HBO Max’s ‘Santa Camp’ Attempts Inclusivity Among Santas

“Santa Camp” is a holiday documentary focusing on the Christmas spirit and the creation of Santa Claus. It follows various individuals hired as mall Santas during the holidays, such as Santas of color, individuals with disabilities, and Santas of other genders. Many of the Santas bring up that they feel the Santa community is highly conservative. This documentary is an HBO Max original.

Opening with a discussion of what people think the progression of Santa should be, the documentary talks about the inclusion of Black Santa in 2016 at the Mall of America and the backlash that followed. The Santa Camp’s co-founder Dan says he aimed to create a more diverse Santa group. He began reaching out to individuals of color across the country to join his “Santa Camp.”

Courtesy of HBO Max.

According to the documentary, Santas meets all-year long despite often having other professions from all different fields. “Santa is like a brotherhood; we often call ourselves the Brother’s in Red,” said Santa T.J. The search begins to find Santas from different backgrounds for Santa Camp. Santas from different races, with special needs, who identify as queer, and those who do not fit into the traditional idea of Santa often struggle to find work as Santas and are often discriminated against. The documentary discusses a lot of issues about representation and the importance of people being able to see themselves in Santa.

“If I saw a trans-Santa when I was a kid, I think it would be comforting. Definitely empowering” said Santa Levi, a transgender Santa. 

Santa camp takes place in New England the middle of summer. It is similar to a summer camp. Some of the old White Santas struggle to understand the need for diversity. Santa Chris was the only Black Santa at Santa Camp and said he could tell some of the Santas were uncomfortable with his presence. Levi, the transgender Santa, and their partner had a similar experience at Santa Camp. The sexism within the Santa community is also addressed throughout the documentary. A lot of the older Mrs. Claus reinforced gender stereotypes, such as saying that Mrs. Claus should be the supporting role of Santa. Levi’s partner protests this, saying that she wants to be Dr. Claus and wear a pantsuit instead. The group is shocked at this suggestion.

Courtesy of HBO Max.

These Santas take courses that teach them the history of Santa, how to talk to children, and how to “ho, ho, ho!” The younger Santas learn from older Santas with 30 years of experience. After Santa Camp is over, the film follows three Santas that were mentioned previously, and the discrimination they face during the Holidays in their roles as Santas. 

Although this documentary focuses on this specific New England-based camp for Santa Clauses, it addresses issues that apply worldwide. If you like documentaries, it is definitely an interesting one to check out.

“Santa Camp” is available to stream on HBO Max.

By Meyshia Lantz

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