Monday, January 11, 2010

FOX's blatant homophobia

My first post of the year - and it's to be a rant of sorts.

I've lately grown quite addicted to the TV show So You Think You Can Dance, another of FOX TV's successes, a sort of dance-oriented version of American Idol, and even created and produced by the same people. But I'd grown to like this one so much more, chiefly because it was warmer, friendlier, without any of the arrogance and patronising so characteristic of American Idol. The judges don't sit on a pedestal and talk down to the contestants - they treat them like equals, and criticism is always constructive. Everyone genuinely seems to be enjoying themselves, and you can almost believe in the 'we're all one big happy family' myth American TV shows insist on peddling. And Cat Deeley makes for an infinitely more charming, accessible, funny, down-to-earth host than snooty Ryan Seacrest, who never lets anyone forget that he's as big a celebrity as the judges.

So I was doubly upset at being left with a particularly nasty taste in my mouth after last week's episode.

Season 5 is being aired at the moment, and the auditions are on; and last week, two men, clearly gay, clearly partners, came along to audition. They dance together, and were hoping the judges would appreciate the novelty of watching two men dancing together. Except, they didn't. After looking visibly uncomfortable throughout the audition, Nigel Lythgoe pronounced that he didn't think the audience who watched this show were quite ready for an act of this nature; that neither was he, since he liked the male dancers on the show to be 'manly' (this wasn't the first time he'd voiced such an opinion - he'd remarked in a pleased tone on Season 3 that he was glad to see the male dancers 'this year dance like guys'). Mary Murphy echoed his sentiments and, surprisingly, so did Sonja, a choreographer who'd come on the show last season and had been invited to judge a few audtions this year - going by her mohawk, tattoos and piercings, you'd have been forgiven for presuming that she was a radical of sorts - except she turned out to be as retrogressive and strait-laced as the rest.

The two men in question were asked to return for the choregraphy round, where they would have to do a routine that involved dancing with girls - 'you might even like it' was the patronising remark. Strangely, though, the men took this rather blatant attack on their sexuality, their lifestyle, their very identity lying down, listening calmly, returning for the next round, and even appearing pleased when one of them made it to Las Vegas. They promised to return the next year - although it doesn't seem likely that Lythgoe and team would be getting over their homophobia anytime soon.

Not that one expects anything more from FOX - but what was shocking was the blatant display of homophobia. There was no lip service paid to political correctness - and that was strange, considering that so many Hollywood ceebrities are openly gay or bisexual, or staunch defenders of alternative lifestyles. It's as if they've decided to take up where George Bush left off, with the blessing of their Bible Belt audience. But what was even more shocking (to my mind) was the way the two men took the insult lying down - if people who espouse a certain way of life don't thmselves stand up for it, how can they expect anyone else to?

I'm certainly not going to be watching So You Think You Can Dance with the same pleasure as earlier.