Singing A Different Carol This Christmas

Christmas is the perfect time to get inside a cosy blanket and grab some snacks to enjoy a movie. Home Alone, Elf and Grinch are timeless classics and always a delight to watch during the holidays. If you are bored with these movies and the film buff inside you is looking for new movies this Christmas, Carol would be a perfect match for you. Released 2015 and set in 1950’s New York, recounts a homosexual love affair between Therese, an aspiring photographer working as a saleswoman and Carol, fighting for the custody of her daughter over the divorce with her husband. The 7.1 IMDB rated movie is 118 minutes long and has a befitting cast including: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Jack Lacey and Kyle Chandler.  

         Carol is based on Patricia Highsmith’s semi-autobiographical novel The Price of Salt (1952) inspired by the events of her own life. The novel was republished as Carol in 1990 with Bloomsbury. Interestingly, Highsmith published initially under the pseudonym Claire Morgan and later published with her own name to hide the skeleton in the closet. The movie was attempted to be made into a movie from 1995. But due to the controversial portrayal and to keep the fidelity of the novel intact, the production was delayed and was realised after more than 70 years since its first publication.

         The film opens during the Christmas season when Carol encounters Theresa in Frankenberg’s department store in Manhattan purchasing a present for her daughter. Theresa works as a saleswoman in the store. Their first encounter sparks an affinity with a casual flirtatious tone. Carol forgets her gloves and it prompts several consequential encounters between the characters with a growing fondness. The story revolves around the characters’ reflection and brewing tension around their homosexual identity. Carol and Therese are also part of the heteronormative society but they are doubtful about their identities. For instance, Therese has a boyfriend but is uncertain about their relationship and Carol is in a heteronormative family structure, ongoing divorce due to her homosexual identity and past relationship with Abby. Though Carol’s portrayal is determined, Therese finds herself in an ambivalent position. The film undergoes several turns and heightens in the affirmation of Therese’s identity. The voice of affirmation echoes in the lines of Carol,

“Dearest. There are no accidents and he would have found us one way or another. Everything comes full circle. Be grateful it was sooner rather than later. You’ll think it harsh of me to say so, but no explanation I offer will satisfy you. Please don’t be angry when I tell you that you seek resolutions and explanations because you’re young. But you will understand this one day”   

The Christmas season always puts not only the homosexual community, but also the queer community in a perplexed and uncomfortable situation. The holidays recall the old tradition and engage in a festive spirit and pushes the queer population to the sidelines and backwaters of the society. Eve Sedgwick, an American scholar in Queer theory outlines this problem as the “Christmas Effect” in Queer and Now. She remarks, “They all—religion, state, capital, ideology, domesticity, the discourses of power and legitimacy—line up with each other so neatly once a year, and the monolith so created is a thing one can come to view with unhappy eyes.” Queer population is challenged by the notion of heteronormative family. The family as a social institution represents gender construct and socially conditioned roles, state regulated marriage, the vast tapestry of (extended) family and relationships and homogeneity of culture. Carol Aird’s family situation reflects the Christmas effect. Her divorce over homosexual scandals and failing to secure the custody of her daughter mirrors her struggle against the incompatibility of heteronormative family structure. Queer community is perceived as a grinch by the once-in-a-year festival. Therefore, this season provides the perfect time to experience the Christmas Effect by inviting oneself to put in their shoes and revisit the movie.

Furthermore, it’s one of the most critically acclaimed movies. The British Film Institute announced it as the best LGBT movie of all time after a poll conducted for 100 film experts voting eight decades of movies. It secured 6 Academy Award nominations, 5 Golden Globe Award nominations and 9 BAFTA nominations across various categories. However, the Academy Awards faced slanderous remarks over failing to shortlist Carol for the best picture of the year nominations.

This year, it is special for LGBT communities and the supporters as the Pope has allowed blessings for same-sex couples and also Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, which is set to replace Indian Penal Code (IPC), decriminalizes the homosexual sex. These small victories and joys come as a present for Queer community and sets the mood to rewatch Carol this Christmas.

Check out the trailer here!

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