Norway’s ‘gay Santa’ advert is achingly beautiful and something we should celebrate

It’s not Harry kissing Santa that’s distasteful, but the echoes of the historical villainisation of gay male sexuality that reverberate through the objections to this ad

Katie Edwards
Saturday 27 November 2021 14:00
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Santa gets a boyfriend in Norwegian Christmas advert

Are you looking for something to warm up your winter? To sweeten your mulled cider? Then Norwegian postal service Posten have got just the ad for you.

Their seasonal campaign “When Harry Met Santa” celebrates 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in Norway, and it’s a tender and touching celebration of love.

What says Christmas more than a sweet and gentle love story? Not Santa snogging another bloke, apparently. While the ad has gone viral – with plenty of fans – commentators on TalkRadio this week spluttered that the “woke gay Santa advert is sexualising Christmas”.

Really? I mean … really?! Now, I know that woke-bashing has become de rigueur, and that, after the backlashes against the #MeToo and BLM campaigns, we’re supposed to protect our precious and delicate cultural icons from the clutches of the baying woke mob – but are we really saying that the heartwarming romance between Harry and Santa is a woke step too far? Has Posten sexualised Santa? Oh, go and stuff your face with a selection box and give it a rest!

There are a couple of serious problems with this “sexualising Santa” shtick.

The truth is that Christmas and Santa have been sexualised for years already, and few people have batted an eye. Sexy Santa outfits are standard fare for women at this time of year. Over the last few decades, celebs of every ilk and era, from Marilyn Monroe to Love Island’s Maura Higgins, have donned the skimpiest of Santa costumes. What about Christmas classics such as “Santa Baby” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”? Weren’t they sexualising Christmas decades before Posten’s ad came along? Mrs Claus has appeared in many a festive film. Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn had a snog as Mr and Mrs Claus in The Christmas Chronicles – did anyone spit their eggnog out over that?

So is it really the Santaphilia that’s giving some viewers the ick, or is it that Santa’s gone and got himself a boyfriend?

In the Posten ad, after many Christmasses of chatting, laughing and longing, Santa and his beau share a lingering kiss. It seems prurient to interpret such a moment of achingly beautiful affection as the sexualisation of Santa.

Posten’s ad only seems to be sexualising Santa because it’s not the standard heterosexual portrayal we’re used to seeing – the one that’s become so accepted as the norm that it’s invisible. We don’t see a straight couple, Mrs and Mrs Claus, as “sexualised”. Rather, they’re reassuringly cosy and homely. On the other hand, gay male couples are hyper-sexualised. The focus is on the nature of their sexual practice rather than the nature of their relationship.

Troublingly, some commentators have gone as far as to suggest that the ad is inappropriate and unsuitable for kids. The idea that the “Gay Santa” ad is somehow unseeming and improper for kids’ viewing has uncomfortable echoes of the arguments that schools shouldn’t “teach” homosexuality, or the furore in 1989 when EastEnders showed the first mouth-to-mouth kiss between gay men on British television.

Yes, Santa is a fictional cultural icon that is mainly targeted at children, but why does that mean he can’t be gay? What’s so offensively woke about that? If it’s the kiss that’s making people queasy, why so puritanical about this particular snog? It’s not as if kids are shielded from straight couples kissing in popular culture – why should they be shielded from same-sex couples?

It’s not Harry kissing Santa that’s distasteful, but the echoes of the historical villainisation of gay male sexuality that reverberate through the objections to this ad. The argument that children shouldn’t be witness to Santa falling in love with and kissing a man is only a step away from suggesting that gay men are a corrupting influence on kids. It’s dangerously close to saying “I don’t mind men being gay as long as they aren’t rubbing it in my face”.

Posten’s advert is charming and beautiful. Detractors who say it’s “sexualising” Santa? Well, maybe they should woke up.

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