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Creative control

"Creative control" Continued...

Issue: "The schools that Arne built," April 11, 2009

"I think eight years ago, GLAAD's brand identity was solely one of a media watchdog, wagging our fingers at problematic representation and news coverage," says former executive director Joan Garry. "There wasn't a lot of dialogue between GLAAD and the entertainment business or journalism. I firmly believed that in order for GLAAD to be very effective, we had to continue to have a watchful eye on the media but add to that the strategy of being a resource to the entertainment industry and to journalism, to make suggestions about stories they could be telling-to get out in front so that we weren't dealing with problems later."

Entertainment media director for GLAAD, Scott Seomin, describes the group's aims even more bluntly, admitting they have no problem pressuring studios to create recurring gay characters: "The old MO was to wait until something bad happened, and get p---ed off," he says. "But we don't protest anymore. Why stand outside the building, when with one phone call we can be invited in."

By any indication, they have been invited in all over Tinsel Town. The 2008-2009 primetime lineup of the four major networks alone features a record 35 recurring homosexual characters, with 15 coming from ABC. Such results confirm that no other special interest group comes close to being as effective at holding sway in Hollywood. Former GLAAD media director Cathy Renna put it this way, "The media respects and/or fears GLAAD, depending on who they are and what they're doing."

These days, it seems to take little more than word from the powerful organization to change the direction of a show. When ABC dropped one homosexual character from Grey's Anatomy last year, GLAAD quickly responded with public consternation, saying, "We are disheartened. . . . Because there are so few lesbian characters on network television, we hope that ABC and Grey's Anatomy will commit to further providing representation on one of TV's most-watched shows." A new lesbian character was added to the hit drama for 2009.

Megan Basham
Megan Basham

Megan, a regular correspondent for WORLD News Group, is a writer and film critic living in Memphis, Tenn.. She is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide to Having It All.

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