Before we get too far into 2011, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my top three picks of gay public relations scandals for the 2010 year. You know the scandals I'm talking about, the ones where the gay community is deeply affected in either a negative or positive way because of actions performed by public figures or organizations. These are the public relations decisions that are designed to increase sales for a particular artist or to win the gay vote or perhaps to increase viewers of a particular television show.
There were a number of them this year - I've chosen my top three.
1. Eminem Says "Gay is Okay"
Perhaps you remember this one. Eminem, or Marshall Mathers as I prefer to call him, stated in an interview with the New York Times Magazine's Deborah Solomon that he was now okay with gay marriage (at least in his home state of Michigan.) I say this because the question asked only noted Michigan. The question asked:
You've been accused of writing gay-bashing lyrics in the past. Would you like to see gay marriage approved in Michigan, where you live?
I think if two people love each other, then what the hell? I think that everyone should have the chance to be equally miserable, if they want.
Perhaps you think this is really an artist's change of heart and growth of maturity but I'm going to call bluff on this. Call me crazy but I'm a little weary of someone who has denounced gays in his lyrics and has used graphic violence to drive his music sales. Forgive me if I don't hi-five Marshal Mathers on this one.
First off, the interview happened right before Marshal Mathers released his new album titled Recoveryin June. I understand he got sucked into drugs, went into rehab and now Recovery serves as his new voice. Before I sound like a total cynical jerk, I want to first congratulate Marshall Mathers on making it through rehab. I hope he continues to remain sober. I've never had to endure rehab but he's never had to fight for basic equal rights, so I guess this means we both have our own struggles.
Second, the album came out in June. I repeat - the album came out in June. If you're not well versed in gay culture then you may not know that June is Gay Pride month, which was also officially proclaimed as LGBT Pride Month by President Obama earlier this year.
Based on my experience with marketing and public relations, I imagine that there was a team of people sitting around the table to strategize about when the album should be released and how to obtain the strongest record sales.
I'm sure someone at the table said, "Well, the album is called Recovery. What's an issue or cause that Eminem has opposed before that he can now say he's for?"
Everyone at the strategy table probably started scratching their heads as they thought real hard. As we know, there are a number of topics to consider: abuse against women, murder, or homophobia to name a few.
If you've listened to Recovery, then you probably know that abuse against women and murder are themes that are out of the question. The popular duet with Eminem and Rihanna "I Love the Way You Lie" is based on an unhealthy relationship between a man and a woman. Both sides seem to rip each other apart, but in Eminem fashion, he uses violence to convey his emotion.
Next time I'm pissed?I'll aim my fist at the dry wall
Next time? There will be no next time
Even though I know it's lies
I'm tired of the games
I just want her back
I know I'm a liar
If she ever tries to fucking leave again
I'mma tie her to the bed
And set the house on fire
Third, because the album came out in June and because he came out for equality, his team probably knew that the LGBT blogosphere would pick up the story like wildfire. The Advocate, Towleroad, and Freedom to Marry are just a few of the voices to spread Marshall Mathers newfound support for equality. I also took a moment to contribute my voice to the blogging conversation. You can read my post here, which is again cynical but offers suggestions on how Eminem can show he truly supports LGBT equality through social media.
2. Cindy McCain Does the Electric Slide on DADT via the NOH8 Campaign
Oh Cindy, what a shameful thing you did. If you don't know, Cindy McCain, the wife of Senator John McCain, was once for full LGBT equal rights and leveraged the NOH8 campaign as a way to show the world that she was in support. Her segment in the NOH8 anti-bullying PSA covers Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) in which she talks about how unfortunate it is that our government leaders do not allow the gay community to serve openly in the military.
Just watch the PSA from the NOH8 campaign below:
Shortly after the NOH8 campaign released the anti-bullying PSA, Cindy McCain retracted her stance on DADT by tweeting out the following to her Twitter followers
The flip-flop awarded Cindy McCain with top honors on Anderson Cooper's Ridiculist and spurred a tremendous amount of controversy not only for Cindy McCain but also for my friends at the NOH8 campaign.
I love the NOH8 campaign but I am in agreement with others that the Cindy McCain portion of the PSA should be removed. Not only is it a confusing reflection of Cindy McCain but it is also damaging to the public perception to the work of NOH8. By leaving in the segment, the NOH8 campaign is giving off the perception that the campaign will take big names and add them to the campaign regardless if they believe in only some of the LGBT equal rights battles we're all fighting so hard to win.
However, with that said, I understand that the NOH8 campaign is in a bind because the PSA videos are scripted, shot, edited and posted. The NOH8 campaign has become an equal rights platform for public figures to come forward in support of full equality. The campaign serves as a public relations platform for many big names to get involved in the fight for equality in a way that is most comfortable for them. Whether it is because these public figures truly believe in equal rights or if they are using as a way to reach a new audience, or even a mixture of both, is not for me to judge. However, Cindy McCain's actions have left me with many questions on the matter.
3. Sara Gilbert Co-Hosts The Talk on CBS
If you've followed my blog then you know I'm a huge fan of public figures that come out. I truly believe that the more we come out and the more we share our stories then the more comfortable we as a society will be LGBT equal rights.
I think when I became aware of my role in the media, I had to ask myself an important question "Am I part of the problem?" And I think that when millions and millions of hard-working, tax paying Americans are denied their rights and denied their equality you have to ask yourself what are the factors that are an epidemic problem and that's what this is. Injustice can never be stood for. It always must be fought against and I just was sick of it being a problem. Because I'm in the media I was aware of it and I luckily was introduced to GLAAD and am honored that they wanted me to be a part of tonight because it is such an important organization. I am so impressed with all the important work that they are doing and I couldn't see a more important cause to be aligned with.
The same praise can also be said of Sara Gilbert, who came out as a lesbian earlier this year when CBS announced her as a host of the new show - The Talk. However, there were questions surrounding how she came out. CBS released a press release stating the husbands and children of fellow hosts Julie Chen, Leah Remini, Holly Robinson Peete, and Sharon Osbourne but omitted the same for Sara by stating, "She lives in Los Angeles with her family."
After the press release went out, the gay community was up in arms about the omission. A couple days later, Sara came forward and announced that it was her decision to leave out the information and not CBS'. Sara stated in at the Television Critics Association luncheon:
"I'm going to be discussing my life more, and I felt that the first place I wanted to do it wasn't in a CBS press release. It just seemed impersonal, and I felt like I'd rather come in person and talk to you about all that stuff here."
But honestly, given the current LGBT political climate, I don't think it's crazy that the community would immediately speculate about the omission in fear that CBS would be discriminatory. It's a volatile climate in LGBT politics right now. Much praise should be given to CBS for bringing on an openly gay host to their mommy talk show. We need more positive stories about raising gay families in mainstream media and I'm glad to see CBS as a leader in this.
There you have it, my top 3 public relations scandals of 2010. What do you think? What other scandals would you add to the list? Please share you thoughts in the comment section below.