It’s June, and what was once Bride Month is now Pride Month. So that means it’s time to celebrate, everyone! Mothers and fathers only get one day each every year, but 175ers get 30 days — and surely that must be faaaabulous!
Speaking of numbers, average Americans believe that a quarter of their fellow citizens are gay or lesbian. (I’m not making this up.) Actual polling statistics of sexual preference, at least until very recent times, indicate that somewhere between 2-4% of Americans are something other than straight. The perception in Gallup’s 2011 survey that 25% of our fellow citizens are light in their loafers was therefore plausibly a sixfold overestimate, or perhaps even tenfold.
Why would the masses of boobus americanus have a perception of reality that is so far removed from what they should’ve observed simply by interacting with their fellow citizens? There are a few factors here, and the greatest comes down to one word: television. Of course, TV addicts might also come away with the idea that half of Americans are black. From watching the commercials, they might also believe that everyone is a race-mixer, but all that’s another story.
In the days of yore
Back when I was an ankle biter and dinosaurs walked the Earth, things were a lot different. During the entirety of the 1970s, there were fewer than 100 TV shows made for the American market that had LGBT themes. By that I don’t mean entire series with recurring gay characters, but rather one-off episodes. That’s hard to imagine now, isn’t it?
Were the 1970s a dismal era of barbarism, when gays were despised and persecuted? Were their social lives limited to cruising bathrooms at public parks at best, and at worst involved staying at home and entertaining themselves with bodybuilding magazines? That’s not exactly the case. At the time, it wasn’t such a big deal as it once was. Moreover, gays had their institutions and social venues. It was an active subculture already.
From what I remember of the time, there was a general perception that they were a little weird, and “faggot” and “queer” were typical schoolyard insults. Even so, being gay wasn’t the end of the world. The zeitgeist of the entire decade was a little weird, for what it’s worth, so their “otherness,” as Leftist academic types put it lately, wasn’t entirely remarkable. It was basically just another thing. In the Bible Belt, surely perceptions were worse, as homosexuality is considered a perversion, though things had mellowed out at least somewhat by then. All told, surely it was better to keep private matters private. On the other hand, some musicians were openly gay, others had a bisexual aesthetic, and some tried to hide it — but everyone sort of knew, anyway. In their case, this actually made them perceivably seem a bit cooler. For performers, a transgressive flair can add to their popularity. Sure, Queen was a fruit salad — but oh, what a fruit salad it was!
I was once a TV addict in my misspent youth, but for some reason I lived through the 1970s without noticing the now-obscure cop show produced by NBC called Police Woman. There was an episode featuring a trio of deadly pearl divers that aired on November 8, 1974, and was called “Flowers of Evil.” Anticipating political resistance, the network had trimmed it up prior to airing, delaying production for a couple of weeks. Even so, the show’s release ignited a massive pile of flapdoodle. It’s unclear if the original cut still exists, but I smurfed a copy of the broadcast version. (It’s on YouTube here.)
It was a dark and stormy night. Kathleen, an elderly lady dressed to the nines, is taken on a ride to a fleabag motel, anticipating that she’ll meet someone. (That’s probably her long-lost sister.) The driver, Mame, is half a set of false eyelashes away from being Little Droogie Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Janet, the redhead in the back seat, looks like a deer in headlights. When they arrive, they don’t meet Kathleen’s sister. Instead, Gladys is there, though off-screen. Things don’t go so well for Kathleen, to say the least. Meanwhile, Janet is still standing by the car, sobbing in the rain.
This sequence is grim, grim, grim — about like when someone popped a cap in Bambi’s mother. Perhaps this is especially poignant to me for personal reasons. One of my elderly relatives was drugged and robbed by a group of Mexican healthcare professionals. They got away with it, but if I ever find out who did it, I’d be happy to punish the crime the Arab way. Allah said it, I believe it, and that settles it.
A few days later, the owner of the fleabag motel finds the very unlucky Kathleen. He notifies the police, but at first they have trouble identifying her. Then the long-lost sister, Mrs. Schmidt, finally shows up. She was asking around for her at a retirement home, but was told that Kathleen had left suddenly, not wanting to see her. For Sergeant “Pepper” Anderson, the show’s eponymous police woman, this sets off her Spidey sense.
