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03/08/2010

Video: 'Reason to be worried'

by Jeremy Hooper

We consider Meredith Vieira to be a community friend and ally. Genuinely. We've actually been at pro-equality events where she's put in an appearance and/or a vow of commitment. We also remember when a pair of "ex-gay" men were on "The View," and Meredith was the one who most had our backs. We trust the support and the sincerity.

So in showing you the following clip, we don't mean to raise "Meredith is a homophobe"-inducing ire. At all. We really don't feel that way about her. However, that being said: Our trust in her friendliness doesn't negate her ability to piss us off with her public comments. And in the following snippet, the NBC host does piss us off, indeed, when she gives a handy demonstration of the widely unaddressed (and debatably more harmful) problem of casual heterosexism. Have a look:


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"Reason to be worried"? Yea, Meredith? That's the way you're gonna play this one? Here we are talking about a profession that is filled with gay men, and an awards show whose director, choreographer, musical director, and opening performer (among many others) were all gay men. We're also talking with a cast and creative team that very well might include gay people. Yet here we have Meredith suggesting that if there were gay affection of display, that there would be reason to "worry"?!? Affection between single heteros would surely elicit a "get a room" from a TV host, yet here we have morning's most popular TV host taking a simple hug and essentially saying "get a healthy affection"?! It's pretty damn offensive, if you think about it.

Now, if she were interviewing Ellen DeGeneres or the aforementioned Neil Patrick Harris, it's pretty safe to say that she'd be respectful to their public unions. But you know what? That's the big problem here! Because we have so many of our supposedly liberal friends who will be so nice to our lives and our loves when confronted directly with them, yet will so often go for these cheap and, frankly, stupid jokes that traffic solely in anti-gay "worry." In doing so, they foster the idea that same-sex affections are icky, a fear fomentation that's not negated by their niceties when dealing with actual gay people. Regardless of how much the purveyors of this mindset may disconnect these abstract denunciations from actual LGBT human beings or contribute to our cause, the reality is that they're cultivating in the minds of the American public the exact kind of casual heterosexism that keeps people voting against us and then justifying it by saying "some of my best friends are gay," keeps civil unions on the table as acceptable alternative to full marriage equality, and keeps many would-be allies apathetic to the pro-equality fight because they see gays as this odd "other."

While she most certainly doesn't mean to, Meredith is in danger of telling young gay kids that their chances of winning an easy, benign shake at this game of life are even slimmer than their chance of winning an Oscar. That's bad. We cannot let this casual stuff pass anymore than we allow the organized anti-gays to get away with their deliberately detrimental nonsense.

***

*NOTE: Already hearing from some who say we shouldn't respond to this because Meredith is a supporter. That's completely unfair. As stated in this post, we consider Meredith to be a friend and ally. However, we can and should still nudge her (and anyone) in the right direction. We need to remember that things like this are not an either/or. We can respond to this sort of thing without breaking out the pitchforks! We can defend our normalcy without forcing our allies to defend their support.

***UPDATE, 3/10: Meredith has done exactly what was needed: She's apologized.

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Your thoughts

I could be in the wrong here but I really don't find that offensive. I've said the same thing to friends of mine or the occasional, "Is there something about you two I should know?" but it's always been in jest.

Posted by: Vast Variety | Mar 8, 2010 12:03:34 PM

BRAVO TO YOU!!!!

Far too many in our community insist such criticisms as yours are examples of "being too sensitive," "what does it hurt," "they're laughing with us, not at us," blah blah blah.

Teaching children [or, in fact, adults, too] to hate themselves is sent in an infinite variety of ways, including ones such as this or even just body language such as smirks and rolling of the eyes.

And sometimes they can come, however unintentionally, in virtually the same breath. Brava to Sandra Bullock for the only overt expression of pro gay support I heard at the Oscars last night when she included "sexual orientation" in the list of "differences" that are unimportant. [I know, short film winner "The New Tenants" was about a gay couple, but was that explained? And, no, girls, just an out gay performer performing such as NPH or gays winning awards...my lips are sealed...don't count.]

