PRESSURE PUSHING DOWN ON ME! PRESSING DOWN ON YOU DISNEY!
Part of what we do around here — and what makes us different from a lot of other pop culture sites — is that we are actually trying to change the culture we report on as opposed to just write about it. And, no, I don’t mean the Flying Monkey‘s campaign to have Glee canceled.
It’s called advocacy journalism and while we make damn certain the advocacy part never gets in way of the journalism part, we sometimes have a specific goal in mind when we write certain stories — namely applying pressure to change things we think need changing. Sometimes that pressure is exerted in big dramatic ways like holding Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance responsible for that incredibly homophobic episode. But other times that pressure is more subtle and more strategic in that we have longterm goals in mind and don’t expect any single article to achieve that goal.
This past week provided two good examples of how that strategy can work. The first involved The Disney Channel and their lack of gay representation on their shows. (TeenNick as well.) For years we’ve been trying to write about children’s entertainment and why it doesn’t include more age-appropriate gay content. Unfortunately, we’ve never been able to get any gay folks involved in children’s programming to talk about the matter, and both Disney and TeenNick declined to speak with us for our article When It Comes to Gay Characters, When Will the Teen Channels Grow Up?
But what Disney didn’t know was that Entertainment Weekly had been working on a cover story about gay teens on television and had read some of our articles about the issue (and even talked with me a little bit about the topic). In fact, after reading the article on Disney I just mentioned, EW contacted the Mouse to ask about the network’s lack of gay content. While EW couldn’t get anything more out of Disney than the exact same lame statement we did, EW followed it up with a post Gay Tweens: Do They Belong on the Teen Networks?
We couldn’t have been happier because while Disney Channel president Gary Marsh thought he could treat me like an idiot by offering up bizarro responses to my questions at this month’s Television Critics Association press tour and have that be the end of it, our continuously raising the issue had caused EW to take note and to write about it. Now all of a sudden it isn’t just the gay website with the crazy editor asking Disney about gay characters, but one of the largest and most traditional media outlets in the country. And that’s a whole lot harder to ignore.
I don’t think we’ll see Disney suddenly out Gunther on Shake it Up! this year, but I do think the channel is feeling much more pressure over the topic than they were just a few months ago. And rather than having to wait five years for Disney to catch up with the rest of us, I think it will now happen within two. (I’m also nervous the Mouse is going to have me whacked, but that’s another story.)
The second example of our putting the squeeze on the powers that be has to do with Star Trek. That franchise’s lack of gay content is also something we’ve long taken them to task for, but at the same TCA tour during which I grilled Marsh, I had the unexpected chance to quiz longtime Star Trek writer and producer Brannon Braga about that show’s lack of gay visibility. Braga basically admitted the franchise had blown it back in the 90s and was now way behind the curve.
While Braga isn’t currently involved with any new Star Trek projects, at a previous TCA I did ask Roberto Orci and Alexander Kurtzman, the men behind the latest Star Trek movie reboot, about whether they would rectify the situation. (They said the first movie wouldn’t, but they were — drumroll — “open” to the idea.) By asking Braga about it, I was attempting to put the topic back on the pop culture radar thereby keeping the pressure on to get them to finally act.
And I have to say, we’ve been really pleased by the results.
Again, it was Entertainment Weekly who first joined the conversation, not only putting the subject in front of a completely different audience (some of whom are morons as you’ll see if you read the comments) than ours, but making it harder for anyone working on a new Star Trek project to claim ignorance of the issue.
After AfterElton wrote about it, the subject also popped up on Perez Hilton, the Village Voice, Huffington Post and fan sites like TrekMovie.com where a poll there has 47% saying the next Star Trek series movie or series should have a gay character while 30% say it shouldn’t. There are the usual assortment of comments, but I admit being especially baffled by the gay commenter who displayed a staggering amount of ignorance by saying:
although I myself am a young gay male I cannot say adding it directly into a story line would sit well with me. my fear is the subject matter would seem forced. we’ve got over forty years of trek and then *BAM* gays everywhere! lol
i know there is a sensitivity factor involving homosexuals, and being that i am directly affected i can understand the yearning others in the LGBT community must feel for equality in all facets of life, but come on guys its star trek! if we want gay t.v. watch Queer as Folk.
Methinks someone needs to spend less time on TrekMovie. com and more time on AfterElton.com. A lot less time. Just saying…
Oh, and I also asked Braga about whether or not his new show Terra Nova had any gay characters. He admitted it didn’t (what a surprise!), but Braga did say it was “… something we should be attending to.”
Yes, he should be. Any guesses what I’ll be asking him about the next time he’s at the TCA?
Next page! The guys from Hawaii 5-0 try to convince me to recap them!