How I Am Santa Claus Producer & WWE Legend Mick Foley Feels About The Backlash To The Film’s Gay Santa
The spirit of the season is about love and acceptance.
“I am a guy who used to go out of my way to make people dislike me for a career. But this is what puts people over the edge?” WWE Hardcore Legend Mick Foley (aka “Mankind,” “Dude Love,” and/or “Cactus Jack”) knows a thing or two about creating a character. But when the trailer for I am Santa Claus, in which Mick stars and produces, was released, Mick discovered that having a gay man in a film which celebrates professional Santas was enough to turn the internet on its ear.
The film, now available on DVD, is presented by Morgan Spurlock and directed by Tommy Avallone. It follows the lives of men who have gone to great lengths to portray Saint Nick. The men, whose regular professions include real estate agents, sprinkler/barbecue experts, antique dealers, entrepreneurs, and retired workers, alter their appearance, wear Christmas themed clothes throughout the year, and wait patiently for the Christmas season when they can put on the Santa suit, hang at the local mall, and spread joy to children.
Yet, as we have learned from Taylor Swift, the haters are gonna hate. As word of I am Santa Claus spread, various internet users were shocked by one Santa, “Santa Jim,” who is gay. Posts featuring homophobic messages spread to the film’s various social network sites. Some comments threatened Mick, some threatened Jim, and many used slurs that will not be repeated. The blowback got so bad that Mick announced a break from his personal Facebook page, the space where three-fourths of his friends are other Santas who have been incredibly supportive of the film.
It appears that, upon seeing a gay man who loves Santa Claus and wants to bring joy to the hearts of children, folks on the internet lost their damn minds. It was too much to see a kind, gentle man want to spread love and joy! The horror!
I should point out that I know Mick a little. We started talking over Twitter and texts after Mick read my first book, Sing Us a Song, Piano Woman: Female Fans and the Music of Tori Amos. (Did I mention Mick is also a huge Tori Amos fan?) I like to think of him as an awesome pal; his passion and conviction in life is inspirational. He has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for organizations like RAINN and Childfund International and has joked that you can Google the words “Hell in a Cell”, “Hardcore Legend” and “Feminist” to find him, a feat not normally part of WWE stardom.
Mick and I talked recently about the reactions to Jim. Mick said, “I would dare anyone to watch the film and not like Santa Jim. I think there are going to be two types of reactions to Jim: some will be touched by him, and others will have to work hard to convince themselves that they were not touched by him. Jim clearly does an outstanding job of making children feel special.”
“The hate I was getting from Facebook started to cancel out the joy I should have felt from the film,” Mick continued. ” I am anticipating the most joyful Christmas for my family and I didn’t want anything to get in the way of that. So I decided to take a break.”
Mick even suggests that being Santa is a lot like cosplay. “In both cases, people are dressing up to be something greater than they actually are,” he said. “The time you are in the chair you are so much wiser, kinder and gentler.” Mick talked about a film called Hunted: The War against Gays in Russia, and made the connection that the hostility focused on LGBT people is particularly unnecessary in the Santa world. “I hope people will watch the movie before judging and see the struggle to live up to the spirit and legacy of the red suit, to spread joy to others. They will feel the warmth from Jim.”
Perhaps leaving judgment and hostility toward a Santa who wears rainbow suspenders out of the equation is the best way to celebrate Christmas and the spirit of Saint Nick.
Adrienne Trier-Bieniek, PhD is a gender and pop culture sociologist. She is the author of Sing Us a Song, Piano Woman: Female Fans and the Music of Tori Amos (Scarecrow Press 2013) and the co-editor of Gender and Pop Culture: A Text-Reader (Sense 2014). Her writing has appeared in various academic journals as well as xoJane, Gender & Society Blog, Feministing, and Girl w/Pen and she runs the Facebook page Pop Culture Feminism. Adrienne is a professor of sociology at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida.