Wednesday, August 29, 2012

KSL And "The New Normal"

Facebook gets me in trouble sometimes.  Jonah is always warning me to be careful what I say on Facebook because sometimes it creates some drama between friends.  Actually, one of the the things I like least about Facebook is that you find out that some of the people you know, love, and respect have opinions about political and social affairs that sometimes make you respect them a little less.  I never unfriend anyone for their beliefs.  I think keeping people around who espouse all sorts of points-of-view keeps me well-rounded and informed.  I also think it reinforces what I already believe.  And I may not agree with what you say, but I wholehearted support your right to say it.

I tend to allow myself to get caught up in discussions (which sometimes, unfortunately, become arguments) about political and social affairs, and that's where I sometimes get into the trouble that Jonah warns me about.  Yet, I also feel it is necessary to discuss things that are important to me.  I do want people to know how I feel about certain issues.  The political climate has gotten so heated and confrontational lately, though, that I've resolved to try harder to stay out of political conversations (especially ones that are not generated by me in the first place).  Especially during this very tense and polarizing election season, I just feel I need to stay out of the arguments, especially when they are between people who have no hope of swaying one another to their points-of-view.

The other day I did make a comment about a new TV sitcom that NBC has picked up called "The New Normal."  It's a show created by Ryan Murphy, the producer of such shows as "Glee" and "American Horror Story."  Evidently, NBC's affiliate here in Utah, KSL (which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has made the choice not to air it because, as Bonneville International CEO Jeff Simpson says, "For our brand, this program feels inappropriate on several dimensions, especially during family viewing time."  You can read the full story here and here as well as a comment by a reader applauding the decision.

Anyway, I posted a comment on my status that read as thus: "I haven't seen 'The New Normal' and have no idea if it's any good, but I do find it a bit hypocritical that KSL feels a show like 'Law and Order: SVU,' which has aired for years and deals with violence and sex crimes, fits their brand, but that a show about two gay men in a loving relationship wanting to raise a child together is 'inappropriate.' The show may suck, and I suppose KSL has every right to not air it, but it seems such a double standard to me."

This caused some conservative and liberal friends to start arguing this issue and also involved one unfortunate attack on the Mormon Church that I felt crossed a line (my friend later apologized for the remark).

One conservative friend said, "This is not the first time KSL has chosen not to air a show with gay issues. Another channel like KJZZ usually does instead. If every public channel was choosing not to air the program, then I could understand the argument. There are plenty of channels airing programs that I view as 'inappropriate', but I simply choose not to watch those channels instead of creating a thread of fruitless argument on fb. SO WHAT if those who support a more conservative view choose not to air a certain show, its the shoe-on-the-other-foot concept!"

It is true that this is not the first time KSL has chosen not to air a TV program.  Just last year they chose not to air the eventually canceled "The Playboy Club," and they haven't aired "Saturday Night Live" for years.  They also wouldn't air "Coupling" or "God, the Devil, and Bob" (both canceled as well).  So, yeah, they have a track record of not airing things they find to be objectionable.  But as I told my friend, that's really not my issue.

I said,  "I guess my point is not so much whether KSL chooses to air it or not. They can air whatever they choose to air. As a gay person, though, it bothers me that people are more offended by a gay couple wanting to raise a child together than they seem to be by violent sex crimes or people eating pig scrotums as part of a competition ('Fear Factor'). And while it may seem 'fruitless' to discuss such issues, they are issues that are important to me.

"Yeah, a conservative station can choose not to air a show that goes against its image, and yeah, someone else will likely pick it up. [KJZZ probably will.] That's their prerogative. I guess I'm just bothered by what the conservative affiliate chooses to be offended by. It reminds me when Larry H. Miller declined to show Brokeback Mountain because it was offensive, but didn't seem to have any issue with Hostel which was basically torture porn. Again, it was fully within Mr. Miller's rights to do. I'm not arguing that. I just find it interesting what people find offensive. I guess torture, violence, heterosexual sex, and pig scrotums are fine, but heaven forbid what will happen if we show a gay couple wanting to raise a baby together."

