Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On The Good Ship Neverland: Shirley Temple As Icon For A Nation Of Make Believe

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was 6,” she once wrote. “Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.”
From Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (but don't have sex or take the car) by Dickie Moore:

"I had to have my lunch in the bungalow because I wasn't supposed to mix with adults. I was supposed to be kept a child. They figured that if I had lunch in the commissary I would learn jokes and would become a little adult, which they didn't want. So I ate alone."

Shirley Temple lived in a bubble made by Hollywood so that she could present a skewed, happy-go-lucky world unaffected by great the Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt often stated that she was the best antidote for the era and kept everyone's spirits up during dark times. 

But Shirley didn't know that. She didn't know that her's was the 7th biggest salary in the U.S. She didn't know that she was doing anything particularly special. She was the little queen of escapism, but didn't know it. In fact, later on in life, she always listed her greatest achievements as ambassador (to Ghana first, under Nixon then to Czechoslovakia under George H.W. Bush). 


In a very real sense, Shirley Temple was an isolated little girl in a nation that wanted to be isolated from the terrors of a broken economy. The nation needed Hollywood: it pressed studios for foreign adventures (Gunga Din), great romances (Wuthering Heights), fairy tales (Wizard of Oz) and ended the decade in a melodramatic fever, Scarlett fever, to be exact (Gone With The Wind). It didn't want to concern itself with the machinations of a maniac in Germany. It didn't want to see anything but a perky little girl who melted hearts with a smile and a song. 

When asked about that isolation, Shirley often remarked, "Well, I still turned out OK, didn't I?" So many child stars didn't fare as well: dazzled with stardom and transitioning to adulthood we saw the likes of Jackie Coogan and McCauley Culkin.

Perhaps it was the isolation that saved Shirley Temple: people didn't throng her like they do today's Justin Bieber. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

First The Boy Scouts, Then Coke, Now General Motors and Chevy: The Gayification Of America?

The gay rights front in the culture war certainly stepped up in the last year with key brands: the the Boy Scouts, the Girls Scouts, Chick fil-A, Duck Dynasty, the Olympics, Coke.

And now Chevy.

OMG! But look at the subsequent commercial:


Both aired at the opening of the Sochi Olympics. Both have already spurred the ubiquitous sounds of "boycott."

So? With each new revelation of acceptance, the Right - especially the Christian Right - reacts as if it never saw it coming. Oh, some predict the general downfall of civilization and America, but not in terms of the icons of the American landscape.

Duh! Didn't Chevy point the big CR to a trend with this one?

The Trend Of Inclusion and Its Proportion

The trend of inclusion: drawing people into a widening circle for today's marketplace is certainly not new: it's why we have striven to place African-Americans in television and in advertising (hopefully) proportionate to the overall population.

Proportionate to the local/regional population is another matter.

"Restaurateur brags about refusing to serve “freaks,” and “f****ts,” also Muslims, blacks and people with metal in their face."

The above "restauranteur" is in Enid, Oklahoma, a city of 50,000 with only 3% African-American population. The population is predominantly white and Christian (90 churches!). Enid's distinction: having the most grain storage capacity in the U.S. Running into a "freak", "f****t, Muslim, people "with metal on their face" or even blacks would be rare indeed.

Communities like Enid, however, are not rare, and they are the reason many Americans fear what they do not know: if gays were depicted over 5% of the time in the public life, that would be enough for these communities to scream about "gayification." Communities like Enid embody the last stronghold of the Christian Right who claim that "liberalism" and "gay acceptance" is being shoved down the nation's throats. Even in communities with large minority populations, inclusion/acceptance of another minority is threatening, so the Christian Right gathers them together under a common banner of intolerance.

Republicans also have a hand in the intolerance as well: Enid is overwhelmingly Republican and embodies many Republican ideals. Notice that "restauranteur" Gary James refused to serve people "on welfare" and accommodate people with disabilities. 

