Culture Notes


Issue: "Clinton: Under seige," Feb. 6, 1998

Surely the media aren't biased

Television networks that pride themselves on pushing the envelope on controversial issues drew the line at Mother Teresa. Each of the major networks-ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox-refused to air a pro-life ad featuring the late Roman Catholic nun revered for her compassionate work with the world's unwanted. The 30-second spot was reportedly drawn from one of her final interviews before her death. Michigan's Right to Life organization, rebuffed by the national networks, has reached agreements with 21 local stations to run the ad. "The censorship of Mother Teresa is consistent with a tendency to promote the option of abortion and stifle pro-life voices altogether," said a spokesman for the Michigan group. In another example of media bias when it comes to abortion, America Online sponsored a week-long forum on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade that stacked the deck against pro-lifers. At first, AOL posted only one pro-life position paper, up against four pro-abortionists, some of whom were given their own chat-room times without being answered by the other side. In the ensuing outcry, AOL officials maintained they tried to get other pro-lifers to contribute, but the ones they asked were unavailable. At the last minute, more balance was put into the program, thanks largely to loud complaints from online customers.

Maybe the last Ellen story

Ellen, the sitcom that brought homosexuality into primetime, is on the verge of being cancelled. ABC/Disney announced that the series will be pulled from its lineup for six weeks beginning in March. Putting a series on hiatus like this is usually a prelude to cancellation, though one can expect vociferous efforts to save the show. Ever since the show's Ellen and its star, Ellen Degeneres, "came out" as a lesbian-to an initial huge boost in its ratings-the program has fallen in viewership. As the show has turned more and more to the travails of same-sex dating and lesbian in-jokes, viewership has dropped off. There just may not be enough homosexuals, despite ABC's PR machine, to carry a mass-market show. In the meantime, Ms. Degeneres's mother is making appearances in support of gay rights. However, the mother of her girlfriend, actress Anne Heche,is singing a different tune. In an interview in Us magazine, Ms. Heche quotes her mother: "I don't accept your love affair with Ellen the same way you don't accept my love affair with Jesus Christ."

For suicide send a card

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Whether because of an upsurge of despair or because they see physician-assisted suicide as a growing trend, Hallmark Cards has decided there is a market for suicide cards. Starting in April, Hallmark will feature a sympathy card designed to console a person whose loved one killed himself. The card is the first in a possible line, which will be identified in the rack-along with the birthday, anniversary, and get-well categories-with a tab labeled "suicide." Hallmark test-marketed the card in six cities, where it met overwhelming success. Families of those who had taken their own lives reportedly appreciated them, while it helped solve the problem of friends' not knowing what to say. The line is to be part of the greeting-card giant's "Lifesong collection," which is designed, according to company spokesman Rachel Bolton, to celebrate all experiences, beautiful and painful. "There was a resounding response for this kind of card," she said, "cards that deal with death and dying and spirituality." "When someone we love flees from life, it is so hard to understand," reads the text. "But our compassionate Creator sees clearly into what is beyond our understanding and already has welcomed your loved one home." While Christians have traditionally agonized over the eternal destiny of a suicide, Hallmark, reflecting the therapeutic model of religion, describes suicide as a means of salvation. The attempt to link death, dying, and suicide with a sentimental New Age "spirituality" threatens to make what is horrible seem nice, socially acceptable, and more common.


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