My brother-in-law and another friend also made similar comments about shows like "Two and a Half Men" (the long-running CBS show) and "Mike and Molly" (also CBS).  About "Two and a Half Men" my brother-in-law said, "I saw a commercial for it that made my blood boil. It promoted that show had 'new family values' then cut to a scene with Jon Cryer surrounded by scantily clad women, himself wearing just whipped cream stating how sexy he felt!"

My other friend said, "It's the beauty of America where 'Two and a Half Men' and 'Mike and Molly,' which are filled with misogynistic jokes as were as other questionable humor, are deemed ok, but 2 gay guys are 'not appropriate.' One question, does KSL carry ads for JCPenny? Now that would be hypocrisy."

Never having seen "Mike and Molly" or "Two and a Half Men," I can't judge the content of those shows, but I think my the points my brother-in-law and friend have stated are valid as far as what is deemed to be offensive.

And this is an argument I have in general.  People get all up in arms about Kate Winslet's nude scene in Titanic, but no one is the least bothered by the violent deaths suffered by those who were killed in that disaster.  People freak out when Janet Jackson's nipple accidentally makes an appearance during a Super Bowl halftime show, but no one seems offended by some of the misogynistic or homophobic ads I've seen aired during the Superbowl.  Again, my issue is not really with what any affiliate chooses to air, but with what they deem offensive.

And I think it boils down to what one commenter said in response to the Deseret News letter I linked above:

"To those on here who are using 'Law & Order:SVU' as a tool to justify 'The New Normal': Yeah, 'L&O:SVU' is a bad show in my opinion, I agree. But that doesn't in any way justify 'The New Normal' as a harmless show.

"And there's a critical difference between the two shows: while 'L&O:SVU' may portray a lot of brutal crimes on the screen (which I don't like), they are at least also shown to be evil and are prosecuted as crimes. 'The New Normal', while maybe not as directly explicit as 'L&O', portrays something far more damaging in the long run: it will show gay marriage and homosexuality in general as harmless, normal and morally acceptable. That's likely where KSL's judgment call came from. Yes, showing explicit violence isn't good, but describing harmful and deadly behavior as harmless and normal is far worse even if you don't actually show it."

So that's what it really boils down to, I guess: "Law and Order: SVU" is okay because the sex crimes and violence are portrayed as bad.  "Fear Factor" must be okay because people eating testicles and cow bile and bobbing for chickens' feet is just all in good fun.  "Two and a Half Men" is okay because the sexual exploits and promiscuous activity  of the two leads is heterosexual.  But because a loving and monogamous relationship between two people of the same sex is seen as sinful and evil, but is being portrayed as normal and acceptable, that somehow makes it more inappropriate.  

If KSL really wants to adhere to the family values they supposedly espouse, they shouldn't air half the stuff they air.  I've seen enough adultery and off-color jokes on KSL to write a book.  Just admit it: it's a double standard, and KSL certainly isn't the only entity in the world guilty of it.

All this having been said, I had a chance to preview the pilot episode of "The New Normal" this morning, and I found it more offensive for its stereotypes and lack of good humor than I did for anything else.  There were a few touching moments, but I found the show "meh."  I'm not sure why gay people are so often portrayed as snarky and catty.  (Well, I take that back: I know a lot of gay people who are exactly that, but it doesn't represent me.)  I also found one joke about abortion kind of unnecessary.  I felt it made light of the subject a little too much, but that's just my opinion.

The jury's still out, but while there were a couple of moments I liked, overall the show didn't impress me much.  It was only the pilot, though.  Maybe it will get better.  But currently it's not a show I would go out of my way to watch - not because it portrays a gay couple in a positive light, but because I just didn't find it all that entertaining or funny. 

Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha make a cute couple, though.

1 comment:

Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

I have a friend, whose son and husband are expecting in December via surrogate, who was excited about New Normal until she saw it. It is too bad that what could be a good opportunity, may be lost to bad writing and/or acting. Hopefully it gets better.