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06/24/2008

Video: So how was '30 Days'?

by Jeremy Hooper

Alright, so the contentious "30 Days" episode has now aired. And guess what? The Peter Sprigg interview portion just might have been worse than we had even anticipated.

Here's the clip:

(property of FX; brief clip posted for commentary purposes only)

So first, just as we had been warned, they introduce Peter Sprigg and let him present his baseless "facts" in an unchallenged fashion. Even though the episode featured several pro-gay speakers, it is 100% irresponsible to let Sprigg, sitting in the "expert" chair, rail off this list of supposed gay ills as if they are the gospel. That simply would not be accepted with any other group of people! And it's unfair to just trust that the American public is going to realize that Sprigg's words are the product of his own one-sided views, and not credible information.

But that being said, this portion of the program gets almost worse after the Sprigg clip, when the show proceeds to present the conversation with Dawn Stefanowicz in a way that makes it sound as if she is merely a child of gay parents who has written a book about her experiences. Only problem with that? Dawn is not just someone who they found through an advertisement of casting call. Dawn is an anti-gay activist who has taken a situation that is unique to herself, filtered that through a faith in Jesus, and began a new career of using her own past paint to fight against equal rights for gays and lesbians (attracting the attention of rabidly anti-gay extremists like the American Family Association in the process). She is telling the story of her family, from only her own personal perspective, even admitting that "it was not until [her] father, his sexual partners and [her] mother had died, was [she] free to speak publicly about [her] experiences." And she's taking that one-sided story, with nobody alive to challenge it, and sweepingly misapplying it to gay parenting as a whole. It's patently unfair, both Dawn's misuse of personal trauma, and her inclusion on this program in this casual, unfleshed out way!

Now to be fair, we did find the episode as a whole pretty good, and we ...

**SPOILER ALERT**

...were quite glad that the gay men featured in the show did not accept the anti-gay mother's "let's just agree to disagree and be friends" pact, and instead told her that non-acceptance of their family is a deal breaker. There were certainly "teachable moments" to be had in the show as a whole.

However, that being said, we sincerely hope that when dealing with future episodes, the producers and the network will not hold these separate on-camera interviews with figures who look and are meant to look like "experts," without (a) more clearly identifying their roles in this "culture war", and (b) giving equal time to their counterpoints. These off-set interviews click in a different way in the viewer's mind. In the reality genre, they pull the audience's consciousness away from the primary story, where opinion and off-hand remarks abound, and put it into the realm where the viewer expects to be schooled with hard data. Sprigg and Stefanowicz offer anything but!

**SEE ALSO: Dan Savage has some thoughts: Tonight’s 30 Days [Slog]

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Your thoughts

Jeremy, I absolutely agree 100% with your assessment. On some level it appeared as if they went out of their way to overstate the opinions of the anti-gay machine, going well afoul of any semblance of fair-and-balanced.

And Stefanowicz, who waited until everyone who could counter her claims was dead before she start cashing in on her alleged miserable childhood, may actually have had a bad experience. We don’t have any proof of that, but even if she did, I would bet that just about every person on this planet knows of at least one kid who had a miserable life at home with their parents. And miserable to the extent that is equally as shocking (with the added credibility of being perfectly truthful), but that is absolutely the result of bad parenting, and nothing to do with having a same-sex attracted parent.

But (having now vented most of my frustration) I do have to admit that they did two things (IMHO) at least somewhat reasonably. Not that it was their intent, mind you, but more that it is simply the way things generally are. First, they showed that even for a woman who had an absolute zero-tolerance mindset against the idea of same-sex parents raising children, even for her the issue became a little bit less absolute.

But the second thing really stood out: the ANGER coming from that woman. I can understand the frustration of trying to convince the inconvincible. But when this woman’s pat answers (answers that always work with the less inquisitive likeminded of her clan) didn’t clinch the argument, that RAGE just boiled up in her. She probably had to go and take a shower to get those filthy and depraved rational-minded opinions off of her. And that rage seems to permeate that crowd – so much so that they have cautioned their hordes to feign an attempt at “play nice” in hopes of improving their chance of getting this constitutional amendment passed.

And, I agree with you that the Patrick family was right not to agree to disagree and still be friends. When someone shows you that level of absolute disgust and intolerance, no one needs “friends” like that.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Jun 25, 2008 4:51:49 AM

I agree with Dick Mills, Kati's anger really stood out. She'd say horrific and hateful things to people (her comments to that woman who lost visitation rights to her son were appalling) and then she'd fly into a rage or start sobbing if anyone questioned her.

Sadly, it's not surprising. The anti-gay movement has started using the "How dare you call me a bigot?!" excuse more often and more loudly. As society moves toward acceptance of gay and lesbian people, more and more people are seeing bigotry for what it is. It's not an opinion, or a belief system, it's just hate and bigotry. And the anti-gays know that's a losing battle, so they try to create this myth that calling them bigots is unfair and ridiculous.

Posted by: Mark | Jun 25, 2008 11:49:39 AM

Personally, I didn't think that the Sprigg interview wasn't that big of a deal: they introduced him before his interview as head of the "Christian-based Family Research Council." Obviously, there was no pretense of objectivity with that. I did, however, have a problem with Stefanowicz's interview. Comeon, they pulled out the sad music and the fading picture montage! They made it seem like the horror story she allegedly live is a common occurrence in gay adoption.

