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GLAAD should rescind its award to 'ATWT' — and apologize

March 21, 2008 |  9:13 am

Not only should GLAAD be publicly denounced for giving an award to "As the World Turns," but it should be pressured to rescind the prize.

It's an outrage that an organization devoted to battling gay discrimination in the media would honor a TV show that blatantly and notoriously discriminates against gay romance.

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Not only are the program's gay lovers Luke (Van Hansis) and Noah (Jake Silbermann) forbidden to kiss on the CBS soap series, but they were, apparently, even forbidden to kiss at the GLAAD Awards where they were being honored for nondiscrimination! When journalists asked the actors to smooch for the cameras on the red carpet, Hansis and Silbermann coyly dodged the request and — adding insult to injury — would only pucker up on either side of the actress who portrays Noah's bogus green-card wife on the show. When the request for the gay kiss was channeled through reps for "ATWT," it was clear from their grumblings, evasive replies and conspiratorial whispers among themselves that they were the ones squashing it.

"As the World Turns" reps don't admit that they discriminate, but, well, they kind of do, too. Jeannie Tharrington, a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble Productions, which produces the CBS series, concedes that recent changes in how Luke and Noah are portrayed were "because of some of the feedback that we've gotten, and because of what we thought was best for the show creatively."

That feedback included denunciations from conservative political groups like the American Family Assn. of Tupelo, Miss., which champions a boycott of Procter & Gamble because its members find the show's portrayal of homosexuality "repulsive" and "offensive."

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Luke and Noah were permitted to kiss a few times early in 2007, but, once feedback was heard, all that was suddenly kaput. When the lovers got cozy last Yuletide, TV cameras panned to a close-up shot of distant mistletoe as their lips locked, unseen. Cameras even cut away when the couple recently merged to kiss for Valentine's Day.

When I asked GLAAD spokesman Damon Romine how his anti-discrimination organization could possibly give an award to a TV show that's blatantly discriminating, he argued that the award was for the calendar year 2007 when Luke and Noah did kiss twice.

Yes, that's true, but 2007 was also the year when the discrimination overtly began when the notorious mistletoe scene aired in December. Obviously, that scene wasn't a fluke since the same treatment continues into 2008.

"While there may be some compromises made about what's being shown, the story line is very romantic," Romine says. "They were the first gay couple on daytime TV ever to share a kiss, so that was pretty monumental.

"I know that this isn't making everyone happy," he adds. "They want this couple to be seen as other couples, but I'm looking at this from a historical background and my 20 years of working with daytime, how long it's taken to get to this point and, while maybe concessions are being made, I'm hoping that, as the audience grows to accept the story being told now, that we'll reach the point where a relationship between two men can be seen in an authentic way like other romantic characters. It's clear that the writers and directors are doing the best they can to tell this gay love story within whatever boundaries they've been given."

But "boundaries" define what can't be done and that, in every dictionary I know, means discrimination, something GLAAD exists to combat.

Rosa Parks didn't give whites discriminating against African Americans an award because they let her sit in the back of the bus after slaves were freed. She joined other black pioneers who fought for full equality. 

GLAAD chiefs can be pleased that some gay progress is being made on "As the World Turns," but it should not give the series an award while the program forces Luke and Noah to sit in the back of its lovers' bus, smoochless.

So why in the world would GLAAD do such a shocking thing?

Critics of GLAAD say that the organization compromises and even betrays its principals just to attract the biggest A-list names, whose presence help to bolster fundraising. In other words, the hoopla surrounding Luke and Noah is so hot right now that GLAAD would actually even bestow an anti-discrimination award to a program that's blatantly engaged in discrimination just to get its stars to attend the GLAAD awards ceremony.

Damon Romine admits that GLAAD eagerly courts A-listers to be featured at its award shows — even to the exclusion of more deserving, but lesser-known gay soldiers in the fight against bias — but it doesn't do so for fundraising purposes, he insists. It does so for a different commercial reason: to produce the most successful awards telecast. That's more important than ever this year since the GLAAD awards just moved to mainstream Bravo TV network after previously being shown on gay-channel Logo.

"When you're looking at producing a television show for Bravo, you want to present the most recognizable faces that the people watching will recognize," Romine says. "The presenters on our show are based on recognizability, yes."

Even to the detriment of faces that may deserve the attention more, I asked him? I used the example of Canadian TV show "Degrassi," a critically praised GLAAD nominee that has courageously been showing its gay lovers kiss for three years. While GLAAD has not yet announced that it will decline its stars' offer to appear as presenters at the next awards gala in Los Angeles, Romine virtually conceded that they don't have a prayer of being given a place at the podium.

"With all due respect to the young stars of 'Degrassi,' they may not be so recognizable," he said.

No, they're not Luke and Noah, sorry. Too bad. As GLAAD sees things, it's not only a priority to have the most famous faces at the podium, it will even give them an award just to entice them to show up — and even if that award brazenly betrays the reason GLAAD exists.

That's showbiz, after all. And any price must be paid to get off that lowly gay Logo network and move up to the big Bravo channel, which is watched by millions of straight people. Beware: the "str8" folk might be offended if they saw Luke and Noah smooch at the podium, which many people begged them to do in shouts from the audience when they accepted the award they didn't deserve. Lucky for GLAAD chiefs, the boys resisted. The chiefs didn't have to face the temptation to discriminate too. Hmmm. Would GLAAD have edited it out of the final award telecast so as not to offend some viewers?

(Photo: WireImage)


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