During its 1995-'96 season, prime time television tried as never before to legitimize the homosexual lifestyle. Gay characters were featured on three debuting series (NBC's "The Pursuit of Happiness," CBS's "High Society," and Fox's "The Crew"). A homosexual man on Fox's "Melrose Place" fought and won a workplace-discrimination lawsuit. Two men tied the knot on ABC's "Roseanne." One week last fall, NBC's entire "Must See TV" lineup - "Frasier," "Friends," "The Single Guy," and "Seinfeld" - featured storylines of straights mistaken for gays.
Lesbian storylines were prevalent, too. A February episode of "Friends" featured the wedding of two women raising the child one had with her ex-husband. In March, Fox's "Living Single" discussed, but did not depict, another lesbian wedding. One episode of CBS's "Chicago Hope" revolved around lesbian lovers having a doctor artificially inseminate one of them.
The networks are rolling out their '96-'97 lineups, and this year the lesbian wave has a militant attitude to boot. On the season premiere of NBC's "Mad About You," Debbie's new live-in lover, Joan, is introduced to Debbie's parents, who quickly accept her as "essentially" a member of the family. The morality of Joan and Debbie's relationship is irrelevant, beneath discussion.
When homosexuality is debated, as in ABC's movie "Two Mothers for Zachary," one side is glorified, the other vilified. The protagonist is Jody Ann, a divorcee with a young son, who moves in with her lover, Maggie. Jody Ann's mother, objecting strongly to this arrangement, seeks custody of Zachary.
Jody Ann is presented as a noble crusader for justice. When Maggie considers moving out for fear her presence will hurt Jody Ann in her custody battle, Jody Ann responds, "I'm supposed to set a good example for [Zachary], right? Make the world a better place, all that crap. What am I teaching him if I don't stand up for myself, for what I believe in?...If she wants a fight, let's just give it to her! I love you! You got a problem with that?" With that, the women kiss and embrace. All the while, Jody Ann's mother is the bigot, given to pronouncements on the order of, "As long as you're with [Maggie], you're not my daughter."
But the big news concerning prime time lesbianism, and what has made headlines all over the country, is truly bizarre. It deals with the possible coming-out of Ellen DeGeneres' title character on ABC's "Ellen" because it is speculated that DeGeneres in real life is homosexual and may be making that declaration. Since when should the latter dictate the former? And they said Dan Quayle couldn't distinguish fiction from reality when he attacked Murphy Brown!
DeGeneres and the show's creative staff apparently favor the coming-out. According to John Carmody of the Washington Post, Disney, which produces the show and owns ABC, the network airing it, has reportedly said it would consider ideas for a new series "with a major gay character."
A column by the Philadelphia Inquirer's Gail Shister fueled the fire with this lead: "Come out, come out, wherever you are, Ellen Morgan." The four people - two actors, two producers - interviewed for the piece, Shister eventually acknowledges, are "all openly gay." Not acknowledged in the column: Shister's activism in the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists' Association.
Naturally, Ellen's coming-out is being encouraged by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). "The Ellen character coming out would be a fantastic thing," said a GLAAD spokesman. "This would help to normalize [homosexuality] for millions of viewers."
It is the stated objective of some of the most prominent players in Hollywood to do just that. This is no hushed conspiracy; it is a loudly proclaimed fact. In a nine-page spread in the May issue of Los Angeles magazine, the headline said it all: "More Than 'Friends': You may not have noticed, but your favorite sitcoms are written by gays and lesbians. As outsiders in the mainstream, they're redefining prime time - and sex on television will never be the same."
The article backs it up with interviews from countless sitcom writers, maintaining that there "are openly gay and lesbian writers on almost every major prime time situation comedy you can think of, including 'Friends,' 'Seinfeld,' 'Murphy Brown,' 'Roseanne,' 'Mad About You,' 'The Nanny,' 'Wings,' 'The Single Guy,' 'Caroline in the City,' 'Coach,' 'Dave's World,' [and] 'Boston Common.'" As the writer of the article, David Ehrenstein, points out, "The gay and lesbian TV writers of today have been pushing the envelope every chance they get. In fact, they're encouraged to do so."
Remember that when next your children turn on the television. If you are trying to teach them that the homosexual lifestyle is decadent and immoral, understand that television is telling them just the opposite - and telling you to go fly a kite.