Thursday, May 5, 2011


It should come as no surprise that the headline I read this week that most disheartened me came from a Fox Network affiliate in Houston. Next to The National Enquirer, and Weekly World News one can always count on Fox newscasts for thinking that strains credulity.

"Is TV too gay?" This is the question posed by a newscaster (African American and female) to her guest, American Family Association (only if it is a white, Christian, two parent, heterosexual family) leader, Bryan Fischer. There was no attempt at evenhandedness, no attempt to present more than one side of this issue or have a real conversation about what time slot is most appropriate for a show with many adult themed elements. The gay activist interviewed appeared stunned to even be listening to the drivel and simply said,"I don't know why this conversation is being held."

The heart of the matter cannot possibly be,"Is TV too gay?" For members of the AFA-any amount of gay is too gay, any amount of unmarried coupling is too much, any amount of non Chrisitan religious views is too much.

Fischer contends that constant exposure to all that is gay is creating an atmosphere of temptation. Uh, no. I agree that too much of anything is too much: chocolate, porn, alcohol are all fine examples. But saying TV is too gay takes us in to the realm where there are too many female focused programs on TV, too many  black folks on TV, too many fat people, too many short people...

I have watched way too many episodes of Law and Order over the years...I have a little obsessive streak when it comes to Sam Watterston, and yet, I have never committed a crime, become a police officer, evaded arrest, prosecuted a criminal, or learned to play the"Duhn Duhn" sound at the beginning of each new scene in my day. I enjoy watching Glee every week but I still can't sing, can barely dance, and certainly don't intend to get knocked up by a member of the football team while having a slushie thrown in my face.

Here's what I think about TV and exposure to things that are different. It's good.

Being exposed to people with different beliefs helps every single one of us learn about the wider world, develop a sense of compassion and empathy for those that are different, and become engaged in things that are happening beyond our doorstep.

When I was little I didn't know anyone with Down's Syndrome until middle school and even then those students were put in a separate room so all I had to go on was the fact that a) they looked odd and b) they were a little slow. Then in college I saw a program called "Life Goes On" with a main character who had high functioning Down's Syndrome and while it certainly didn't expose me to everything about the condition it did help me understand that people with Down's are first and foremost people, and their wants and dreams are very much like my own.

When I was a child my mother took me to the symphony, ballet, and museums. The arts were important just for art's sake, but as I grew older I realized not everyone had parents who took them to see a Broadway musical or a Picasso exhibit. I met people who had never been to a zoo or seen the ocean firsthand. For all the complaining we do about the sorry state of the media-the reality is television is a window to a wider world for many people who live in rural communities, for those who do not have access or the finances to enjoy the arts in person, and yes for some people to understand that gay people are just They love and lose, succeed and fail. They cannot all dance or craft a fancy outfit out of a ziploc bag and strategically placed bandana. All gay women are not golfers, bodybuilders, or k.d. lang afficionados.

There are still many parts of our country where the population is not very integrated religiously or ethnically. Some Americans may never have the opportunity to experience a Seder meal or see the inside of a mosque without PBS or the History Channel. There are lots of people who grow up without ever having a black or latino friend-but most can identify that black and latino families have similar struggles to their own.

No matter what your religious or moral beliefs are -seeing the other side of the coin and becoming educated about another persons life can do nothing but strengthen you for your own life journey-even if it happens at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central.

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