10. PBS airs NEA-funded Tongues Untied documentary celebrating black gay sex with explicitly pornographic talk and anti-religious overtones (1991).
Before he died of AIDS in 1994, gay leftist filmmaker Marlon Riggs was a politically correct magnet for federal subsidies for his documentaries. Riggs not only received grants from the NEA, the NEH, PBS, and CPB. He was awarded a seat on the PBS Programming Policy Committee to advise on the entire PBS schedule.
On July 16, 1991, the PBS series P.O.V. aired the Riggs film Tongues Untied, an exploration of the alleged oppression faced by the black gay male with AIDS. It was also sexually explicit, with male nudity and lines like “”Grinding my memory, humping my need...Been waiting for your light bulb to glow for me, waiting to exchange hard-ass love, calloused affection.” At one point, Riggs begged, “Anoint me with cocoa oil and cum so I speak in tongues twisted so tight they untangle my mind.” A chorus of voices joined in at another point with the refrain, “Let me suck it, let me lick it, let me taste it, let me suck it.” Eighteen of the top 50 TV markets declined to run the show, but it did air in an estimated 60 percent of public TV markets.
TV critics passionately defended Riggs. Howard Rosenberg of the Los Angeles Times complained: “One station manager who rejected Tongues Untied called it pornographic. He’s wrong. The film isn’t pornographic, the charge is.” Ed Siegel of The Boston Globe pushed even further, advocating a blacklist of timid executives: “If this were a rational world, we would be talking today about rounding up all the station managers who banned Tongues Untied and stripping them of their right to run a public television station.”
Conservatives were haters of the worst kind. Riggs insisted. “Black homosexuality, the triple taboo, equates in their minds with an unspeakable obscenity....In their rhetorical equivalent to hate-filled fag-bashing, the morality watchdogs smeared and disfigured Tongues Untied beyond recognition.”
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