What's Wrong With This Picture

What's Wrong With This Picture - cfw_AT'S WRONG TH THIS...

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{AT'S WRONG TH THIS PICTURE? 1 ne Politics of Ellen 's Coming Out Party T he controversy over Ellen's coming out episode was largely a media-created event. Josh Ozersky called it "one of the most publi- cized pseudo-events in TV history" (Ozersky 80). And it worked. The audience was the third largest for a single series episode in the history of television (Steyn 80), even though the show's popularity had been declin- ing. The advertising spots went for premium rates, some for as much as 20% more than Ellen's usual $170,000 fee for a thirty-second commercial (Grover 6). Gay and lesbian organizations throughout the country organi- zed "Come Out With Ellen" parties on the night of the episode, and the Miami Herald called Ellen DeGeneres "a gay Jackie Robinson" (Steyn 49). Not everyone was taken in by the hype, however. Lesbian comedian Kate Clinton pointed out the overblown quality of the controversy by writing about a supposed friend who had come to believe that "Ellen's coming out will usher in not only the end of homophobia but also the end of racism, sexism, and ageism" (Clinton 46). On the contrary, Ellen's supposedly NOTE: From Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 32, No. 2 (Fall 1999). Copyright O 1999 by Bowling Green State University. Reprinted by permission.
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to push the limits of reinscribes conven- yet, the controversy over Ellen's coming ,,t a lot about homophobia in the united States. Organizations associated ight took out a full- ling the show "a slap can families" (Steyn 2). The Reverend Jerry Falwell referred to Ellen DeCeneres as "Ellen Degenerate" in Handy, "Roll Overn 83). "~alwell . . - wrote to Ellen advertisers warning of Moral Majority retaliation" (Grover 6), and "the Rev. Donald E. wildmon's American Family Association issued barely veiled threats to boycott Ellen's advertisers" (Handy, "Roll Over" 83). Two major advertisers, Chrysler and J. C. Penney, cancelled their sponsor- ship of the show, and an ABC affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama, refused to broad- cast the controversial episode (Steyn 49). The taping of the final segment of the show was disrupted by a bomb threat (Handy, "Roll Over" 81), and, months after the episode was broadcast, DeGeneres was harassed at a concert by a man who called her "an embarrassment to Jesus" (De Vries 29). These incidents reveal the level of hos- tility directed toward gays and lesbians in American society today. However, homophobia was also appar- ent from the "inside." Disney Television, the producer of Ellen, wanted to be cau- tious. The script had to be approved, and the first script was rejected, reportedly because it focused too much on the reaction of Ellen's friends (Martin and Miller 66). Plans to have the show open with Melissa Etheridge singing a serious song about com- ing out were changed. As one of the writers g remarked, "There were so many fences to walk. If we go one way, someone will get offended" (Rice 41). The episode was geared to the entertainment and political tastes of American moderates and distanced itself from both conservatives and progres- sives. Several popular figures made cameo appearances to sanctify the episode for What's Wrong With This Picture?
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What's Wrong With This Picture - cfw_AT'S WRONG TH THIS...

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