CBS fails to score with gay community


This past week, the gay community had a lot to cheer about with regards to their favorite stars.

High off the season’s ecstatic award show recognition for Glee, Jane Lynch, the actress behind fiery cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on Fox’s hit show, announced that she and her partner set a date to be married in May. A nod to her T.V. cast and soon-to-be life partner, Lynch noted, “It’s good to be on the winning team.”

Also, in a transformative moment that took place on the Grammy stage Sunday, the Recording Academy topped the shock value from even one of its most controversial on stage collaborations — Eminem and Elton John in 2001 — by pairing up the famously gay crooner with a new icon, Lady Gaga. With crystallized sunglasses, burning stage sets and pristine vocals in full effect, the performance was as much of a deep political and social statement as it was a spectacle. Recently, Gaga has been heavily active in the movement for gay rights as the group’s glittery poster child.

But while the current stereotype classifies most people in Hollywood and the entertainment industry to be nothing but raging liberals, that is realistically not the case. While the gay community might have taken two steps forward this week, they also took one giant step back after being hit by the business with a huge, bold-faced reality: rejection.

Vying for a coveted 30-second commercial spot during this year’s Super Bowl festivities, gay dating website, ManCrunch.com, was denied a space by CBS. The network offered the swift explanation that the site’s commercial — which featured two men in sports jerseys, a shared potato chip bowl and a steamy couch make-out session — simply didn’t fall “within its broadcast standards for Super Bowl Sunday.”

With the network’s broadcast standards not clearly outlined, some argued the rationale was instead a simple matter of discrimination. In addition to the ad from ManCrunch.com, another gay-themed commercial was also rejected.

Shocker.

To add to CBS’s defense, the network claimed that the rejection was also based partly on financial concerns, expressing the fact that its sales department couldn’t verify ManCrunch.com’s credit status, a shaky situation for  something that comes with a hefty $2.5 million dollar price tag. With over $40 million dollars raised from investors however, the dating site defends that they could not only have made the payment easily, but they could have also paid CBS in cash.

Nice try guys.

Regardless of monetary complications, it can still be argued that over the years the network’s standard for commercials is highly inconsistent and plays to a double standard.

In 2003, a racy Miller Lite commercial was allowed to air on Super Bowl Sunday featuring two attractive, voluptuous women wrestling in a water fountain, clothes being ripped off until both were in their underwear as they argued over which was the better quality of the beer brand: “great taste” or “less filling.” Though that year’s Super Bowl was broadcast on ABC, it’s a fair bet that guy-on-guy fountain wrestling wouldn’t have had the same appeal on either station.

Clearly, the conflict seems to be content-based, and CBS’s sketchy response is the network’s roundabout way of admitting this. But though it may seem blatantly discriminatory, CBS does have every right to freely pick and choose whatever content they deem appropriate for its broadcast or, perhaps more fittingly, what they think will better please audiences at home and pay the bills.

With behind-the-scenes dealings such as this, Hollywood’s perceived spirit of progressive liberalism and open acceptance to diversity (racial, sexual and otherwise) almost seems like a myth. In fact, in this case upholding fairness and equality undoubtedly comes second to CBS’s need to drive a bottom line.

Given all the recent hoopla  and frenzy over controversial gay acts on television, including Adam Lambert’s primetime American Music Awards performance, CBS executives might have very well made an informed decision not based on their own personal opinions, but what they felt their audience would want to see during commercials.

But for an event as highly publicized as the Super Bowl, the network missed a chance to change perceptions and provide 30 seconds of face time to millions of Americans who might still be uncomfortable with gay rights. A simple commercial could have been the industry’s transformational step to making the topic less taboo.

It is no small wonder that, in the past, the sports world and gay culture haven’t widely crossed paths. It could have been CBS’s crowning moment to change that.

Christopher Agutos is a junior majoring in public relations and poltical science.  His column “Pop Life” runs Tuesdays.

  • Diane

    Yes it would still be “graphic” if a man and woman were kissing. However, since a significant portion of the population thinks it is wrong for two men to be kissing, and nobody thinks it’s wrong for a man and woman to be kissing=CBS makes a decision. Not rocket science.

    Gays want to densensitize us all so that two men kissing does not make people uncomfortable. But you can’t change reality. That will never look right, to a lot of people. Because it brings up serious questions about society and our place in it, and the role homosexuals play.

  • Joe

    So the commercial includes graphic video of a couple of dudes making out, and you wonder why CBS might choose not to air it? As you note in the article, CBS has every right to pick and choose the ads they show. They are undoubtedly going to think twice about airing an ad that could disgust the audience and cause people to click away (as that would decrease the viewership and value of the other ads). So it seems you implore CBS to show the ad anyway, as some sort of charity for homosexuals? The pro-gay movement is far from penniless and disadvantaged; if they think the challenge they face is a PR problem, they should pony up the money for some issue ads.

    • little bear

      is it a “graphic video” because two guys are kissing? would it still be “graphic” if a man and woman were kissing? that’s the real issue at stake here…as it seems that the company was willing to pay cash. this may just be more evidence that homosexuals are in fact an at-risk minority. homosexual money is no good at cbs…go to the back of the bus…except of course you mr. geffen.

      • Joe

        My point was that the problem for the pro-gay movement is NOT a PR problem. They are supporting a wrong cause — trying to improve the image of homosexuality by “educating” or “desensitizing” the public is a foolish idea. Because homosexuality isn’t just another hairstyle or another flavor of ice cream — it’s a choice that is qualitatively and demonstrably worse than the alternative. Do you think CBS would accept an ad that tries to convince the audience that smoking is healthy, or that eating junk food is good for you?

  • Diane

    This piece perpetuates the myth that Americans are “uncomfortable with gay rights” and we need the all-knowing media (perhaps such noteworthies as Elton John and Lady Gaga) to bring us along. In point of fact, most Americans have no problem with treating everyone fairly regardless of who they sleep with. Just because most Americans do not agree with every point on Lady Gaga’s particular political agenda does not mean they require “sensitivity training” of the kind this ad offered.