Pepper goes undercover and applies for a job at the retirement home. Gladys is running the show — an ice princess type with sociopathic tendencies. Pepper is called out on her references, and admits she made them up, but then fabricates a story about having lost her previous job a bit ignominiously. Gladys finds the story of a checkered past to be acceptable. She probably considers it a qualification, since she’s running a criminal enterprise.
On the other hand, Mame finds Pepper to be objectionable, and seems rather jealous. As things are revealed later, it turns out that Janet and Gladys are an item. As for how Mame the diesel dyke fits into the relationship dynamic, it’s not entirely clear. Either they’re all in a triad, or Mame is in the Friend Zone. Perhaps the original screenplay clarified this question.
Pepper soon discovers how the racket is operating. The retirement home is draining the bank accounts of its residents via forged checks. When those run out, they start poisoning the patients. They had to rub Kathleen out quickly because her sister had come to get her out of there. Then everyone gets arrested — this is a cop show, after all.
Gladys, rather sensibly, clams up in the interrogation room. So does Mame, though her behavior is a bit reminiscent of a Charles Manson groupie. Janet stonewalls at first, but cracks when Pepper describes the horror of Kathleen’s murder. Although she’s the least culpable — she clearly wanted nothing to do with this, and was put under extreme pressure — she claims responsibility for all of it. Pepper then talks her out of taking the fall for her girlfriend.
She’s quite compassionate toward Janet throughout. (She certainly displays a lot more mercy than I’d ever expect to receive if, Allah forbid, I was to end up at the police station in the little cinderblock room with the bare metal desk and the bright lightbulb in my face.) She doesn’t condemn Janet for her orientation. Pepper describes a college roommate who fell in love with her, but ended up in the Friend Zone.
The Homintern strikes back
For the temerity of airing the episode, despite the fact that it had been toned down, a group called Lesbian Feminist Liberation strapped on their combat boots and staged a protest outside the network’s offices. There were about two dozen demonstrators — one with a transistorized megaphone, and the rest carrying signs. (The ones reading NBC — NOTHING BUT CRAP were a hoot!) Part of the “zap,” as gay advocacy stunts were called back then, included attempting a half-baked sit-in at the corporate headquarters.
Stung by all this, the network never allowed reruns of the “Flowers of Evil” episode. The only other Police Woman episode involving homosexuality was broadcast two years later, when another one of Pepper’s lesbian roommates was brought in, playing a sympathetic role.
Recall that this was a time before the mainstream media reflexively kowtowed to the Homintern, such as nearly all big businesses do these days. But after they had been swatted on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper twice in rapid succession, this marked a turning point. (The first was a big kerfuffle with ABC over a Marcus Welby, M.D. episode entitled “The Outrage” that was about a pedophile. There were complaints to the sponsors, causing some of them to pull their advertising.) After that, some TV producers started bringing on gay activists as sensitivity consultants, effectively allowing them to exercise prior restraint on the scripts before they were aired.
Again, at this point the mainstream media had no particular interest in the gay agenda. (Given that the American television industry produced an average of nine episodes per year with LGBT themes throughout the entire 1970s, the subject was barely a blip on their radar.) They simply shied away from bad publicity. Note that the media itself is a massive propaganda organ with a colossal budget. Moreover, it’s rather obviously the gatekeeper to publicity itself, and back in those days had a near-total information monopoly. It’s therefore absurd that the Marcus Welby, M.D. flapdoodle and the Lesbian Feminist Liberation “zap” — which were small potatoes, as far as demonstrations go — intimidated an entire industry into compliance. It’s rather like a giant being terrified by a fairy, but that’s what happened.
