FanMail: Is The Media Homophobic?

One of my avid blog reader and a Facebook friend sent this in. Its a thought provoking article that may change the way you think about our industry and how certain sectors of our society is portrayed. 

It reads:

Is The Media Homophobic?
By Motlatsi Motseoile

As I watched my favourite gay drama, Queer as folk, I came to an interesting realisation and interesting conclusion. But these two linked points were derived from an even more interesting question, one I’ve had for some weeks now. Do the media represent the gays properly? The media and arts are a very gay industry, do the gays in the industry even care what their straight colleagues say about or portray them as?

It appears from recent programming that the world would like us to believe that gay people are sub-humans, who would not exist without straight people. It seems we get our cues of living from them. We want children, they ask why, because it’s a straight thing to have children, and the same applies to marriage, buying property or having joint accounts. Let me simplify, in Queer As Folk, a lesbian couple who had been raising children together is in battle for joint custody between themselves but also are fighting the biological father of the child. What comes out of that is that hetronormative ideology always prevails, despite the law wanting to be subjective when a straight person is before them, so much for equality before the law. The reaction Generations got when they faked a kiss between Senzo and Jason also tells us that the media had us on some sort of string. We can watch old men kissing and having sex scenes with young girls, yet when two young men, who are gay are kissing, there is an uproar.

What should be interesting is that the kiss on Generations was not the first gay kiss on South African television. Isidingo has led the pink revolution. They had Steve, perhaps he just needed Adam to gain controversy, because Emmanuel Castis or his character never had any trouble. Does that speak to our racial bias and the belief that homosexuality is a white thing? That Isidingo has not had a black gay character could be a reflection of that [stereotype/myth]? Isidingo recently introduced Prada (Ashish Gangapersad), did the Indian community write to the producers to complain? Are black people just not in touch with reality, or are they afraid of the kind of people they are? The media has also gone on to publicise people like Somizi Mhlongo, turned them into icons, not because he is a good dancer/choreographer, but because he is that and Gay. The media has made it a prerequisite for gays to declare that they are, in order for them to get the applause they deserve. In return the media demands first class passes into their kitchens, living rooms and more importantly bedrooms. 
Tyler Perry’s ‘For coloured girls’ has a scene where Janet Jackson’s character is told by her husband, who has given her HIV, that he is not gay, because being gay entails holding hands with men, kissing men, wearing pink and just being weak and feminine. That is the image the media has adored, the passive gay who does not have a life outside of her female best friend. Hip hop is also guilty of this offence, being gay is weak and anything associated with men and weakness is gay. The “NO HOMO” tag has also seen looking good and male admiration of such as being gay, unless you add the disclaimer “No Homo”. This brings out another dimension to the debate.

South African media can never really be independent, as long as it takes its cues from American media. When Will & Grace had success, South African television felt that we were also ready for gays on tv. But hasn’t society seen gays every day, after all, gays live in the same communities as the straight people? Local rappers are also disclaiming “No homo”, as though we want to know.

Yes I am accusing the media of being hypocritical, if you are confused as to the point. For an industry that is flooded by homosexuality, the media and entertainment industry is at an advantage. They can be advocates, spark debate and inform and educate, instead they have chosen to be hounds. They silence young gay artists from coming out, because it will be bad for sales, and will only allow them to share their homosexuality when its good for their pockets (i.e record bosses), they sensationalise gay rumours and give strong hints until some men have to declare that they are married and have children, which in itself does not say your are not gay (Lunga Shabalala and Theo Kgosinkwe). They act as though they celebrate people for who they are and accept them, until crunch time, “I don’t mind gay people, as long as they are not on my case”, but whose case should we be on, when you act like straight men are the lotto jackpot.

They write storylines with gay characters for ratings, and when that fails they write them out (scandal and rhythm city). They have discussions about gay issues but only for their entertainment, but will never deal with the real issues (corrective rape and gay bashing). The media thrives on scandal and controversy, but the South African media is too small for that to be its only focus. If the media is about all who consume it, about all who contribute to it, then they ought to show that in the programming. We don’t know stories of interesting gay men like David Tlale, a designer who left I.T to follow his love for fashion. We don’t know stories of gay men behind the scenes, yet we know all about Kenny Kunene. We never have compelling stories on gay people, the last time they tried, with ‘After nine’ it was just on the surface, yet we they are willing to go far to have a drama about circumcision in the Xhosa community displayed. The media has to be unbiased and independent and represent all facets of society, speak to what’s on people’s minds at a particular time. Gay people are on people’s minds, but not as sub-humans, whose existence is dependent on heterosexuality. That is what we should see, if not, then we should not see anything.

1 comment:

Loudrastress said...

a very important and provocative piece. the media has a huge role to play in expanding notions of who we are as a society across sexual orientation. the ongoing refusal to show a range of gay and lesbian characters is a huge problem. programmes like After Nine were hugely popular but were never institutionally supported beyond the first season. Society is incredibly popular because it also shows a range of lives of women across sexualities. the sooner all media platforms stop treating same-sex and same-gender loving people as exceptional, the better for all of us. but the media chooses to cop out instead.

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