Bil Browning

Stupid Alert: NOM ad actors "controversy"

Filed By Bil Browning | April 09, 2009 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Media, Politics
Tags: HRC, Human Rights Campaign, National Organization for Marriage, NOW, storm clouds

Have you ever been arguing with someone and been frustrated that they choose one small minute part of what you said and constantly keep picking at that instead of seeing the bigger picture? It's stupid and doesn't get you anywhere.

stupid-people-shut-up.jpgYesterday the LGBT blogosphere exploded over the National Organization for Marriage's television ad opposing same-sex marriage. The ad is chock-full of lies and subliminal messaging, but instead of simply addressing those issues, several folks have taken to touting another shocking fact.

The actors in the commercial are, well, actors. *gasp*

Instead of focusing on the ad's obvious messaging - the important part that will possibly affect public opinion - the "OMG they're actors!" shock-and-awe brigade has come out in force over one of the stupidest nuggets available. HRC quickly released the actor's audition tapes and bloggers were off and running.

The videos and why this is one of the stupidest mistakes possible after the jump.

First the vile commercial:

Iowa activists asked that bloggers please use the version of the commercial that they posted to their own YouTube account to keep the number of viewers lower on NOM's YouTube channel. Perfectly reasonable and I can definitely live with that decision; it makes sense strategically. But since the video above is a second-generation copy of the ad, you can't really read the words that run along the bottom of the screen. I went to the original ad and took a still to make sure you can read it.


Need it a little bigger?


Yup. The commercial says right on it that the people shown are actors. What's next? A shocking expose that people in drug company commercials don't really have the disease some pharmaceutical company claims to cure within minutes?

As I'm writing this post, CNN is on in the background. Randi Kaye is doing a report on the NOM ad and friend of the blog Evan Wolfson just gave a succinct summation of the entire ad that should become Talking Points 101 for this PR opportunity. He said:

"Everything in this ad is phony from the scary zombie special effects, to the actors reading the lines, to the arguments they're making to try to scare people into thinking that allowing gay people to marry is somehow a threat to everyone else."

Notice that Evan isn't screaming from the rafters that the actors in the advertisement were paid to read lines. He does mention it, but it is an addition in the middle of a list of the untruths put forth in this insidious commercial. That little nugget can be an effective tool in our PR skirmish, but it is not headline worthy. More important are the first thing he mentions (scary zombie special effects) and the last (the arguments).

The special effects were carefully chosen. They're meant to conjure up images of the Great Depression in younger viewers and for the older generations (the most anti-gay!), the commercial evokes Winton Churchill's famous "The Gathering Storm" about the build up to World War II. The lightening flashing on the actors' faces and flickering ominously in the background puts me in mind of the movie "Something Wicked This Way Comes."

The "real incidents" the organization claims are also patently false. In today's soundbite driven newsoid culture, NOM's version of the truth is what will be beamed into millions of living rooms around the country. HRC's rebuttal of the blatant lies is a fantastic resource for both the average person and journalists (citizen or professional), but the focus needs to be on getting the truth in front of eyes and ears; the facts need to reach the general public.

The examples cited by the wingnut group are easily shredded and when combined with the other two strikes against them - special effects and paid actors - there's an easy spin to the bigoted commercial that automatically makes anything they say suspect. The ad has more holes than swiss cheese and bigotry leaves a bitter taste most people don't want to swallow on their own.

It's the entire essence of the advertising campaign that needs to be addressed thoroughly. Concentrating on one minute section of the laundry list of offenses is a sure way to miss an opportunity to advance LGBT rights. After all, that's the big picture.

In case you're curious, here's the audition reel videos:

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Sorry to disagree with you. The impact of seeing these inept actors reading the same lines over and over again is rather powerful. They couldn't get the real people involved to participate. They failed.

Read the comments on YouTube. The fundamentalists are losing the youth by an overwhelming margin.

I think it's important to be strategic about this Homer.

The first audition tape has been seen 53,813 times so far. The second 9,666. The NOM ad will be seen in millions of living rooms.

How much impact do you think those videos are really going to do? Not a drop in the bucket.

Instead, we need to make it a part of the response instead of the lynchpin.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 9, 2009 11:33 PM

" small part of what you said?" (Or did not say), Arizona! :)

My thoughts, exactly, Bil. I also don't think that going after the actor in the video for taking part in the shoot is good strategy.

I agree for the most part, Bil, that the "OMG they're actors" is the least worrisome thing about the ad. The real issue with the ad is, of course, the script itself, not who's reading it.

But I'm not sure most people watching it casually see it that way. As you say, there's a little disclaimer stating that they're actors, which is clearly NOM's way of covering their butt for the response they knew they'd get. But Homer's right that watching the audition out-takes is powerful. And it's powerful, not because they're actors, but because they can't muster up the slightest conviction about their lines.

If the best way to convey the 'horror' of same-sex marriage is by having inept, unconvinced actors standing stiffly in front of a B-movie backdrop, well, it's not terribly believable, is it?

Sure, this is a piece of lying propaganda. But when it looks like a bad home video, the only people it's going to convince are the ones who weren't going to believe anything else anyway.

Some of my best friends are actors. Those people in the audition tapes and in the ad? Those are not actors.

