Saturday, July 26, 2008

Open Forum: Is Any Publicity Good Publicity?

Anytime someone who identifies or appears to be part of the Queer community is in the public spotlight it reflects on us all. It shouldn't be the case because we are such a diverse community, comprised of various political, religious, and personal preferences. The fact is though the majority will judge any minority they don't know much about by the little information they do receive.

The question and conversation I pose this week is whether any publicity is good publicity? There is a long time internal debate within the Queer community of those that feel we should strive to show the world our families, our professions, and our religions to show that we are self respecting hard working people just like everyone else.

Many LGBTQ people are embarrassed by such things as the pride parades where people dress up in Halloween like costumes, go naked, or act perverse. At the same token many of the people who are parading around in such attire or making sexual or fun and outrageous statements feel that some Queers are trying to sugarcoat the community and are an affront to the efforts to advance civil liberties and sexual liberation.

Do you think any publicity is good publicity, and will ultimately desensitize straight people to our varied ways? Is the media perhaps only focusing on the outrageous and does this hurt the image of the entire community? Share your thoughts.

3 comments:

Diane J Standiford said...

Publicity, needs definition. Publicity is as varied as our community, so it depends; no, not a mass murderer who is gay would do us any good as anti-gay folk would seize upon it; other than such an extreme---come out come out whoever you are. The masses don't realize how many of us there are, nor how we impact their lives in wonderful ways. A parade is usually meant for entertainment/extravagance is expected. Will the media always show crazy clowns? Sure, gay or not. In Seattle the media has grown up, so it will be in other places, the more we come out---police, firefighters, doctors, nurses, teachers...

pretzelboy said...

I identify as asexual, a very under-recognized queer group, and as such am very much aware of the need for publicity. On the other hand, as much as I want to see lots of publicity for us, I really don't want to see bad publicity. There is a New Zealand soap opera in which a character seems to be coming out as asexual. But there is a recurring theme that some characters think that it might have to do with some trauma from his past. It's great to have the publicity, but a bunch of us are really hoping that they do not make his asexuality a result of past abuse (fingers are crossed.)

Different queer groups vary in how much publicity they have. In fighting for gay and lesbian rights, people don't need to make the general public aware of the existence of these groups--the goal is to make people accepting and to help people have positive images of people with these identities.

Thalassa said...

I agree with pretzelboy here. 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 were 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.

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