Thursday, July 31, 2008

some thoughts...

This is a little post that came up in response to an Open Forum question over at Queers United about whether "any press is good press." I think that (brace yourselves) it depends. Yeah, it's that balance thing again. In some times, and for some groups, negative press is better than none. For most of the various groups under the big queer umbrella these days, I don't think that's necessarily true.

We don't need truly bad publicity in the sense of news stories covering queer people misbehaving. We had that all along, really, and it never worked to desensitize people. In fact, for many years the only time the word homosexual appeared in the press was if it came up in the course of a criminal investigation. That's what the coming out movement was meant to address. We created the first positive media images for ourselves by acting like our normal selves and making it public that we happened to be gay.

I think that the big queer umbrella gets as much negative publicity from the radical acts at Pride as the Christians get from real nutcases like Fred Phelps & Family. Most people are going to laugh that off as the work of a few extremists, and maybe take steps to distance or protect themselves from the crazy venom. People who are extremists themselves are going to use it against us as evidence that we're all flagrantly immoral. Just like the extremists among queers use Phelps as evidence that all Christians are ignorant bigots.

I don't think we can expect the news media to do their job as documentarians while simultaneously expecting them to be our PR spinmeisters. It's a conflict of interest. Let the media do its job of showing what's out there. They will always seize upon the extreme because people find the extremes interesting, and thus, pay money to consume media about them. If we want our press to be mostly good, then we have to make sure that we take it upon ourselves to do good things and make sure there's a local reporter covering it when we do.

Then there are the gray areas... publicity in the sense of mass entertainment media. Do we have to demand only "good" representations in fictional media, or should we allow "bad" ones on the grounds that any publicity is good? I think 10 or 20 years ago, that might've been valid. It was so rare to see gay characters on TV or in movies that I was grateful for any depiction, be it the most caricatured negative stereotype possible. These days, with Logo TV and "The L Word" and "Queer As Folk" and many other media outlets showing gay people in realistic settings, I think the standards need to go up.


Queers United said...

I originally posted that as an open forum topic because I ponder it a lot myself. As a member of PETA and an animal rights activist in addition to being a Queer activist I know PETA will sometimes be outrageous to get media attention to animal rights issues. It works, but the debate is whether the publicity is just making us look like nuts and whether it ultimately makes any difference for the animals becomes questionable.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, negative press is easier to survive and absorb if there are plenty of positive examples out there to offset it. I think that's what you were saying.

I would go further, however, and say that this is why it is vital that LGBT folk be able come out of the closet and live openly and without shame. And we need to get the legislation in place to make it safe to do so.