Before last week, many people probably hadn't heard of the obscure Christmas movies Too Cool For Christmas and A Very Cool Christmas.
But a viral tweet quickly revealed, however, an absolutely baffling fact.
They are, in fact, the exact same film except that one features straight parents, and the other features a gay couple.
W H A T !!! https://t.co/WowBSUkNm6— trevb (@trevb)1573443488.0
The movie is about a teenage girl who wants to go on a ski trip for Christmas instead of spending time with her family.
Twitter couldn't stop retweeting images and videos from the films, with one user writing:
"Other than the gender of the actor that plays the other parent, the two versions of the film are virtually identical with identical lines being delivered by both the actors and the actress and the exact same camera shots being used for their scenes in both versions...one for the more tolerant Canadian audience and the other one for the presumably more conservative US audience at the time."
Fascinating. And since one version is on Hulu and the other on Prime you can open two windows and play both at the… https://t.co/Ul1uUD5bSZ— David F. Sandberg (@David F. Sandberg)1573508320.0
"Great, we have it! Now let's swap the actors and do it again." https://t.co/kGpX2e3onp— David F. Sandberg (@David F. Sandberg)1573510175.0
Both films were directed by Sam Irvin, a 61-year-old, openly gay director based in Los Angeles.
"Back in those days, there was a little bit less open-mindedness to having gay characters. [Filmmakers thought] they would have better chances of selling [the straight version] to those more lucrative markets, but also be able to do an alternate version."
Irvin did point out that the two versions of the film weren't for different countries, but for different networks in America.
The version of the film featuring straight parents was produced for Lifetime, while the version featuring gay parents was made for Here TV, an America LGBTQ network.
"The executives at these companies decided, if we could have some gay content in a movie that could run on Here TV that would satisfy our subscribers that are expecting gay content, but we could also repurpose it and do a quote-unquote straight version and try to sell that to Lifetime or those types of networks, that would be beneficial."
btw - the straight version is on hulu and the gay version is on amazon prime (with a free trial), they're really baffling movies— trevb (@trevb)1573450993.0
The director also described his process for shooting the alternate scenes:
"On these lower-budget films, we don't always do a whole lot of takes, and we're moving on pretty quickly because it's such a tight schedule. Actor Barclay Hope played the main character Lindsay's (Brooke Nevin) dad in both movies."
"While filming scenes, they would swap out Ingrid Torrance, who played Lindsay's mom in one version, and Adam J. Harrington, who played Lindsay's other dad in the second version."
"We would shoot a scene with the mom and the dad, and when we'd get a good take I would say, 'Okay, let's have the mom set aside and bring in the alternate dad' and we'd shoot another take."
@trrvvb My take on this-- Heterosexual marriage - very cool Homosexual marriage - too cool— Sports Fact Lover (@Sports Fact Lover)1573574787.0
@trrvvb @meakoopa Now I'm imagining a feature where both movies are on stream and you can seamlessly switch like ch… https://t.co/xazuNNV8Xi— Yamazuya (@Yamazuya)1573466068.0
While some online thought the producers of the film were acting against LGBTQ interests for featuring no differences between the straight and gay couples, Irvin said he fought for that strongly while producing the films.
"I'm an openly gay director and they said, 'Why don't you tweak the dialogue for the dads to make it more gay or whatever?' And I said, 'Absolutely not. The whole point would be that there is no difference at all, and it shouldn't matter.' I wouldn't do it."
@trrvvb @JordanUhl the snyder cut is exactly the same except alfred is gay— strainja (@strainja)1573443964.0
@trrvvb @PhoenixJustice Where’s the special edition with the poly triad?— Dr Jonathan (@Dr Jonathan)1573474878.0
Though Irwin would have preferred to only make the version of the film featuring a gay couple as parents, he feels he did what he could in 2004 to make sure there was at least SOME representation of LGBTQ couples onscreen.
"It's such a highly competitive market place and some of the channels like Lifetime and Hallmark were not open to it back then. Hallmark even now is still fairly conservative and a bit formulaic."
"We just felt that, let's not try to change the world when we're just trying to sell some films. What we're really trying to do is to finance movies that can be exclusive to the gay network and the surest way to get that revenue source to get the gay movie made was to also make a project that doesn't color too far outside the lines and fits very much into the formula that worked in the past."
@trrvvb @AnaMardoll The fact this movie has a complicated backstory and isn't some fast made direct to video movie… https://t.co/39k94WGMHF— Alec (@Alec)1573478402.0
"As a gay man, I'm always frustrated that the world and society isn't more evolved in being accepting of this. But I was really jazzed that we were getting the opportunity to make a movie with two gay dads, and that was exciting that there could be another project that I could work on that would have LGBTQ representation."
@trrvvb @PFTompkins Hold on... https://t.co/TdgkLTu04W— Elvis Collins (@Elvis Collins)1573490026.0
@trrvvb Also "Too Cool for Christmas" as a title alone would upset a lot of people in America. A lot of them still… https://t.co/XkwAIigjus— Britton Stanaland (@Britton Stanaland)1573496585.0
At least now, in a slightly more accepting internet age, Irwin is glad people are able to discuss his films and progress seems to be happening.
"I hope that things are evolving where LGBTQ characters are being represented fully. There's always more work to be done and I'm hopeful that will continue and that we'll look back at these movies as kind of archaic workarounds."
You can get Too Cool for Christmas here.