But the wonderful Bullock also, TWICE as I recall, made reference to her kiss of Streep at a previous event. It wasn't even a "good" fag joke when she actually kissed her. Booo, Sandy, BOOOOOOOOO!

There were a number of the metastisizing "we're not really gay, nudge nudge" celebrity schticks last night, the most elaborate [read expensive and time consuming to produce] was Jimmy Kimmel's [suspiciously] having convinced Ben Affleck to do yet ANOTHER mini film about their "relationship" that "started" two years ago. While not as long or explicit as the original "I'm F--king Ben Affleck" production that must have taken weeks and a small fortune to film and included cameos by major stars and multiple outdoor shots, this time Kimmel was simply in the same bed between Ben and his wife Jennifer Garner. It was repeated with slight variation on Kimmel's after Oscars special, as well as an extended "live" skit that also involved several major male celebrities as supposed members of the "Handsome Man Club"....again, the entire premise based upon how "funny" it is that "straight" men would be involved in a club devoted literally to celebrating hot men. How gay!

Then there was Colin Farrell's gay innuendo about former costar and Best Actor nominee Jeremy Renner in the middle of his SALUTE to him before the award was announced. We know Colin loves his own gay brother and was in bro's recent M2M wedding but, grow up, Bitch!

And is it unChristian of me to still hope we will read someday of someone knocking hack "journalist" George Stephanapoulous on his ass somewhere for his going out of his way to mock Ewan McGregor being photographed kissing Jim Carrey at a premier?

To know that George was a major in-house player in the shameful way the Clinton White House handled their 1993 surrender on lifting the military ban on gays only adds to one's anger and nausea at his queer baiting someone 17-yrs. later. McGregor's response was classy but insufficient to modify behavior permanently.

Posted by: Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | Mar 8, 2010 12:07:01 PM

VV: I see a big diff. between "Is there something I should know?" and "Should I be worried?" (Plus "no, you're fine?" which was her followup question).

Here's my thing: Meredith's intent was most certainly not anti-gay. In fact, I think she would be appalled to know that she might've come across that way. But that doesn't change the potential dangers.

I'm someone who thinks this kind of casual heterosexism has the potential to be more damaging. It's the kind of thing that keeps so many of our potential allies (like GLAAD's so desired movable middle) seeing us as an "other." So I think we can and should respond to these things without putting our supporters on the defensive. We can simply say, "Yo Meredith -- that was a dumb comment."

As humans we love to boil things down. Activists can be the worst offenders. But I think we need to learn as a community that it's not homophobic vs. not homophobic: There is grey area. Personally I think this is one of those times to find a teachable moment without resorting to rage.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Mar 8, 2010 12:16:51 PM

Thank you for posting this! I sent a comment into the Today show, and cc'd GLAAD, because it totally pissed me off. I don't care how supportive Viera is, her comments were totally out of line, and inspired the cast members in quetion to express, if not homophobia, at least a quick denial of anything "wrong" with their hug.

With the debate over DADT and the lies of the anti-gay right about how openly gay people will "sexualize" the military, the implication that two men who spent a long, difficult stretch in the desert (in this case acting) would somehow morph into gays is a bit sick.

Posted by: CPT_Doom | Mar 8, 2010 12:55:31 PM

I think this really points out pretty much exactly why we face an uphill battle at the polls. We have a lot of demonstrable support from the straight population, but even those whose support for us is most heartfelt, seem to harbor some misgivings about us. Maybe we overreact at what she might just consider gentle ribbing, but that "ribbing" is probably indicative of a mildly (if not more so) xenophobic nature. And it may not reach to a level of being sinister, but for a lot of people, it may rise to the level where they "don't hate us, but don't trust us (or do fear us)".

And that "icky" (cooties - for want of a better word) feeling about us, allows the people who hate us to get their vote. In this case, I think the vote for us is secure, but for every Meredith Vieira, there are thousands of others who may be more susceptible to NOM's negative ads about us.

The big question becomes, how do we overcome that?

