If you’re playing Scrabble with a group of gay activists, make sure you don’t use the words “flaunt” or “lifestyle.” Someone might break the board or, worse yet, call you homophobic.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is conducting an Internet campaign against Associated Press writer Matt Gouras for a “highly problematic article” about a family law case. The story ran in The Tennessean and the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Actually, the group’s anger stems from one sentence, the first one: “A gay father can’t flaunt a homosexual lifestyle when his son is around, a state appeals court has ruled.”
So what’s the problem?
The Washington Blade, a gay paper based in D.C., ran a lengthy story last week about the sentence, quoting GLAAD’s Chalee Snorton, who cited the writer’s “terminology” as the problem. “The term 'homosexual lifestyle’ is too vague an expression to describe our lives as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, and only serves to conjure up negative stereotypes about our community,” she said. And the word “ 'flaunt’ projects images of gay men being 'oversexualized’ and 'deviant.’ ” She’s got one thorough dictionary.
Jerry Jones, the publisher of Out & About, a statewide gay newspaper in Tennessee, kindly explains that the word “flaunt” is derogatory, that it implies the man is doing something wrong. Jones doesn’t have a problem with the word “lifestyle,” but others have said that it implies homosexuality is a choice, which only the Carolyn Baldwin Tuckers of the world assert. In any case, the Associated Press later apologized, noting that their own guidelines urge them to steer clear of references to “homosexual lifestyle.” So all is, hopefully, forgiven.
Of course, there is the matter of oversensitivity. While the AP takes responsibility for the story, many otherwise progressive, in-touch people would never have construed “flaunt” and “lifestyle” as verbal hate crime. Besides, there are other things to worry about. Like the actual subject of the story: Joe Hogue, an empathetic Christian music producer, humiliated by two levels of Tennessee courts for the apparent cardinal sin of telling his son he was gay. For that, a Williamson County judge sentenced him to two days in jail. The state Court of Appeals overturned the sentence but upheld an earlier ruling that, when it comes to his son, Hogue basically must live in the closet.
Those judges are the problem. Not the Associated Press.
Laurels to WSMV-Channel 4 reporter Terry Bulger, whose hilarious story about a randy, rapacious dog was cited last week on MSNBC’s Countdown With Keith Olbermann as the No. 1 story of the day. Bulger reported how a lusty stray dog answered the call of the wild by breaking and entering into the back door of a Portland couple’s home in pursuit of their amorous canine who was in heat. Left alone, the pair engaged in a Sting-like six-hour-long romp, causing nearly $7,000 worth of damage. The police hurried to the scene and even filled out a report. (Police later received calls about the same dog breaking into other people’s houses.) Local television news, with its plodding emphasis on fires, shootings and quarter-inch snowfalls, can be rather bleak. Give credit to Bulger for consistently reporting stories that snare people’s attention. We should also add that, when not caught up in sweeps mania, Channel 4 is becoming watchable again.
Stubby got fingered
As of last Friday, Stubby needs a new place. Stubby’s Place, the locally produced comedy show, was taken off local Warner Bros. affiliate WNAB-Channel 58 last week before it could air its fourth episode on the station.
There is some confusion as to why. The show, a mix of sketch comedy and stand-up routines, has been airing on public access CATV Channel 19 for a year. It made the jump to the WB in a midnight Friday paid-advertisement slot, and its producers bought the block of airtime for their show. The show’s producers, Glen Weiss and Perry Poston (who doubles as the hapless host Stubby), say they had signed a contract to buy airtime for 13 half-hour episodes at $350 apiece, selling sponsorships to offset the cost.
Here’s where the clouds roll in. According to Weiss, a WNAB staffer informed him last week after he’d already paid up front for Friday’s show that it wouldn’t air. Weiss says that WNAB program director Kent Bailey cited the show’s production values and content, especially the use of the word “shit” and references to oral sex. Though other late-night shows on the WB aren’t quite as explicit, Weiss argues that they’re every bit as raunchy and suggestive. Poston wonders if the station just got more money for the slot from someone else.
But it isn’t clear that Bailey ever wanted Stubby’s Place on the air. Because Weiss says he was dealing with another WNAB staffer who left on maternity leave, and because the show was treated as paid advertisement, there’s the chance Bailey didn’t even know it was running.
Bailey, who identifies himself as a former stand-up comedian, says only that he is still “in discussions about the show’s future with Channel 58.” Otherwise he declines commentexcept to say, no less than nine times, “I really like your paper. Did I mention that?” The solution seems simple: Get this guy a gig on Stubby’s Place.