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Sorting Out the 'Ellen' Effect and Other TV Matters

May 12, 1997

In relation to Ellen DeGeneres and her gal pal Anne Heche coming out as lesbians ("What's the Problem? Let Her Do Her Job," Counterpunch, May 5), Lizzie Borden hopes that "gay activists resist the urge to politicize the situation for their own purposes."

Own purposes? As a gay activist (who happens to be an openly gay actor), my purpose is to be treated with the same respect afforded anyone else on this planet or in this town. I'll use whatever is necessary--politically or personally--to achieve what I rightfully deserve.


Los Angeles


Lizzie Borden makes some very astute points in "What's the Problem?" But she understates a rather undeniable observation about society: Not only do most men indeed have a traditional fascination with woman-to-woman love, but we are, at large, far more forgiving of lesbianism (which appears as merely tantalizingly naughty and benign) than male homosexuality (which is inclined to strike us as repulsively bad and malignant).

Anne Heche's film career will no doubt continue to prosper, but let's not make the mistake of generalizing her professional fate as an across-the-gender-line precedent. What would happen if, let's say, a Tom Cruise, or a George Clooney were to "come out"? Is there anybody who would even dare to suggest that, only because they had in the past been associated with convincingly heterosexual relationships, a post-"coming out," romantic on-screen performance with a female character, no matter how sizzling and magical, would make the audience think that their off-screen relationships with gay lovers were "a stretch"?

I think not. I think that a Tom Cruise open romantic alliance with another male star would have just about the same devastating consequence for his career as it would for a Pamela Anderson if her breasts fell off.


Santa Barbara


Hey, Ms. Borden. "Half the men in America would have gotten excited just imagining two women in bed . . . "; "This culture has no problems with 'lipstick lesbians' . . . "; " . . . the cavorting of cute twentysomethings whose same-sex explorations seem charming interludes between their crushes on guys . . . ." Really? You say studio executives should give audiences more credit. How about you doing the same for male middle America? I guess that if your demographic studies on attendance show that a lot of us want to see two women "getting it on," it's because that's a lot of what is offered. But we also like everything from ridiculously violent action-adventures to old-fashioned romantic comedies to fantasies such as "Forrest Gump" and "Field of Dreams," most of which feature absolutely no lesbian sex.

I have a challenge for you: Get away from your out-of-touch filmmaking world; away from the billion-dollar-tossing moguls; away from the myopic directors and shut-in writers; and come out here where we are. Take 100 of us and ask the question, "What is your ideal Sharon Stone fantasy?" If even 10 of us--much less than the "half" you claim--say anything close to "watching a film of her rolling in the hay with Anne Heche," well, I'll admit you're right and start watching your silly little movies. I'll even go way out on a limb and venture that way over half of us don't really care one whit what DeGeneres or Heche do on their own time.


Temple City


Brandon Tartikoff's commentary on how to choose successful TV shows just proves why failure is the norm in TV and a hit is the rare exception, since two of his three pieces of advice are incorrect:

He says decisions should be made on the developer's "passion" and cites two examples where not-to-buy decisions were overturned based upon the creator's "passion," and the shows became successful. Hey, Brandon, what about the hundreds of other shows with equally passionate developers that ran and failed! Big deal! So two succeeded.

Wonder why TV has a 95% failure rate? It's because people like Tartikoff run it.



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