It should come as no surprise that ABC is providing the door through which Ellen DeGeneres can formally announce her lesbianism as a sitcom character and, it turns out, in her real life. For years the networks have used laugh tracks to hide their inability to create material that might produce laughter from real people. Now, ABC promotes lesbianism, a kind of sexual laugh track that counterfeits authentic womanhood.
But not since The Day After (also on ABC) more than a decade ago has a network sought to impose a political view in such a heavy-handed manner. Just as The Day After was the final shot by the unilateral disarmament crowd in their efforts to get the United States to lay down its nuclear weapons in the misguided belief that the Soviet Union, seeing our "sincerity," would reciprocate, the announcement of Ellen's lesbianism is a full-frontal assault by deviants on what remains of decency.
All over America, The New York Times tells us, lesbians will be partying on the night of April 30 during Ellen's broadcast. Some "hip" television critics are praising the network for its "daring" and "courage." Real courage would portray Ellen, or one like her, as a heterosexual, married, stay-at-home mom, who goes to church with her husband and children, votes Republican, loves Ronald Reagan, listens to Rush Limbaugh, and honors her country. Since virtually none of the broadcast executives and most in the creative community see any of these ideas, behaviors, or lifestyles as normal, how is it courageous to present a show containing ideas and behavior reflecting management's worldview?
Some conservatives have again taken the bait, threatening boycotts and nationwide pushing of the "off" button. They are being used to help promote the show. Instead of making statements to the press, they should focus on boosting those few shows that actually reflect their values.
No wonder advertisers focus on the 18- to 49-year-old crowd. They and the networks are like the cigarette industry. Hook them early and they'll be customers, if not for life, then at least until they're over 49. The tobacco companies make products that kill the body. The networks spew forth material that poisons the mind and soul.
I still believe there are only three ways to address programs like Ellen for those who are offended by its message: (1) ignore it, because the ratings are low and the show may vanish by next season, or the one after that; (2) direct our energy and efforts toward watching and promoting the few really good programs, patronizing their sponsors, and writing positive letters; (3) get rid of the television set altogether and rediscover books, conversation, and the radio.
I used to believe those who opted for No. 3 were radicals. Now I find increasing numbers of television viewers who are unwilling to expose themselves and their children to the family-unfriendly material the networks want to pump into their homes saying it isn't worth it and pulling the plug.
When Johnny Carson left The Tonight Show, he spoke of the privilege he knew was his to be invited into people's homes every night. The networks have now abused that privilege. And the viewers are beginning to abuse the networks as shown by their declining market share. The "coming out" episode of Ellen will eventually add to that ratings erosion as the networks, like the Heaven's Gate crowd, commit suicide and engage in the self-deception that what they are presenting is entertainment, when really it is mostly propaganda.
copyright 1997, Los Angeles Times Syndicate