth from a virgin mother. Some Muslims might take part in their families’ Christmas celebrations with the intention to honor Jesus as a Muslim prophet. This can even connect to Muslim traditions regarding Muhammad. Not all Muslims believe that it is appropriate to celebrate Muhammad’s birthday, but those who do might consider the celebration of other prophets’ birthdays as well.
Maybe this could be your life. Dressed in something nice. Dancing in a line. As you wait in the line, to dance, you think of what manner of dance you’re going to do. When it gets to be your turn, you clap your hands, spring into motion, and do the dance. Then you get back into the line and think about how your dance was, or was not, the best dance of the afternoon/evening.
Maybe this could be your life. Practicing for your school’s Christmas pageant. You are filled with confidence because you’ve always had a knack for the arts, and for dancing. Your hair looks great. You farted at one point, but no one noticed. Or if they did, they didn’t say anything. You’re wearing the sweatpants your Mom bought for you at the dollar store. You washed them in the sink the night before and laid them out to dry on your dresser.
Maybe this could be your life. Maybe this could be your culturally diverse gay family.
Maybe this could be your life. Maybe you own hair clippers to keep yourself tight and nice. Maybe your girlfriend buys you a new bottle of cologne every time she goes to the gas station. Maybe you collect hats. Hats from all over the world.
Maybe this could be your life. Maybe you like to enjoy a nice cigar on Christmas morning. Maybe that cigar came from someone’s butt. Maybe it just came from the store. Maybe it’s all you got for Christmas. Maybe it’s all you wanted.
Lexi Belle would like a water slide and promises to “send a thank you gift back!”
Bobbi Starr—actress, director, Colby College lecturer—would like a Philips Sonicare Rechargeable ElectricToothbrush and Swamplandia! by Karen Russell.
Bree Olson—ex-Sheen goddess—would like Seinfeld: The Complete Series and a Dirt Devil.
Jill Kelly, recently in the news after a woman with a similar name was linked to General Petraeus, maintains a Wish List despite her retirement from the industry. (In fact, several of the actresses included here are in varying states of retirement) Nevertheless, Jill would like 3DTV glasses and something called a “Streetrider Eclipse.”
John Waters Is Doing a Christmas Show and We Interviewed Him
John Waters is one of my favorite filmmakers, writers, and speakers. Every time he says or does anything I think, Wow, you are so smart and fun and I agree with everything you say. I love you. I’ve read all of his books multiple times. I’ve made drawings and paintings based on photos of him from when he was young and had long greasy hair. For a while my voicemail message was, “Oh Aunt Ida! Yeah, Aunt Ida! Don’t you look hot today!” On a purely personal level, John Waters is huge. He is also huge on all other levels. It makes me supremely happy that John’s work has seeped into the public consciousness through his Broadway musicals and either inventing or telling the world about tea bagging.
John is going to be performing a live Christmas show on December 3 at the Tarrytown Music Hall in Tarrytown, New York. As you might have guessed, I am very excited about that. Kimya Dawson will be performing at this show, and I am very excited about that too. When Robert Johnson, the show’s promoter, asked if I would like to interview John Waters to help spread the word, I came very close to dying right there on the spot.
So here it is. I hope you’ll read my brief interview with Mr. Waters and then go see his show on Monday.
VICE: Hi, John. It’s Nicholas from VICE. How are you doing? John Waters: I am fiiiine.
Thanks for speaking with me. In recent years you’ve been doing a lot of spoken word events. Why? This isn’t just in recent years, I’ve been doing it for 40 years. Divine and I would tour the colleges and we had a little act where a fake cop would come on stage and pretend to bust us for depravity. Divine would strangle him and hit him with a chair. I did it from the very beginning—it was the only way we could promote our movies! It’s changed very much though. I don’t come out with any movies or talk that much about my movies any more. Certainly I’ve been doing it for a long, long time though. Even the Christmas tour has been going on for ten years.
I’d like to know about your Christmas experiences, but I suppose you should save that for the actual event. No, you can ask me about them! I love Christmas, but I understand that some people hate it! It’s a very stressful time. I talk about everything concerning Christmas, including what I hate about it—and there are a lot of things I hate about it. Things like the behavior at Christmas parties, recycling gifts, gift baskets… Gift baskets should contain cigarettes, candy, and drugs, things you would never buy for yourself.
I can see why you’d be into Christmas so much. I’ve heard people say that art is a heightened form of life. In a lot of ways Christmas is also a heightened form of life. Christmas can unfortunately be a heightened form of capitalism too, but I don’t mind that because Christmas is good for criminals. Shoplifting is easier, there are presents in the car you can steal… At the same time, most stores survive off the commerciality of Christmas. I find that funny.
Coooool, every boy has sorted his iTunes based on year of release and decides which ten of those albums will constitute an appropriately highbrow-slash-lowbrow-slash-whatever communicates his tortured sense of self-slash-party jams combo, with two girls stuck in for fun (NOTE: “Girls” doesn’t count, sillies!). I hate “Year in Review.”
Here’s my “Girl Year In Review,” though: what every post, tweet, article and thing has missed in their pouch-lickings of Bridesmaids/Whitney/Mindy Kaling/Tina Fey/Diablo Cody/revolutionary-I-guess idea that women can be supportive of each other and co-exist professionally, et cetera, is that sometimes, women fucking hate each other, not because we are just as conflicted and terrible and hateful about women and the feminine as men are (how could anyone not be? Have you met AMERICA?), but for the eternal and simple reason that people hate other people, and women are people. Drink up that chocolate-flavored DOY MILK. When I’m privately breathing to myself “That girl is a fucking cunt,” it’s usually because I do not like that fucking cunt, because she’s a fucking cunt, not because she is a girl. Think about it in dude-terms (Is “He’s a dick” about his dick? Nope.). And that’s the way it is, she typed in a Walter Cronkite voice.