Around this time of the year, television networks, as well as streaming platforms, begin to crank out holiday specials one after the other; however, it seems that the only holiday advertised is Christmas.
Now, yes, there have been television specials concerning holidays such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but there just haven’t been enough.
Holiday specials are one of the most entertaining times that we, as television viewers, look forward to. Whether it’s your favorite cartoon or the basic sitcom, the ideas that content creators tend to draw upon make “holiday episodes” the most enticing.
Unfortunately, content creators sometimes exclude other religions and their holiday celebrations that occur around the same time.
Even the other Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Islam, don’t get that much shine, which is odd since the United States itself is not compromised of all the same followers of the same religion.
When you look at a common list of television shows, many of them participate in the idea of Christmas holiday specials. A smaller group of shows on one of these lists produce a non-Christmas related holiday special and then you have the tiniest group that might not do a holiday episode at all.
Because most holiday specials are either blatantly based around Christmas or with Christmas in the background, there is less of an incentive to explain what Christmas is. But when specials are done around any other winter celebrations, a good chunk of the episode would be full of just exposition, which is hardly good storytelling.
Episodes revolving around other Abrahamic religions still get a mass load of exposition, either because the storytellers could not weave together an interesting narrative or because they assumed that no one really knew anything about them.
Most show lack interesting narratives due to the recycling of plots, especially those based off of other Christmas and holiday tales. For example, there are countless television shows that have done their own spin of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and production studios have redone “The Nutcracker” at least three times in the past decade.
I think that the majority of this, however, has to do with a majority of the television networks that these shows are on tending to lean a little bit more conservative than liberal, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The drawback is that because of this, storytellers are not allowed to venture outside of the mainstream narrative and show something innovative, original and inclusive.
On the brighter side, there have been a few gems of television that are prime examples of what holiday inclusivity looks like.
Three examples of animated shows that tried their best to be inclusive for their time were “Rugrats,” “The Proud Family” and “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.”
“Rugrats” and “The Proud Family” gave us a look at holiday specials centered around holidays other than Christmas. They gave us fairly good representations of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah and how they are celebrated without forcing it down our throats. These episodes addressed it in a way that said, “hey these holidays exist too. Enjoy the show.”
Then you have “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy” that still told a Christmas story but one that was enjoyable for those who didn’t practice the Christian faith at all. It mixed the supernatural tones of its other episodes with the overly festive and jolly tones of a Christmas special.
So, are holiday specials a bad thing?
Absolutely not, they bring the family together no matter what conflict may be going on. They provide us with a level of euphoria that allows us to just unwind and chill. It is often thanks to their influence that we are able to relax and appreciate the holidays.
The fact that these specials do so much for us just makes inclusivity even more important. Not only does it make groups of people who are marginalized feel a sense of pride, but it also teaches children and adults alike about a new culture by way of an entertaining medium.