Visibility Matters: MTV Sells Out Gays and Lesbians for Ratings

As I wrote about earlier this month, lesbian visibility in TV and film is neglible,
and bisexual women, while finally getting some exposure on widely watched television
shows, are still usually portrayed as promiscuous, psychotic, untrustworthy, or
homicidal (or all of the above).

And since straight people don’t usually differentiate between lesbians and
bisexual women — as Shonda Rhimes so brilliantly illustrated in her statement about Brooke Smith’s firing on Grey’s Anatomy — that means lesbians and bisexual women
are universally portrayed as crazy, lying, murdering sluts.

And now, thanks to MTV, we sleep with our sisters, too.

When these are the only images of us Americans are fed by our entertainment industry,
is it any wonder that California voters took away our right to marry, and Arkansas voters our right to raise children? I don’t want Catherine Trammell, Aileen Wuornos, or the Ikki twins influencing children,

You could argue that virtually everyone looks bad on MTV’s reality shows these
days: straight people, young people, black people, etc. But there are other
(much better) representations of these groups abundantly available elsewhere
in American entertainment to balance out these negative portrayals.

That is not true of gay men, lesbians, bisexual men and women, and transgender
people. We are virtually invisible in mainstream entertainment today, save for
the occasional short-term storyline on shows like All My Children and
Bones, or on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters.

Imagine if black Americans were still denied many of their basic civil rights
and there were no black characters anywhere on TV except Flavor of Love, and that should give you an idea of how harmful a show like Double Shot at Love is to public perception of lesbian and bisexual women.

Perhaps they think because Logo is a sister company (and the owner of this
website), they are free to exploit lesbian and bisexual women now. They
don’t have to make responsible programming decisions, because their parent company, MTV Networks/Viacom, launched a
gay channel, and funds the largest lesbian website on the internet. MTV Networks also publicly denounced Proposition 8, provides domestic partner benefits, and is generally considered a good place to work if you’re gay.

But this isn’t about the parent company, it’s about the MTV channel, and which programming they choose to air. Millions more people watch MTV than Logo (which is unrated, but as a digital cable channel,
it’s by definition less widely available than MTV), and far more straight people
watch MTV than Logo.

So the content of the shows MTV produces has a much greater
impact on mainstream perceptions of LGBT people.

TV networks don’t have to glorify gay people or put us on a pedestal, and a little sensationalism is practically required to get ratings these days. But is it too much to ask that their programming doesn’t actively contribute to the world’s overwhelming efforts to belittle and dehumanize us (or any other minority group)? Especially while claiming at the same time to support us?

The quality of MTV’s shows has been in a slow decline for awhile now, so the
fact that they’re putting on a show that would make even Bunim and Murray blush
is no surprise.

But bisexual kissing sisters? That’s a new low, even for MTV, and in
light of our struggle for basic civil rights, airing a show like this is more
than simply irresponsible.

It’s reprehensible, and downright shameful.

Instead of helping to fight bigotry and discrimination through entertainment,
as they once did, MTV is now helping promote it, and they’re profiting from it.

Not through direct revenue (I doubt any non-adult advertiser
will touch this with a ten-foot pole), but through ratings, since Tila Tequila was one of their highest-rated shows in recent history. They’re trying to use this show to build the kind of buzz they hope will make MTV a water-cooler brand again.

Never mind that the ratings bump comes at the expense of the gay community.

There are other group that benefit from Double Shot: The Mormon Church and other religious institutions who financed much of the anti-gay
marriage movement
in California this year, using propaganda that promoted fear, stereotypes, and ignorance to strip of us our civil rights.

The churches can save their money now — MTV’s doing their dirty work for them.

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