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This year, Hallmark will reportedly be making holiday cheer a little more queer. After criticism for its past holiday movie lineups that have not featured any LGBTQ leads, company representatives are claiming this year will be different.
“Diversity and inclusion is a top priority for us and we look forward to making some exciting programming announcements in the coming months, including announcements about projects featuring LGBTQ storylines, characters, and actors,” George Zaralidis, the vice president of network program publicity at Hallmark parent company, Crown Media Family Networks, wrote in a statement he emailed to NBC News.
Related: Was the Hallmark Channel’s CEO fired over the lesbian commercial controversy?
“We are committed to creating a Hallmark experience where everyone feels welcome.”
Zaralidis told NBC News, the company is in “active negotiations,” and will reveal “more details when we can.”
We are not free until a QUEER lonely careerist leaves the big city to run their small-town family business during the holidays and inadvertently falls in love with a generically good-looking person from their past. https://t.co/ei2zzVb6HX
— JP Larocque (@jplarocque) July 15, 2020
The statement comes after Hallmark released a partial lineup of its forty upcoming holiday films for the 2020-2021 season, a lineup that made critics fear the channel would once again leave queer couples out of the narrative.
Movies are not the only place where the Hallmark Channel has found criticism for its handling of LGBTQ representation. In January, the company came under fire for caving to the demands of conservative group One Million Moms and removing a commercial that featured a lesbian couple.
Hallmark quickly reversed its decision to pull the ad after a slew of criticism. Not long after, then CEO Bill Abbott stepped down, leaving many to wonder whether his handling of the ad controversy had something to do with his departure. Abbott’s replacement still has not been announced.
In December 2019, Abbott told the Hollywood Reporter that Hallmark is open to “really any type of movie of any type of relationship in any space.”
Crown Media’s executive vice president of programming and network publicity, Michelle Vicary, also stated last year that, “We are looking at pitches for LGBTQ movies… and we are looking to expand and represent the United States as a whole.”
GLAAD, which fights for LGBTQ representation in media, said it would not comment to NBC News until Hallmark released its entire list of movies for the 2020-2021 season.