A Matter of Rhetoric

Gary James may seem extreme in his blanket bigotry and insular view, but the fact remains that elements of his bigotry are still present throughout the country, especially in parts dominated by the Christian Right. If James, in fact, had simply stated that he wouldn't serve gays on religious grounds, for example, he would have gotten a pass. His biggest enemy is his own inclusive rhetoric: he hates everyone who isn't straight, white, able-bodied, without metal on the face ... and working. He has no problem with this because he sees himself in his customers and in Enid all the time. He thinks he knows how to spot a "f****t". 

"F****ts" as family members isn't in James' lexicon. He might not drive a Chevy from now on. 


Probably the most daring strike against the Christian Right the recent ad have are the "redefinition" of  family. We will no doubt hear that Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has "the sadz" over them and that companies like General Motors and Coca Cola have given in to the powerful "homosexual lobby." 

Sorry, Tony, inclusion by American icons of a portion of the populace does not mean that the country is turning "gay." It merely means that more and more Americans are trying to be inclusive in what it means to be American.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Who's Harming Marriage? Gays ... Or Southern Baptists? Another Christian Right Meme Bites The Dust.

The Christian Right's chief meme against same-sex marriage is that it will "harm" traditional marriage. Exactly HOW it will harm traditional marriage, however, they don't seem to know ... or care. Is it possible that they're shielding their own harmful attitudes on marriage? A new study put out by the University of Texas at Austin points to a higher rate of divorce among social conservatives with a few new perspectives (surprises).

     "Divorce is higher among religiously conservative Protestants – and even drives up divorce rates for other people living around them, a new study finds.
Researchers discovered that higher divorce rates among conservative Protestants were tied to earlier marriages and childbearing – factors known to ramp up divorce. Starting families earlier tends to stop young adults from pursuing more education and depresses their wages, putting more strain on marriages, University of Texas at Austin professor Jennifer Glass said."
And now a segue to the Christian Right's latest icon, Phil Robertson:


"They got to where they're getting hard to find, mainly because these boys are waiting 'til they get to be about 20 years old before they marry 'em," Robertson says in a video clip that resurfaced Monday. "Look, you wait 'til they get to be 20 years old, the only picking that's going to take place is your pocket. You got to marry these girls when they are about 15 or 16. They'll pick your ducks."
Second-Hand Divorce
"But the study went a step further: Glass and another researcher also discovered that people living in areas with lots of conservative Protestants were at higher risk of getting divorced, even if they weren’t conservative Protestants themselves."
Kinda like second-hand smoke and cancer. Unfortunately, there is still no data to show that when gays move into the neighborhood, the divorce rates rise. Wonder why? Interestingly, the state with the greatest number of years of same-sex marriage has the LOWEST divorce rate in the country: Massachusetts. Iowa and New York were also low. And states like Tennessee, West Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Mississippi? Clustered around the top of the divorce rate charts.

The UTA study may be on to something.

From The American Psychological Association:

"Scientists have found that the psychological and social aspects of committed relationships between same-sex partners largely resemble those of heterosexual partnerships. Like heterosexual couples, same-sex couples form deep emotional attachments and commitments. Same-sex and heterosexual couples alike face similar issues concerning intimacy, love, loyalty and stability, and they go through similar processes to address those issues. Empirical research also shows that lesbian and gay couples have levels of relationship satisfaction similar to or higher than those of heterosexual couples."  
"...or higher." Very interesting.

This author's personal take on the "harming traditional marriage" idea: I could see that some Fundamentalist wives might find out marriage can be more equitable than they had thought and become disgusted with their situation: in the extreme, they could see two handsome, considerate, loving men, then turn to look at the inconsiderate, misogynistic slobs on the couches and say to themselves "what was I thinking?" On the distaff side, those same slobs might feel threatened, thinking that they might be forced to spruce up those qualities the wife thought were once (but no longer) attractive.

