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It's profitable to be a little bit gay

ON TV BRIAN LOWRY

August 27, 2003|BRIAN LOWRY

Of course, the mere idea of subtly humanizing gays steams cultural warriors like Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, who insists that Hollywood "refuses to give up its pro-homosexual agenda" and is determined to "influence the culture," even if that means alienating consumers.

Actually, big media companies tend to be secular in their worship of profits, so rampant viewer rejection would prompt a retreat that hasn't happened. It's by no means clear, however, that all the media exposure contributes to public comfort with gays in any greater measure than it fuels the wrath of groups like Lafferty's, which anticipate a backlash over the issues of gay marriage and last June's Supreme Court decision striking down sodomy laws.

Perhaps the ultimate sign of progress is to see gays presented without sexual orientation defining them.

Never a political comic before her "coming out" experience, DeGeneres recently told reporters that she doesn't feel compelled to make her personal life an issue in her new talk show, which will make its debut next month.

"I just want to be the person I was before this kind of overshadowed my life," she said. "People know I'm gay.... There's nothing to talk about."

Yet even gay-rights proponents have their doubts about casual gay-ness becoming the norm in the present climate.

"It's very safe to assume it's going to be part of the [presidential] campaign," Barrios said, adding, "Willie Horton is going to be gay this time" -- a reference to the African American criminal featured in ads for then-candidate and vice president George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988, appealing to fears among middle-class white voters.

Such weighty matters admittedly sound like a lot of unnecessary baggage for the "Queer Eye" guys to tote around; still, based on the lens through which TV filters gays, it's safe to conclude that while those bags will contain little substance, they'll all look just fabulous.

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