You know what I always hated about How I Met Your Mother? How straight it was. I mean, seriously, they just continue to rub their straightness in our faces with their straight relationships between cis-men and cis-women and all their straight sexual encounters. So maybe we should ask, “How is all this straight TV hurting our children?”
See any problem with the framing there? Apparently Fox News’ Houston affiliate doesn’t. Last week, following the “Born this Way” Lady Gaga-inspired Glee episode, the news organization posed this question regarding the portrayal of homosexual relationships.
(I’d like to note that many have – in my opinion – very fairly criticized the show’s lack of engagement with questions of race. Others have also critically reviewed this particular episode for its portrayal, and perhaps failures, on other forms of marginalization.)
The problem begins with their chosen question and how it is framed, but doesn’t stop there. First, Fox Houston poses this question already assuming that homosexual characters or relationships on TV do hurt children, and then ask “How?” That’s simply terrible journalism and repetition of homophobic rhetoric.
Then, they invite Bryan Fischer, leader of the American Family Association, an organization deemed a hate-group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, as a talking head of the program. On the other side (because in TV, there is no nuance, just one side and the other), was longtime Houston-based gay-rights activist Ray Hill.
Let’s compare some quotes, shall we.
First, Ray Hill in 2005 in the Houston Chronicle in an article about him stepping down as a local leader of LGBT activism:
“I meant to do this a long time ago,” he said earlier this week. “I raised a generation to take my place and they all died of AIDS. Now there’s another generation ready to step in. Most of them are women. They are every color of the rainbow — black, brown, Christian, Jew, Muslim, nonbelievers, and they speak a cacophony of languages. They are better able to represent this diversity than I.”
And now, Bryan Fischer [warning for some serious homophobic, Islamaphobic effed-upness]:
“Permits, in my judgment, should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America. This is for one simple reason: each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.” – after the Park51 ‘controversy’
“Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler [sic], and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” – from his AFA website,March 27, 2010 (I won’t provide the link, but it’s searchable enough if you’re fiending for something to get angry about).
And FoxHouston feels it’s appropriate to invite this guy on and allow him to spew his hate-speech?! Which, in this case, includes accusations that being gay is a “dangerous psychological and physical risk” akin to IV drug usage, and continuing the homophobic rhetoric of “dirty, diseased” gay men. Yeah. On a “news” segment.
Furthermore, anchor Damali Keith simply repeats questions along the homophobic talking points: Comparing story lines featuring homosexual characters to “product placement” designed to lure in small children, or something; that “homosexual story lines” are propaganda, that a 7 p.m. airtime is negative for children. The AFA or Pat Robertson could not have paid for more clearly fed questions.
GLAAD has more on this issue at their site, including a link to a Change.org petition, where they are asking Fox Houston to apologize for the broadcast. Furthermore, YOU can go (and ask your friends to do the same) to the Fox Houston site and write or call them [(713) 479-2600] and tell them how you felt about the segment, and demand an apology.
Watch the video here, and jump below for a transcript.
[Clip from Glee, character Kurt singing]
Kurt: It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M, just put your paws up. [Clip from Glee continues as characters dance]
Damali Keith: It’s one of Fox’s biggest hit shows. It’s also one of the most controversial. Tonight’s episode of Glee contained two same-sex couples in high school, storylines that have many family values groups complaining that Glee and other popular shows watched by young people delve too much into homosexual relationships.
[Glee ends, and turns to the studio with host Damali Keith and two “talking head” figures]
Keith: Tonight we’re joined via Skype by Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association. And also, gay-rights activist Ray Hill is with us in our newsroom. Gentlemen, thank you for being here.
Fischer: You’re welcome.
Hill: You’re welcome, glad to be here.
Keith: And Ray, I know you don’t even want me to ask you a question, you are ready for your response. What do you have to say?
Hill: [laughs] Well, I saw part of the program that was on Fox earlier this evening, and although you can pick any drama piece to death on the small stuff, on the whole, it’s good to see it on this channel.
Keith: And Bryan, what do you think of the homosexuality storylines that we’re having in more shows now?
Fischer: Well, I’m deeply concerned about this because what these television programs are doing is glamorizing homosexual behavior, glamorizing homosexual conduct. This is conduct that carries enormous psychological and physical risks to those that engage in it. It’s just not a lifestyle, it’s not behavior that ought to be glamorized or presented in a way that makes it idealistic.
Keith: We all know about product placement. You throw a soda in a movie and within a few seconds everyone in the theater is thirsty for that particular brand. [Hill chuckles] Ray, what do you have to say to the people that say that this is propaganda, that these aren’t just storylines, that people have an agenda.
Hill: Well, last night on PBS, they did the history of the Stonewall Rebellion, which was in 1969. This is the second decade of the 21st century. I don’t understand why this conversation is even being held. We have gone through Laurence v. Texas. We have gone through the repeal of Don’t Act, Don’t Tell. The progress of people being “the other”, or people being outside of the mainstream of American society. I have known conservative Republican gay people, everyone from Roy Cohen to Terry Dolan. I don’t think I’ve ever met a president at the University of Texas Young American for Freedom that wasn’t gay. It’s time people start being honest about their sexuality. And to society that we’re here, we’re queer, you may as well get used to it.
Keith: So what about the time slot. It comes on at 7 o’clock. Is that a little bit too early or is that right on time? What do you guys think?
Hill: I think it’s good timing.
Fischer: I think it’s terribly timing. As you pointed out, advertisers purchase time on television programs because they know that what people see on television influences their behavior and influences their choices. We know from the Centers for Disease Control that 91% of the males that have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS since the epidemic began contracted it through having sex with other men or injection drug use. That means homosexual behavior is just as risky and just as dangerous as injection drug use. And we should not glamorize it anymore than we should glamorize intravenous drug use.
Hill: You can’t really lecture me about AIDS. I have been busy organizing prevention, education programs dealing with HIV and AIDS since 1980, and that’s two years before they chose the term AIDS. You know, you and the Westboro Baptist Church people scream and yell mostly statistics that you make up. And your veracity is now discredited in every hall of government in this country. Look, I don’t care how hard you try to revive 1954, she ain’t coming back.
Fischer: [Chuckles] Well, Ray, your argument is not with me, but with the Centers for Disease Control. That’s not a right-wing conservative think tank, that’s the government-
Hill: I have been, I have been there-
Fischer: The Food and Drug Administration will not allow a male to donate blood if he’s had sex one single time with another male since 1977. They cannot afford to be politically, to be politically correct with our nations blood supply.
Hill: Actually, actually that is not true. They repealed that just the year before last.
Fischer: No, they didn’t.
Hill: And gay men are giving blood to the common will.
Fischer: No, they didn’t.
Hill: You’re making this stuff up.
Fischer: That’s the policy of the Food and Drug Administration, Ray.
Hill: I know about you and Fred Phelps. I have been there. I have been there, you haven’t. I have organized with those people.
Fischer: [unclear] It’s still in effect.
Keith: So is this dialogue something that children should hear, because at 7 o’clock kids are watching television.
Hill: I’ll tell you what, why it’s at 7 o’clock. Because it sells advertisement. This is a program that people want to see. And if it wasn’t a program that people want to see, it wouldn’t attract an audience. And if it attracts an audience, advertisers are going to clamor to be on it. It’s the rule of economics, which I used to think was a conservative principle.
Keith: This is a great discussion guys. Thanks so much for being a part of it. Thank you.
Hill: Thank you.
Fischer: You’re sure welcome.