[“When Harry Met Santa” is the last short of my “7 Queer Christmas Shorts for 2021” post. To read the previous review, “Christmas Coming Out“, click HERE.]
My last queer Christmas short for 2021 is another new addition, although it’s not a traditional short film… It’s actually a TV Commercial! Noway’s postal service has become known the past few years for creating rather unique twists on the usual Christmas season TV ads. This year with “When Harry Met Santa”, they’ve embraced the fact that Norway has a long history of accepting everyone while providing a unique twist on the traditional Santa Claus story: Santa in love with a man. Let’s break down why this is such a heartwarming commercial, even though homophobes are trying to ruin its magic.
Synopsis of “When Harry Met Santa”
Detailed synopsis… to be written…
First a bit of history. Posten (the Norwegian postal service) has made waves the past few years with their Christmas TV ads, toying the line of interesting and even controversial. “When Harry Met Santa” is 2021’s entry – and boy, did it make some noise! But before we get into that, let’s break down this short TV commercial as if it were a short film.
The premise behind “When Harry Met Santa” is rather simple, yet the story also takes time to build. After that first night of Harry spying Santa in his living room, they both begin an annual flirting back and forth that takes years, but also seems to go nowhere. How do we know this? Well, Harry visible ages as each year passes. However, part of what makes the ending so much more powerful is that amid the montage spanning the years, we get a few emotional moments such as when Harry breaks down crying. This leads to Harry finally writing a letter to Santa saying “All I want for Christmas is you”. It’s almost gut-wrenching, the long-distance relationship that won’t ever seem to get any better. And cramming the building relationship into the short time on Christmas Eve, Santa’s busiest night, certainly doesn’t help. We can relate to Harry’s confusion and surprise when the doorbell rings instead, with a Posten worker delivering his presents. Yet the utter joy on his face when he spies Santa waiting behind him, finally having time to spend with Harry is simply beautiful. And when they share that kiss, it’s just magical!
Now, back down to reality… in order for “When Harry Met Santa” to work, we have to suspend a few things. For one, Santa is the typical older man but a much slimmer one than most stories portray. And what about Mrs Claus??? This is the first time that I know of where such an iconic figured as Santa even shows attraction to men. So is he cheating? Did something happen to his wife? We really don’t know – but frankly, who cares? (Well, many of the complainers regarding the TV ad do… but that’s to be expected from homophobes.) It’s fresh and a new twist on a classic, and it’s beautifully done. The one question I have is: is the kiss we see in the short the first time over the years that they have embraced? Terje’s Santa seems quite hesitant and nervous, as if it’s his first time kissing a man. (Which goes along with the other queries about Mrs Claus…)
Both Johan Ehn and Terje Stromdahl do an excellent job portraying Harry and Santa, respectively. Johan gives us the full range of emotion. And Terje doesn’t say much, but there is no question that the costumer did an incredible job bringing Santa to life! The other cinematographic elements are phenomenal and really help drive the message to heart. I absolutely loved the choral underscore throughout the years. The only issue I had is that the years blurred a bit too much. I can’t tell if it’s a few years, five years, twenty? If it’s more than a few years, you have to start wondering why Harry continues to wait for Santa if they can only meet just once a year, and for a brief moment at that. I’m getting nit-picky here, but it bothered me in what was otherwise a perfect queer short film.
So why did Posten opt for a beautiful, yet controversial TV commercial this year? Well it turns out that June 17, 2022 is the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Norway! With an emotional rollercoaster ride, “When Harry Met Santa” is a beautiful romance between two older men that will warm your hearts. If you haven’t yet seen this TV commercial, I highly encourage you to go watch it on YouTube now! And grab the tissues – if you aren’t crying tears of happiness at the end, you have to be the Grinch. Seriously, it’s simply wonderful.
Queer Relevance of “When Harry Met Santa”
For this beautiful queer Christmas TV commercial, the queer relevance in “When Harry Met Santa” is two-fold. Not only do we see two men fall in love over the years before finally sharing a romantic kiss, but 2022 is an important year for Norway. As mentioned above, next year is the 50th year of Norway decriminalising homosexuality. As one of the most supportive European countries, the company also wanted to embrace their inclusive, discriminatory policies for the rest of the world to take note.
Now, as some of the nay-sayers have mentioned in comments online, the decriminalisation didn’t necessarily bring forth a wave of inclusivity. It was not until 1979 when LGBTQ folks were allowed to serve openly in their military, and even then until 1981 when they passed anti-discriminatory laws that included sexual orientation. It took even longer before civil partnerships were legalised in 1993, with same-sex, gender-neutral marriage finally being signed into law in 2009. Norway has been at the forefront for most of Europe though, so while the “50 years of being able to love whoever we want” is a slight stretch, it’s still quite an important and relevant anniversary.