FIRST-PERSON: TV comedies' role in normalizing homosexuality
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) -- "The New Normal" is a television situation comedy set to debut on NBC in September. According to advance reports, the premise of the program is a woman becomes a surrogate mother so a male homosexual couple can start a family.
Let me say that "new" might be applicable in the title. "Normal," though, is a stretch.
Whether you use any of the various synonyms for the word normal or employ it as an adjective or a noun, one thing is certain: Two men using a surrogate mother to produce a child is anything but normal.
First, my research indicates that surrogacy is, at best, controversial. Approximately eight states and the District of Columbia ban surrogacy contracts outright. In New York the procedure is deemed void and unenforceable by statute but allowed by the courts. Only six states have explicitly approved surrogacy contracts through their legislatures and/or courts.
Second, the incidence of surrogacy among homosexuals is difficult to track. I could find no reliable statistics on the issue for male or female homosexuals. That said, the percentage of individuals who identify themselves as homosexual is so minuscule that any effort to label surrogacy in the homosexual community as normal is absurd.
A study released in April of 2011 by Gary Gates, a demographer-in-residence at UCLA, found that only about 4 million adults in America identify as gay or lesbian. This figure represents 1.7 percent of the nation's population. Gates findings affirm previous studies and are undisputed.
So what could possibly be the point in developing a situation comedy that represents a sub-group of folks in a population of people that make up perhaps 1.7 percent of American society and then naming it "The New Normal"?
I suspect the effort behind the new comedy by NBC is just another effort to use the vehicle of humor to further the notion of homosexuality as natural and normal.
The use of humor, in part, has been utilized to convince many Americans that the number of those self-identifying as homosexual is much larger than is actually true. A Gallup poll released in May 2011 found that "U.S. adults, on average, estimate that 25 percent of Americans are gay or lesbian."
How did most Americans come to believe that 25 percent of their fellow citizens were homosexual when the actual number is less than 2 percent? The use of humor and the overrepresentation in the media of homosexuals has certainly helped to contribute to this skewed perception.
A variety of social studies have found that people are more open to controversial and objectionable ideas if the issues are presented in a humorous manner. Laughter, it seems, causes people to lower their defenses, since humor is associated by the mind as non-threatening. Humor, it appears, has a way of desensitizing people to ideas they deem offensive.
It should not come as a surprise that the first gay characters to appear on television were in situation comedies. Television historians agree that the first regular homosexual character appeared in the comedy "Soap" that premiered in 1977. The role of Jodie Dallas was played by comedian Billy Crystal.
Over the past three decades gay and lesbian characters were routinely depicted in situation comedies. "Ellen" was a popular comedy that ran during the late 1990s. The show starring comedian Ellen DeGeneres was successful when it portrayed the main character's sexuality as ambiguous. However, the coming out of Ellen was portrayed a bit too seriously and resulted in viewer backlash.
"Will and Grace" followed "Ellen" and was all comedy all the time. Some social scientists believe the comedic portrayal of homosexuality in "Will and Grace" resulted in much of mainstream America coming to view homosexuality as a benign subject, so much so they called it the "Will and Grace Effect."
Since the success of "Will and Grace," homosexual characters and gay themes have flooded the television market. Ellen DeGeneres has even gone on to have a successful talk-show on daytime television and is currently a spokes model for JC Penney.
The representation of homosexuals in the media has been well documented by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). In recent years GLAAD has annually issued its "Network Responsibility Index," which tracks the favorable portrayal of homosexuals in the media.
In the "Network Responsibility Index 2010-2011" GLAAD reported that the cable network ABC Family dedicated 55 percent of its original primetime programming to themes/depictions favorable to homosexuality.
GLAAD's report on other cable networks and the percentage of primetime programming favorable to homosexuality are as follows: Showtime, 37 percent; TNT, 33 percent; HBO, 31 percent; AMC, 29 percent; Syfy, 22 percent.
Broadcast networks, according to GLAAD's report, that are most favorable toward homosexuality in primetime are: The CW, 33 percent; Fox, 29 percent; ABC, 23 percent. NBC scored 15 percent, CBS 10 percent.
Every network is guilty of trying to normalize homosexuality. NBC -- which scored only 15 percent in that GLAAD index -- even used its Olympics primetime schedule to push the issue, broadcasting a profile of an Australian diver who had come out as gay. The feature was so sympathetic, GLAAD could have filmed it.
Hopefully those guffawing at "The New Normal" will realize that one aspect of the show will be accurate. A homosexual couple must resort to some form of scientific sleight-of-hand like surrogacy to reproduce, because they cannot do so the "old-fashioned" normal way. Biology betrays them.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention's office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message www.baptistmessage.com , newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).