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By Chris Crain
Usually the critics wait until after an awards show to complain we wuz robbed — like when so many of us were crushed by “Crash” beating “Brokeback Mountain” for the Best Picture Oscar last year. But here! TV, the premium gay cable network, is crying foul before the first envelope has even been opened at the Media Awards handed out by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
On the eve of GLAAD’s big show, here! Networks exec Steven F. Macias released a blistering letter explaining the TV channel was dumping its sponsorship of the GLAAD Awards because the gay media isn’t eligible to compete.
Macias castigated GLAAD for failing to notice that “media has changed dramatically over the years because of the blood, sweat and tears of brave LGBT activists,” who apparently Macias thinks were fighting for a place for gays on cable channel lists. He argued that with here!, Logo and other gay media outlets producing higher quality content, GLAAD should no longer consider gay media outside “the mainstream.”
“Gay networks are raising the bar around what mainstream media should consider fair, accurate, and inclusive work,” wrote Macias. “No longer is the LGBT community beholden to ‘mainstream’ media as the only place where we might catch a glimpse of ourselves.”
He pointed out that work like “Noah’s Arc,” cable competitor Logo’s ground-breaking series about a group of black gay and bisexual men, is pointing the way toward a broader and more diverse characterization of gays generally.
So with gay media out in the lead in portraying gays fairly, visibly and accurately, argued Macias, why shouldn’t they be recognized and encouraged by GLAAD for their good work?
Despite here! TV’s well-timed complaint, the GLAAD policy to exclude gay media from its award categories isn’t new, and applies not only to entertainment but to print and broadcast journalism as well. For years, the gay press has also done important and pioneering work covering gay lives and issues, only to see mainstream newspaper reporters and TV news celebrities get all the credit for following our lead.
But does that really make the GLAAD policy wrong-headed? After all, GLAAD is not the gay television or motion picture academy or the queer Pulitzer Prize committee. It’s an advocacy group with a mission: to lobby for fair, accurate and inclusive portrayals of LGBT people in the media.
Macias took particular umbrage that the good work done by here! TV isn’t covered by that mission, but why should he? A gay TV network is primarily gay people portraying gay people for the viewing pleasure of other gay people. Why should they require an advocacy group to give them credit for doing that job particularly well? It is, or ought to be, fundamentally what they do.
The same goes for the gay press, whether magazines or newspapers. The largely gay staff is reporting gay and lesbian stories for largely gay and lesbian readers. That should provide more than enough “check” on the system for them to do the job right. And given the watchdog role the gay press should be playing over gay groups like GLAAD, there’s an inherent conflict of interest in gay newspapers and magazine asking GLAAD for praise and golden statuettes.
GLAAD President Neil Giuliano answered here! TV by promising to revisit the issue again after this year’s award ceremonies. A special GLAAD board subcommittee was convened last year to hear all the arguments pro and con, and ultimately recommended the categories stay the way they are for now.
“Personally,” Giuliano wrote Macias, “I think we should work to create a way to recognize LGBT-focused media, and am hopeful someday we will do so.”
One obvious solution would be for GLAAD to create new categories especially for gay TV and journalism outlets, though that’s unlikely to satisfy here! since the gay cable network chafes so much at not being considered “mainstream.”
There’s too much focus on semantics here. Whether called outside “the mainstream” or just “niche media,” here! TV, Logo and the gay press have a gay-specific audience and shouldn’t be so obsessed with integrating queers into American culture that no longer recognize or appreciate our difference.
Ideally, here! TV would sponsor the GLAAD Media Awards to support the organization’s overall mission and, of course, to get some visibility among the entertainment industry generally. The Media Awards, on the other hand, exist to leverage a little positive publicity toward cajoling non-niche, “mainstream” to portray our lives in a fair and inclusive fashion — and, of course, to raise money for GLAAD.
If the need for praise at here! Networks outweigh the motivation to support for GLAAD’s mission, then so be it. But GLAAD shouldn’t be distracted from its primary mission just to placate its gay media critics.