Academics who study popular culture marvel at how Hollywood has used its propagandistic powers to sell social issues. This normally means persuading by any dramatic means necessary that traditional values are not only wrong, but archaic, even dangerous. It's not enough to disagree with a conservative position. Hollywood must demonize it, suggest that conservatism is not just unworkable, but dark. When failure comes, they imagine some fraudulent conservative's going to lash out in rage and kill.
On perhaps no issue is there more built-in cultural politics - and manifest hyperbole - than homosexuality. Beginning in the mid-1970s, homosexuals regularly have been presented on television as positive characters often treated in shabbily negative (read: bigoted) ways. In 1979, professor Michael Robinson wrote that prime time's "favorite innocent victim...was clearly the misunderstood, harassed homosexual."
Hollywood's pro-gay attitudes run very strong. Researchers Stanley Rothman and Amy Black found in 1995 that Hollywood elites were even more strongly liberal than the news media elites: not only did 79 percent agree that homosexuality is as acceptable a lifestyle as heterosexuality, but 51 percent "strongly agreed."
The product echoes the mindset. For the November sweeps, several crime dramas have attempted to goose their ratings (and, presumably, feel good about themselves simultaneously) by focusing on plots of "anti-gay" violence. On CBS's Sunday night drama "Cold Case," which airs at 8 PM Eastern time, lead character Lilly Rush reopens the case of a 1964 murder of a gay baseball player. (The episode, titled "A Time to Hate," was written by lesbian writer-producer Jan Oxenberg.)
The police learn that not only did the local neighborhood thugs love to brutalize men coming out of a gay bar, but that back then, the cops had a unit called "Russo's Raiders" that would raid the bar and beat up the clientele. "Those kinda raids was open season on fags," explained one witness. Then the detectives interview "Tinkerbell," a cross-dresser who was beaten and who knew the abusers. That leads them to the killer, a man named Tim. We learn in black-and-white flashbacks that the cops were there and walked away as Tim and his friends used the gay man's head for batting practice until he was dead.
Critics predictably raved. USA Today's Robert Bianco praised CBS for "re-creating the casual bigotry of the 1960s, and its ugly holdouts in our own time." Bianco loved how the cross-dressing character was shown "respect for the courage it takes to live life on one's own terms." He concluded by hoping the sermon was successful, that "times really have changed as much as the episode would have you believe. Wouldn't that be fabulous?"
Why can't a character be portrayed as earnestly believing homosexuality to be morally wrong, and a sin that should be avoided, without being caricatured as a violent hater? Answer: because Hollywood has an agenda.
The other November offender was "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit," which features the gay actor B.D. Wong in its cast. This completely propagandistic episode (titled "Abomination") begins with a naked gay man found dead on the street from a beating to the head. It turns out he was a poster boy for "Regenesis," a group counseling homosexuals to leave their lifestyle behind, or as our police heroes describe it, "ex-gays turned gay bashers." Another cop quickly suspects the ex-gay group in the killing. "There's...your poster boy for success, sleeping with guys again. Makes your organization look like a sham."
The "SVU" writers also drag in a fictional equivalent of Rev. Fred Phelps of "God Hates Fags" fame as representative of the entire religious right. When a questioning cop gets tough, the Reverend suggests it's no wonder God took so many cops away on September 11. The reverend says he would have liked to kill the victim, but he was out of town. How pious.
The story concluded with the good guys tracking down the real killer: a researcher in reparative therapy whose own son is gay. He found the victim and his son in bed and slammed the victim into a wall until he fell. And for good measure, the victim was also planning to expose reparative therapy as an unworkable sham, threatening the killer's professional standing.
Exodus International, one of the Christian groups helping homosexuals who want to change their behavior, denounced the show for portraying reparative therapists as "bigoted, murderous, and void of any conclusive research data and results." They were not consulted beforehand, as pro-gay activist groups are.
When Family News in Focus called NBC for comment, the network issued a statement that the show is fiction and not to be taken literally. NBC shouldn't play games and try to hide its real intention to hammer public opinion into its liberal mold. Hollywood doesn't tackle the issue of homosexuality. It tackles the "homophobes."
Voice Your Opinion!
Write to Brent Bozell