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Holiday Heart (2000)

HOLIDAY HEART as portrayed by Ving Rhames in Holiday Heart (2000)

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This movie seemed to get a lot of airtime on Showtime when it first premiered, and I watched it on at least a couple Sunday afternoons. Although I knew the film was technically a drama, I always recall an overarching air of comedy about it. I recently watched it and now think this was equally rooted in my own uncomformability with the subject as it was the inauthenticity of the storytelling. In perhaps one the most bizarre casting choices I can think of, Ving Rhames plays a drag queen mourning his lover while trying to build a new family of sorts with drug addicted Wanda, portrayed by Alfre Woodward, and her daughter Niki. Rhames is a very talented actor, and he approaches the role with sincerity, but it lacks believability. The screenwriter, Cheryl L. West, created a character that is very complex. He's a drag queen, he's a pillar in his church, and he's street tough. He can fix a toilet, fry the chicken and beat your face. This is not the problem. I know Holidays in real life, especially men of older generations. Years of code switching have created identities that are fluid and even contradictory within themselves. This requires a separate essay on Blackness and gayness that I will write later, but let's focus on this: Ving Rhames is Black but he is not gay. And neither is Cheryl L. West. And neither is Robert Townsend, the straight man who directed the piece. Together, they were only able to craft an ultimately superficial character based on their perception of someone else's experience. On the one hand I am grateful for a film that challenged audiences to see Black gay men as morally upright, spiritually grounded and family centered. On the other, I am frustrated that Black gay men did not get to write, direct or even act in it.

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