Thursday, June 10, 2004

The Reality of the Situation

Fox network canned the upcoming reality show "Seriously Dude I'm Gay" where two straight contestants tried to convince friends and family they were gay for a monetary prize. Reports indicate that thecontestants found their experience "hell[ish]" and a "nightmare." Fox decided to cancel after prescreenings with GLAAD and other groups did not go well.

I am also glad that Fox, for once, displayed taste and decorum. Lately they had been travelling the Jerry Springer route to fame, trying to out-low themselves with each new show. Out of the litany of reality programming Fox has brought us: Joe Millionaire, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, Paradise Hotel, Forever Eden, Temptation Island, Mr. Personality, The Littlest Groom, and My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance (among others), none have shown the slightest modicum of respect or decorum towards their contestants or the audience. Luckily, this long list clearly demonstrates that Fox is an equal opportunity humiliator and opportunist. It's hard to call them homophobic when they haven't exactly done the straight community any service.

Still, the fact the network thought the show stood a chance does point to America's latent homophobia. The show was originally marketed with the phrases "It's a heterosexual male's worst nightmare: turning gay overnight" and "a jury of their queers." Even though these phrases were pulled even before the show itself was, this is a clear indicator that, and they were probably right, most Americans would be drawn to the show because being gay is still seen as humiliating and degrading. Reality shows for the most part are just freak shows at best; The Littlest Groom is obviously evidence of the circus having come to television.

So it is with us queers. If being gay were not still seen as something undesirable, freakish, or lurid, shows like this would not be made. Probably shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy would not be made because people wouldn't care. To me, being gay is something special and distinctive about myself. I take pride in being gay. I don't want to lose what I perceive to be almost a cultural distinction as we gain the civil rights and acceptance we deserve. Nonetheless, we still have a lot of education and outreach to do to change the way our fellow human beings (particularly American citizens) see us. Getting rights does not mean losing distinction. But getting rights does not mean gaining acceptance. We still have a road of activism we must travel after gaining our full rights; that's just the reality of the situation.

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