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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

GLAAD sucks a D.

GLAAD releases its Excellence in Media awards. These awards are meant to "honor[] a member of the media community who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people." I was interested to see who had done this, since as far as I was aware, there hadn't been any significant difference in GLBT rights over the past year - let alone one in the media. Naturally, I was not disappointed with a group like GLAAD and their staunch representation of the group they say they repreent. They managed to beat out the NAACP/confederate flag event in my mind for "unintentional irony." Two of the winners:

Outstanding Comedy Series: Sex and the City (HBO)
Now, I'm all for overt stereotypes. I happen to be one much of the time. But as far as I am aware, the only openly gay character in Sex and the City is the flaming gay friend of Carrie's. One particularly memorable episode had him unable to have intercourse with a proposed mate because of his doll collection. Wonderful. I almost forgot the tryst Samantha had with a lesbian where the latter was portrayed as an emotional nutcase who was basically just sex crazed. Fantastic. Everyone in the show who is nonhetero is a transparent stereotype. Once and for all -Jim Crow shows in the south were not what led to civil rights.

Outstanding Reality Program: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (Bravo)
We all know whatI feel about this one. So we'll just move on.

The real problem with these shows isn't that they're less. representative than their hetero- or otherwise counterparts. It's that, despite both being overblown and glamorized versions of their respective gender preferenced lifestyls, people simply lack contact with a countervailing example of gay culture. If one watches Sex and the City, they'll see an absurd amount of hetero- stereotyping. It's a show predicated upon sympathy for the tribulations of four women who are beyond successful, and whose primary worries involve: a) Which trendy resturaunt to eat at, b) Which trendy store to shop in, and c) Which rich, successful man to have sex with. Despite being individually successful to some degree, all of the women are relatively vapid and seem to need men, falling back on their friends only as a safety net when their sexually based relationships inevitably deteriorate. That, however, is not the point. Despite the misrepresentation of that lifestyle, people have enough contact with women (most people do, at least) that it's not going to distort their view of the world significantly. So while in some cases unrealistic expectations are built up in people (see: female body image?), it's more of a symptom, whereas the stereotypes for gays are more pervasive and represent a disease. With nothing to contradict it, shows like this, which reach a large demographic, tend to skew the image of subcultures to where they are actually discriminated against.

This isn't simply subgroups within America, either. Following 9/11 (though to a lesser extent, as far back as the 60's), America suddenly sees all Muslims as terrorists who are incapable of anything other than ignorant rage. Popular foreign policy is based on the misconception of an entire region as viewed through the eyes of Fox news. It starts sounding like a conspiracy theory, but ask yourself how much interaction with Muslim culture an average farm family in Kansas has. Stereotypes only really persist when people lack any interaction with the people about whom said stereotypes are constructed - yet becuase of the geographic and cultural segregation we impose upon ourselves in society, we hardly ever end up meeting a diverse enough group of people to overcome the stereotypes society gives us. They're convenient heuristics, lacking any other experience.

I blame the media.

cranked out at 3:18 AM | |

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