One disheartened woman put it this way: "I long for the good old days when the good men were either married or gay. Now they're both."

Monday, February 3, 2014

Superbowl Diversity Fallout: Coke Ad Gets The Right Screaming "BOYCOTT!!"

BTW: Katherine Lee Bates was a lesbian.

Michael Patrick Leahy, Breitbart:

"Executives at Coca Cola thought it was a good idea to run a 60 second Super Bowl ad featuring children singing America The Beautiful – a deeply Christian patriotic anthem whose theme is unity – in several foreign languages. The ad also prominently features a gay couple. Conservatives instantly lit up social media with objections, with many vowing to boycott the soda company's products. The lyrics of the song, written in 1893 by Wellesley College Professor Katherine Lee Bates, ask God to grant America 'brotherhood / From sea to shining sea.' As far as the executives at Coca Cola are concerned, however, the United States of America is no longer a nation ruled by the Constitution and American traditions in which English is the language of government. It is not a nation governed in the Anglo-American tradition of liberty. It is instead a nation governed by some all inclusive multi-cultural synthesis of the various forms of government in the world, as expressed by the multiple languages used in the Super Bowl ad to sing a uniquely American hymn that celebrates our heritage." (emphasis mine)

Yes, the tweets of outrage came fast and furious:
#BoycottCoke everything in that @CocaCola commercial was un-American.
- Too bad there were no Americans in the coke commercial about America.. Goodbye Diet Coke never again! #BoycottCoke
- Coca Cola is the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border. #americaisbeautiful
@CocaCola American Patriotic songs should be sung in English only #communist #boycottcoke
Tweets of outrage at Coca Cola for airing a commercial featuring the diversity of America while singing America The Beautiful have actually spawned a "Boycott Coke" movement. Total assimilation, it seems, MUST be honored, especially during that most American of events, the Super Bowl. The "English-only" crowd screamed "BLASPHEMY!"* The commercial could have have been more reprehensible had it featured (gasp!) different religions. David Barton would have been furious, but he would have been appeased by the Budwieser commercial which did not have one truly "un-American" person in it. 

Budweiser, of course, played it safe with Right-wingers and "true" patriots by featuring a totally white homecoming of a soldier. Nothing wrong with that. But Budweiser has never been true to its original roots: Budwies (aka Budvar in Czech) originated in  České Budějovice, in the lower part of Bohemia (now Czech Republic). It distanced itself with Milwaukee and Clydesdales (from Scotland, btw) and never looked back after being eclipsed by Pilsner Urquell of the original Pilsner beers. 

Assimilation: it's how you look at it.

The only foreigners not forced to assimilate when they came to America were the Puritans who were all too eager to assimilate Native Americans into their culture.** After the Puritans, a certain form of "Americanism" was born - and everyone was forced to assimilate into America and it's Puritan ethic. Money and prestige followed. People who assimilated slowly (or not at all), collected in remote sections of the country, but the expansion (Manifest Destiny) demanded that assimilation be the virtual law of the land. 

What "Truly American" Right wingers don't understand about assimilation is that it comes in different degrees and forms: first, second and even third generation Americans are loathe to give up their roots altogether: the concept of America as a "melting pot" is rather terrifying, melting away, watering down actually, everything about your old culture to homogenize yourself with everyone and form a mass of people, molded by the dictates of one particular group that just so happens to be there slightly longer. So many Americans have opted to keep part of their lengthier heritage while blending into the "mainstream" with things like ... Coke. 

Face it, Right-wingers, America is as diverse as your own ancestry: English, French, Dutch, German, Italian, Filipino, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, and on ... and on ... and on.

The world embraced Coke. Coke Embraced the world. The world embraced America. America embraced the world. Get over it.

*Of course, the Tea Party crowd spells it "BLASFAMIE"

**The first Bible to be translated was translated by the Puritans into the language of the Massachusetts tribe - just before the good Puritans wiped them out.