As to the episode, it was pretty good(and infuriating). The woman did often contradict herself by saying that the Patrick's family was good and healthy, and then turning around and calling out their homosexuality as inherently evil and child damaging. Furthermore, every time she mentioned how she felt "attacked" with everybody coming at her for her morality and beliefs, I kept on yelling at the screen "Welcome to the club, lady! That's exactly how it feels growing up gay and being called immoral and the primary factor of the degradation of civilization!" Okay, well, maybe I didn't yell that exactly, but my point has been laid out.

Posted by: Joshua Rodriguez | Jun 25, 2008 4:03:44 PM

*was that

Posted by: Joshua Rodriguez | Jun 25, 2008 4:05:22 PM

I had to chuckle at the "let's just agree to disagree and be friends" approach. Imagine if you told a Christian that you thought Christians should be allowed to have kids, and that you would vote as such, and then you tried to say "let's just agree to disagree and be friends".
I don't see how I can be "friends" with anybody who insists that I should have inferior rights and privileges based on who I am. The concept is laughable, and if you applied it to numerous other circumstances it would be seen as absurd.
Yet some people who think we should have "second class citizen" status actually think we should "be friends". Amazing!

Posted by: foundit66 | Jun 25, 2008 4:18:01 PM

not really a crosspost, but an opinion from my personal blog and/or:

We watched it, and I came out of it with a bad taste in my mouth (no it wasn't the spinach/feta).

The section with Peter Sprigg was disturbing because it was just flat fundie talking points, misrepresentations and outright lies, with no counter position.

Bringing Dawn Stefanowicz into the equation made no sense other than making me feel the need to take a shower. If this woman’s story is credible it's an anomaly. How convenient is it that nobody's alive to refute her story and she chose to write a book about it after the fact. . . .one serious side of the pie that just doesn't cut it. One wonders if Dobson doesn't personally sign the paycheck for this woman’s appearances.

In the comments over on G.A.Y. someone said: "Come on GLAAD, really? It's INCREDIBLY important that these attitudes and opinions be included. It saddens me that an org like GLAAD is missing the point. To edit what really happened would be defeating the purpose of the show/experiment. Lighten up. "

My argument is exactly the opposite because the network excluded balance. . .inserting interviews with known anti-gay zealots without rebuttal. It wasn't an edit to what happened . . . they supplimented with faux "interviews" . . .giving yet another opportunity to fundimentalists and charlitans to spew anti-gay and anti-family rhetoric.

If it's "INCREDIBLY important that these attitudes and opinions be included", it's all the more important that both sides of the coin are given equal air.

The bottom line for me is that nothing good came out of this episode . . .from either standpoint.

Posted by: Gary | Jun 25, 2008 8:52:47 PM

OK, I had recorded the show and just watched it. I was surprised to find out the woman was LDS and lives about two miles from me. Having grown up LDS in this area, I have probably been in church meetings with her and if not, you at least got a good idea of what the majority of the LDS church beleives about gays and lesbians. I saw in her what I see in my family now that I am out. They know the talking points and somehow find it easy to seperate the individuals from the "truth". How she could live with an obviously loving and caring couple with 4 adopted kids and hear the stories of those who grew up in group homes and then turn right around and ignore those after crying about it is unreal, and yet I see it all the time. I have grown up seeing those of "faith" cry about the problems in the world but as they don't directly affect them, they can feel bad about it and then continue to ignore it. Not all, but too, too many.
Overall, I too felt that the opposition talking points were made strongly and largely went unrefuted, however, I feel that all the gay and lesbians portrayed made a subtle counterpoint to all the arguments. I just think that most people who are already opposed, like Katie, will miss the obvious health and well-being of those kids and continue to beleive the talking points with zero evidence to support it.

Posted by: Todd | Jun 25, 2008 11:03:11 PM

One thing I found interesting was how difficult it was for Kati to understand why the guys were taking her points (that gays shouldn't be allowed to raise kids b/c homosexuality is wrong) personally.

I can't remember which man replied to her, but one of them said that it became personal when she took action on her opinions in ways that had a negative impact on his life. And she STILL couldn't see it.

Another cognitive disconnect was that she claimed to understand how awful the foster care system can be, and yet when asked (more than once) if it was better than the boys' situation in her host home, she kept silent.

And when they interviewed Dawn Stefanowicz as though she represented children raised by gays, all I could do was shake my head and contemplate how heteros would react to the depiction of (I'm going to get this name wrong) the Paskewitz family, with the parents having sex every night in their 24-foot camper on the beach, their 11 children present and witnessing, as representative of how heterosexual child rearing can damage young ones. This segment was unconscionable, and Spurlock should be ashamed of himself.

I kept wondering why Kati had agreed to this visit. Was she hoping to bring people to Christ? Was she hoping to see lots and lots of horrible stuff so she could report back and validate her cult's irrational position? One thing is certain: she didn't expect that a calm, reasonable, inquisitive lesbian sitting casually in a lawn chair on a pleasant afternoon could send her whimpering into a corner with her tail between her legs.

Posted by: | Jun 26, 2008 12:24:22 AM

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