There's a new documentary out, I Am Santa Claus, about how mall Santas do their jobs and what they get up to when it's not the Christmas season. It features WWE wrestling superstar Mick Foley transforming himself into a Santa and is actually a surprisingly touching movie about a bunch of guys who are really dedicated to creating little moments of magic for kids, and not in any way a controversial film.
Oh, but one of the Santas, Jim Stevenson, is gay.
Naturally, the ubiquitous YouTube goblins latched onto the gay thing, offering comments like, "So, Santa Fag makes his film debut? How disgraceful! We, as a society, have become TOO accepting of immoral lifestyles. Fags need to be shamed not paraded around." No surprise there. YouTube comments are the dingleberries of the internet.
What was unexpected was that prominent Santas denounced the film publicly. They took to Facebook, calling it things like "an abomination to real bearded Santas." One wrote, "Only in American (sic) can you make a mess of Santa and get away with it, they are all on my very, very, naughty list and they won't be getting off of it anytime soon either. Very bad writers, directors and actors as well, bad very bad!!!"
The homophobia reached all the way to Mick Foley's personal Facebook account. He told the Mary Sue, "The hate I was getting from Facebook started to cancel out the joy I should have felt from the film."
I talked to director Tommy Avallone about the ugly reaction to a film that was only meant to give you something to watch with your parents during the holidays other than Home Alone.
VICE: Hi Tommy. Why'd you make a movie about Santas?
Tommy Avallone: Me and my wife were walking around the Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey one day and we saw Santa Claus and I was like, "I wonder what life that guy goes home to." Like, what family is waiting for him December 26? And that was the seed that I needed to start the movie.
How'd you find them?
We found that Santa Clauses exist on Facebook and we would send a message to them like, "Hey, you look pretty interesting, what would you think about being in this documentary? We'd love to talk to you!"
So the big homophobia blow-up happened when you released the trailer. What were they saying?
[The Santas] couldn't actually say what they were upset about, because they didn't want to seem like blatant homophobic people, they would just say they don't feel that we should "ruin the magic" of Christmas. We got called the armageddon of Santa World, we got told we were going to be on the "very naughty" list and that we would stay there for a very long time.
And then the harassment got pretty constant?
I'll post something that like, "Hey check out I Am Santa Claus on iTunes! DVD! Blu-ray!" and this one Santa from New York was like, "Don't waste your money!" and I'm like "Aaand, delete!"
You didn't engage, or try to argue with them online?
These guys are older men that don't quite understand the technology of Facebook and sometimes they like to fight, and I don't fight.
Not to stereotype older people…
No. Our Santa Claus who is gay is 73. It's all about where you're from. Where he lives in Dallas, they're very open to everything.
And he's also a bear. Are there a lot of bear Santas?
I just think a bear is usually a hairy, heavy man, so it's likely that some of them would want to play Santa. I don't think it's a thing though.
Negativity wasn't the only reaction you got from Santas, right?
Oh, any Santa Claus who actually took the time to watch the movie loved it. Because what we do is show that these are real men. We never said we were going to make a movie about Santa Claus. We're going to make a movie about the people who portray Santa Claus.
At the end of the day, they're grandpas and they're good people. They just have strong opinions.
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