Actors can read. (They don't stumble over words like "Massachusetts" and they can tell the difference between "coalition" and "collision.")

Actors can -- gasp! -- act.

The people in the ad are "people who were paid to read words on cue cards." They are not actors.

The ad is ridiculous beyond words. Not just the cheap special effects and the puke-inducing reading of words on a cue card (sorry, but I cannot bring myself to call that "acting"), but the words themselves are pretty puke-inducing.

What exactly about gay marriage is affecting a doctor's job? Did that person walk into the wrong studio? Sure that wasn't the "Choice Coalition," granting random pharmacists the right to deny doctor-prescribed medication to women? (Do gay couples really need to worry about access to emergency contraception? How are these issues related? This is very confusing, really.)

And, God forbid! How DARE public schools teach tolerance! What's next, are public schools going to teach our children that it's "okay" for whites and blacks to drink out of the same water fountains???

I don't understand how anyone with half a brain can possibly view this ad and even consider taking it seriously.

Ah, but Criss, hundreds of thousands-- maybe even millions-- WILL! Therein lies the problem . . . and the fight.

I guess some people found the audition reels funny. How did HRC get ahold of those anyway?

wilowfire | April 9, 2009 8:46 PM

Yes, the "actor" thing is of less magnitude than the messaging.

My take on the way the actors are placed on stage, the storm clouds, and the special effects is that its coded to vividly and emotionally evoke the End Times, the Apocalypse, and the Rapture. First thing I thought of when I saw it was the very popular "Left Behind" book series and the movie trailer of the same name, which also used a recurring image of gathering storm clouds.

Ridiculous, to my way of thinking. But my inlaws, (bless their hearts, they raised an amazing, loyal, smart, sexy daughter) really, wholeheartedly believe in the End Times story and over 19 years I've come to realize just how many Americans do too. Not all as fervently as my in laws perhaps, but it is a stronger cultural myth than I would prefer for sure.

I would love to see Jon Stewart rip this one up on The Daily Show.

Rachel M just had it on. A brief run of the AD 'by a group supporting Straight Only Marriage' but without ST ONLY in their name, and she says that HRC (which is a gay supportive group, without Gay in their name).. does a good job of refuting every comment in the ad... but that they had gotten the audition tapes...
and she showed some of the real flubs...ending her comments with, 'well I guess it it more difficult to pretend you are a straight person hurt by gay marriage than one would think.'
A few watch RM too.

Folks, I tried to see myself as a religious right wing nut viewing this ad for the first time and you know that group is just nutty enough to believe anything that their preachers et al throw at them. Just because they aren’t tagged with a religious theme does not mean that the source isn't directed by the conservative movement. Why would their followers accept such ridiculous premise? Search me maybe because they want too believe in the stupidity of it all. I would guess that the earth is still flat too. Now as far as LGBT marriage goes what is different before or after a same sex marriage. Do they mean to say that loving same sex couples were not here already? Do they meant the LGBT couples weren't raising children, attending school conferences with the teachers, going to the doctor, the grocery store, or studying in school? Like suddenly we are here and non-existent before we exerted our desire for equal rights and protection that have started to be delivered for all became the mantra. We may be missing an extremely important opportunity to show who we are in everyday life as the next door neighbor, mowing the lawn or walking the dog. The man that I met at the bar last night and I are not going to go down and get married the very next day because I don’t go to bars I guess.

Hang on a minute: I saw the NOM ad when it was first posted and the disclaimer was NOT part of the original ad--it was added only when they were caught out. THAT'S why HRC and others made such a big deal out of it--NOM tried to pass off these bad actors as real people. I completely agree with you that the focus should have been on NOM's deliberate lies, but come on, don't attack our side when they don't deserve it (and I'm definitely no fan of HRC, by the way).

It was there. I watched it within minutes of the original release and saw it then. (I always read the disclaimers; it's habit. I look for them.)

Also, I used the original e-mail linking me to the YouTube video and the link still worked. If they're re-uploaded another version it would have created a new YouTube link and not used the old one.

And again, it's not that I'm against using the info, I just hate seeing it be such a major part of our return volley. I must say though, after seeing today's You Gotta See This video that incorporates the auditions into a much larger frame (as another commenter mentions that Rachel Maddow also did), it heartens me that some of the other folks out there get that this is not the lynchpin of the issue.

You tube took them down. Another copy can be found here. | April 10, 2009 9:45 AM

As usual, Bil, you are right on the money!

The Right has perfected the ability to inspire knee jerk reactions which distract our focus on the prize.

IMHO, the message supporting Marriage Equality is this:

The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution says ALL citizens are equal before the Law. We are either citizens, or we are not. If we are citizens, then we have all of the rights and privileges of heterosexuals.

In addition, it can be helpful to point out that the most heinous criminals, (rapists, murderers, sex predators, et al) have the right to marry, but law abiding members of the LBGT Community do not.

Also, Members of Congress marry and divorce at will, often many times, even as they vote against our right to marry once.

The above points, plus the venerable principle of Separation of Church and State, make our case to any fair minded person.

The Equal Protection Clause should be our mantra.

If we use it, we will achieve Full Legal LBGT Legal Equality in Our Lifetime.

Jim Toevs, Hot Springs, Montana

They're not actors, they're Mormons.