Monday, July 29, 2013

NBC = No Bicurious Commentary?

While I believe all countries should boycott the Olympics on general principle - that principle being that it's quite possibly the most ridiculous waste of money engaged in on a bi-annual basis - I'll settle for a boycott in protest of Russia's habit of wielding the power of the state to beat the crap out of gays. According to Variety, the idea of a boycott is gaining steam, perhaps enough that NBC, the only entity legally permitted to use the word "Olympics" aside from the International Olympic Committee itself, will have to "come out," as it were, and choose "pride" over profit by joining the protest of Russia being- well, being Russia.

Where this will go is absolutely nowhere, of course. I mean, we just had the Olympics in China, for fuck's sake, and if the Chinese government isn't the most evil on earth, it certainly boasts the strongest combination of evilness plus power. Besides, history has shown that it takes nothing short of a global war to generate enough momentum for an Olympic boycott, and even then only if the host country is our primary enemy. Regardless, I'm glad this has come up, because I've been wanting to know something for a long time:

What is the deal with NBC and gays?

It's subtle, I guess, but time and again I've noticed NBC side-stepping gay issues, at least on its singing competition shows. The first time I recognized something odd was on the final episode of Season 3 of The Sing-Off, when the super talented and suuuper gay quintet, Pentatonix, talked about their charity efforts. The organization they chose to work with was The Trevor Project, a well known charity dedicated to preventing young gays from committing suicide.

I mean literally, that's what the organization does. That's not just one piece of it. It didn't start with gay kids and then expand to general suicide prevention. It's a 100%, totally gay organization. It's almost impossible to talk about the Trevor Project without talking about gays and gay issues.

I say "almost impossible," because NBC proved that it was in fact possible, just extremely awkward. Somehow they got through the whole day PTX spent volunteering without actually saying anything about anyone or anything gay. The Trevor Project was described in vague terms as "an organization that supports youth" or some shit like that.

Now, The Sing-Off doesn't make a big deal about the personal lives of its contestants, and that's great. I have no problem with eschewing personal topics. I don't need a dramatic non-musical aside about the struggles of gay choir boys from Texas. Not only is it not relevant who's gay, it's pretty damn obvious to anyone with eyes. So I'm all for avoiding the issue because it's tangential or out of respect for the privacy of the contestants.

But in this case, it makes no sense. If Mitch and, Scott wanted to stay in the closet, they would pick another charity. There's absolutely no reason to obscure the purpose of The Trevor Project. Quite the contrary, in fact: the purpose of the charity should be made absolutely clear since free advertising is the whole point of these charity episodes. The goal is to, duh, promote the charity! So I can't help but conclude that NBC was calling the shots here and that the shots are anti-gay.

I don't watch a lot of network television, so it was some time before I came across another example. But when I finally did, it was even more obvious, to me. The Voice, which does make a pretty darn big deal about the personal lives of contestants, never, ever, ever openly identifies a contestant as gay, even when their spouse is there with them. They even had a female contestant who actually figured out she was gay during the show and who was completely open and happy to talk about it. If I'm the producer of a reality show, you know what I'm thinking: ker-ching ker-ching.

Apparently NBC was thinking something more like: oh good, another opportunity to practice awkwardly avoiding gay stuff! The contestant talks about "personal discoveries" and "important changes and growth" that went along with her time on the show, but without ever identifying her discoveries/changes/growth as figuring out that she's gay. Again, she was not shy about this, and it was all over print media. But what NBC actually showed could as easily have been a girl figuring out that she really likes performing or doesn't like opera or loves Jesus or should maybe get a dog.

At the time, I did a significant amount of digging (read: Googling), thinking that there must be some hypersensitive LGBTXYZ activist freaking out about this, but all I found were crickets. Is this a general policy of NBC? Is it determined show-by-show? Is it just a freak coincidence of editing? I have no idea, but hopefully this gay Russian javelin-throwing competition thing forces the issue and brings NBC's policies "out of the closet" and into the light of day.

до свидания,

S. Misanthrope


  1. On the most recent season of The Voice, they FINALLY did caption a lesbian's contestant's wife as "Karina's wife." That was the first and only reference to homosexuality I've seen on The Voice, however, and I'm an avid watcher of the show. In past seasons, you've seen the uber-offensive "X's friend." The only other place I've heard people use "friend" as a euphamism for "gay lover" is in the South, among people over the age of 65.

    The evasions get even more obvious when you have contestants on the show, including finalists, talking about their sexuality openly every chance they get in non-NBC interviews.

    The Voice gets a lot of LGBT contestants. Like... a lot a lot. Because of this, a lot of the press surrounding The Voice and LGBT issues has actually been *positive*, believe it or not. Like, somehow NBC is being a big LGBT activist by allowing openly LGBT contestants on the show at all. That's early '90s progressive at best.

    More bizarreness: NBC clearly isn't wholly anti-gay. The New Normal is the most heavy handed pro-gay propaganda I've ever witnessed. Its pro-gayness was so over-the-top heavy handed that it actually distracted from the show to the point that it was almost unwatchable. And the super gay husband was super cute, so if I think it's unwatchable in spite of super cute men, you know it's bad.

    I can't make sense of it all.

  2. I think there's clearly a difference in the treatment of shows that involve real people (reality TV and game shows) versus fictionalized portrayals. I agree, they have plenty of pro-gayness in their sitcoms, dramas, and other fictional shows, but they clearly feel very differently about putting actual gays out there for America to see and vote for.