Posted by: Dick Mills | Mar 8, 2010 1:54:20 PM

Proving once again that there's no adult supervision at AfterElton, they describe the latest manifestation of the Kimmel Virus last night as "one of the cuter moments of the evening."

Yeh, "fag jokes" = "cute."

Posted by: Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | Mar 8, 2010 2:45:26 PM

Just imagine Sidney Poitier getting this same question if he hugged a white female costar when he won best actor in 1963. It wouldn't have been surprising nor would the mainstream have found anything wrong with it, unfortunately. We have a LONG way to go.

Posted by: Todd | Mar 8, 2010 9:05:54 PM

I agree with you. I called NBC and wrote them at Noah Kotch, executive and emailed PFLAF for their awareness. Meredith may have not been thinking but her views were meant so she needs to apologize.

Posted by: Cheryl Christopher | Mar 9, 2010 7:47:04 AM

I commented on Facebook, wrote to GLAAD, so people are talking about this. As far as defamation goes, her comment isn't the worst thing I've heard. Yet I was surprised and shocked to hear something so unenlightened coming from Vieira. And why is it so wrong that two straight men could be affectionate that it has too be confronted and joked about? The lack of affection shown between men of any sort is another problem of sexism and homophobia.

Posted by: Phil | Mar 9, 2010 11:37:04 AM

I've always hated these jokes. They hurt me at the core of me, and I've never been sure about whether I should stand up for myself when it's a pro-gay person saying it, not wanting them to think I'm being too picky or something. It was even worse when I was in the closet, because it sent me the message that even if this person is ok with gay people, I'M still for some reason not supposed to be gay.

I think it's something we SHOULD address, just calmly and directly. Has anyone been trying to contact her more directly about it?

Posted by: Lofn | Mar 9, 2010 12:29:52 PM

@Lofn: Thanks for sharing your frustrations. The thing we have to remember, as a community, is that we can and should stand up for ourselves against anything that we perceive to be an affront, whether it be a 1 or a 10 on the offend-o-meter. We have a tendency to think that responding = rage, but there's certainly no reason why it has to. We can craft rational pushback that respects and honors the commitment that the individual (in this case Meredith) has shown to us, but at the same time recognizes the ability for anyone, even our friends, to sometimes say misguided things. We can remove our muzzles without grabbing our pitchforks.

Yes, people have been in touch with "Today." Hopefully the message has gotten through, even if it's not addressed on-air.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Mar 9, 2010 12:37:10 PM

Jeremy - I just wanted to pop in and tell you that I think this is one of the best posts you've written. You really nailed it.

I'm glad to see she apologized; I'm sure your post was given to her as an example of why people were upset.

Good FOR You. :)

Posted by: Bil Browning | Mar 11, 2010 1:04:55 AM

Thanks, B.B. It was either this or stand outside the "Today" studio with a big ass sign. But ya know -- it was cold and I, true to blogger custom, was in pajamas. This seemed much easier ;-)

Posted by: G-A-Y | Mar 11, 2010 8:12:17 AM

G-A-Y, I am so glad you wrote this post! I am truly sick of "our straight friends" who think heterosexist remarks like these are so perfectly cool, or who describe things as "gay" derogatorily.

This really is a problem of the younger set, the post-Boomer crowd. Straight Boomers are either truly our friends or they're not, and aren't trying to straddle the fence, playing (cynically?) both to gay people and to standardly heterosexist straight people of their own generations.

Part of the difference is that while Boomers and even older folks express their homophobia as uptightness, fear and hostility, post-Boomers straights are much more likely to express it as a sort of smirking superiority; they gently chuckle at what in their eyes are our funny little foibles. To be openly homophobic to post-Boomer straight guys is to show themselves to be insecure about their own masculinity, while amused tolerance fits their desired self-image so much better.

When I look at these "pro-gay" younger straight people and see how greatly heterosexist attitudes toward us still pervade their actions and words, it can be difficult to believe we've really come all that far since my youth, even though the political changes since then are hugely obvious.

Posted by: Donny D. | Mar 12, 2010 7:26:59 AM

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