What Amazon’s “Glitch” Says About American Pop Culture

It’s not just shows and movies created by straight people that emphasize the "sex" in homosexuality: almost every episode of Logo’s animated gay series Rick & Steve is rife with explicit sexual humor, and Showtime’s official poster for the final season of The L Word could easily be mistaken for an adult film if you didn’t know the show:

Why does this matter anyway? Isn’t it just entertainment?

Yes, but entertainment is our common cultural currency. It’s where we see ourselves reflected, and it’s one of the primary ways we learn about people who are different from us.

When we are reduced to our sexuality, we are seen as other — something less than full human beings, and therefore less deserving of equal rights. When we are not presented three-dimensionally, it becomes more difficult for many heterosexuals to identify with us, because there’s no common ground.

Whether it’s making it more difficult to find LGBT books on Amazon because they are classified as "adult," preventing a high-school gay-straight alliance from meeting because the school doesn’t sanction sexual activity, or making it easier for anti-gay activists to block gay marriage, these media images have a negative impact on our lives.

To be fair, it’s possible to excuse many of the sexualized pop culture portrayals of queer people on an individual basis, and yes, there are more well-rounded portrayals of queer people than there ever have been — but they are still outnumbered by the one-dimensional portrayals. And overall, American pop culture still clearly presents a distorted version of what it means to be gay or bisexual, which is one of the reasons we continue to critique it on AfterEllen.com and AfterElton.com.

This weekend, people of all sexual orientations all over the world used Twitter to express their outrage about Amazon, and took to blogs and email to call out the new filtering system — and it worked. Amazon is scrambling now to fix what has turned into a PR disaster for them.

But perhaps if we speak out more often against the stereotypes perpetuated by the Lesbian Vampire Killers and Krod Mandoon‘s of the world, we may prevent another "glitch" like this from happening in the first place.

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