Was the “Flowers of Evil” episode truly derogatory to lesbians? Its Executive Producer explained that it was inspired by a true story, and the lesbian angle was an incidental biographical detail. Moreover, Gladys is the only one who is portrayed as stone-cold evil. Mame is essentially a follower; with correct guidance, she could’ve been a righteous dyke instead, hitching her diesel rig to a better trailer, as it were. Janet never wanted to have anything to do with the murder, and acted only with extreme reluctance. Although that’s not completely exculpatory, she’s really a decent person who got caught up in a Stockholm Syndrome relationship, which is apparent from how Gladys treats her. All this hardly suggests that all pearl divers are evil. Moreover, the cuts to the broadcast version even went as far as to excise the word “lesbian.”
In the real word, lesbians aren’t known to be particularly violent, apart from domestic violence. Still, in any population, even those not known for criminal tendencies, there are going to be a few malignant outliers here and there. (If someone who identifies as a cat pulls off a bank heist, statistically it was gonna happen one of these days.) Should the media refrain from ever portraying any members of a protected group in an unflattering way for fear of offending them? Regarding homosexuals, the TV executives decided that the answer was yes.
And the show goes on
Again, these events were a turning point. After 1974, it was getting to be off-limits to portray homosexuals as criminals on TV, even though obviously some do exist. After that, 175ers were more likely to be portrayed as sensitive characters who were victims of persecution. But that wasn’t the end of the story; not by far. During the 1980s there were gay TV characters who were played for laughs — but that, too, became politically incorrect soon enough. There’s a reason why.
The Homintern created a media strategy guide with the evocative title of “The Overhauling of Straight America.” The concepts were expanded into book form in After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90s. (Anybody heard of those two playbooks? I didn’t think so, but if I’m wrong, throw some rocks at me in the comments section.) Here’s an excerpt from the book, summarizing strategies it had already discussed as well as some other agendas they had in mind:
Desensitization aims at lowering the intensity of antigay emotional reactions to a level approximating sheer indifference; Jamming attempts to blockade or counteract the rewarding pride in prejudice (peace, Jane Austen!) by attaching to homohatred a pre-existing, and punishing, sense of shame in being a bigot, a horse’s ass, and a beater and murderer. Both Desensitization and Jamming, though extremely useful, are mere preludes to our highest — though necessarily very long-range — goal, which is Conversion.
It isn’t enough that antigay bigots should become confused about us, or even indifferent to us — we are safest, in the long run, if we can actually make them like us. Conversion aims at just this.
Please don’t confuse conversion with political Subversion. The word ‘subversion’ has a nasty ring, of which the American people are inordinately afraid — and on their guard against. Yet, ironically by Conversion we actually mean something far more profoundly threatening to the American Way of Life, without which no truly sweeping social change can occur. We mean conversion of the average American’s emotions, mind, and will through a planned psychological attack, in the form of propaganda, fed to the nation via the media. We mean subverting the mechanism of prejudice to our own ends-using the very processes that made America hate us to turn their hatred into warm regard-whether they like it or not.
What a confession! One might say that all this was a resounding success. At the very least, this explains why American TV addicts believe that a quarter of their fellow citizens know the difference between teal and aqua.
Putting it all together
For the record, I don’t have anything against lesbians in general. They think women are beautiful, they enjoy their sweet kisses and soft caresses, and I do, too. What’s the matter with carpet munching, anyway? I’ve dated a few lesbians, and I still love them dearly. (As for those who don’t make exceptions, thanks for nothing.) My intention is not to criticize, but rather to note an interesting fact: Very obviously, the Homintern was far less powerful in the mid-1970s than it is today. Moreover, it represented the interests of a subset of 2-4% of the population that was generally regarded as eccentric at best and perverted at worst. They didn’t let these limitations stop them; they got out there and raised holy hell. They weren’t the biggest special interest group, but they certainly were the noisiest! Then they kept going. Proverbially, they’re the people who just can’t take “yes” for an answer. I have to hand it to the 175ers: Their tenacity was, and is, outstanding.
In a culture war, actually showing up on the battlefield does wonders! So does taking your own side in the fight. How about that? In this case, they took exception to some TV programs that allegedly portrayed homosexuals negatively, and then kicked the mighty mainstream media in the shins until they made their point. Surely there’s a lesson in this.
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