DAVID BIANCULLI

Founder / Editor

ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

Assistant Editor

Contributors

ALEX STRACHAN

MIKE HUGHES

KIM AKASS

MONIQUE NAZARETH

ROGER CATLIN

GARY EDGERTON

TOM BRINKMOELLER

GERALD JORDAN

NOEL HOLSTON

 
 
 
 
 
TV: Advancing Same-Sex Marriage Rights, But Not Right to Choose?
April 24, 2015  | By Barry Garron  | 17 comments
 


[Our newest TVWW contributor, Barry Garron, is a veteran TV critic who has written for, among others, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and TV Guide. His first post for us asks a tough question: Why have TV entertainment shows seemed to aid gay rights, but not a woman's right to choose? - DB]

Why are some social values embraced quickly while others struggle for decades to gain a footing? There likely are many reasons, but I suspect an important one has to do with the persuasive power of television.

Consider two issues: same-sex marriage and a woman's absolute right to a legal abortion. Both lacked the support of a majority of Americans through most of the Twentieth Century.

The right to a legal abortion got constitutional footing when the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973. It would seem reasonable that, 40 years later, this would be considered settled. Instead, the issue is  back before the U.S. Supreme Court in several forms. Abortion opponents have lost none of their fervor.

Buoyed by recent polls that show declining support for an absolute right to abortion, pro-lifers have redoubled their efforts. In the last few years, legislatures in Red States have passed a tsunami of new laws to restrict abortions and punish providers.

Now consider same sex marriage. Up until just a few years ago, it was illegal in every state. The federal government denied same-sex spouses the benefits given to other couples until only last year, after the Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act.

Now same sex marriage is available in about three-fourths of all states and the District of Columbia. There is huge momentum for change. Polls reveal significant shifts in public opinion over just a few years. Indeed, many of the most ardent opponents have conceded the issue, and moved on to champion other values issues. There seems little doubt that, in a decade, the prohibitions against gay marriage will seem as anachronistic as those that once prevented women from voting.

So why has one social change been embraced so quickly, while the other finds itself locked in an endless struggle?

In large measure, it may have to do with how the two issues have been portrayed in television, the most powerful, influential and ubiquitous medium of our time.

Since the 1950s, TV has not only reflected what is acceptable in the mainstream, but paved the way for progressive visions of social justice and individuality. Time and again, characters on TV, by virtue of their numbers and personalities, have torn apart negative stereotypes and moved viewers towards social  tolerance.

Although there is a danger in thinking of TV, with its multitude of networks and voices,  as monolithic, there is nonetheless a sameness in the way producers and executives have approached these issues.

A series with gay characters was daring in 1984, when Showtime put on Brothers. But the gradual appearance of more and more gay characters paved the way for a relatively non-controversial premiere of NBC's Will and Grace in 1998. By the time Modern Family (right) began airing on ABC in 2010, there was widespread acceptance of gay couple Cameron and Mitchell and their adoption of a baby girl.

Meanwhile, celebrities who might have hidden their sexual orientation in the past were publicly embracing it. How awful could homosexuality be when some of the nicest people on TV -- Ellen DeGeneres, Anderson Cooper, Neil Patrick Harris and so many more -- were gay?

Viewers came to accept the concept of gay rights as an obvious extension of human rights. TV images, broadcast over and over, effectively neutralized the centuries-old arguments that gay marriage was a giant step toward moral decay and the decline of civilization. TV effectively rebutted the moral indignation and condemnation to which gays had been subjected.

But even as TV bravely created a world that respected gays as individuals, it cowered from the idea of expressing support for a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion.

In 1972, on Norman Lear's All in the Family spinoff sitcom Maude, the title character publicly chose abortion in an infamous story line broadcast two months before Roe v. Wade. [NOTE: Maude: The Complete Series was released on DVD last month by Shout! Factory, and can be purchased here.]

In the 43 years since then, I cannot recall a single instance in which a regular series TV character dealt with an unintended pregnancy in that manner or, for that matter, even discussed abortion as an option. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of American women exercised their right to legal abortions every year.

In the pilot of Reba, broadcast in 2001, Reba's older daughter, Cheyenne, is unexpectedly pregnant. There is not a single reference to abortion as an option. Nor was it mentioned 12 years later, in the second episode of the new CBS sitcom Mom, when the teenage daughter of the character played by Anna Faris revealed she had become pregnant unintentionally. Neither character was prepared for parenthood, but the implication in both series was that the young women would be less than human if they failed to carry their babies to full term.

This season on CW, the title character of Jane the Virgin (right) got pregnant unintentionally, but never seriously considered having an abortion.

No wonder, then, that society has retreated on a woman's constitutional right to an abortion. On TV, the only acceptable choices seem to be having the baby or giving it up for adoption. From the perspective of networks and producers, it is as if Roe v. Wade happened in some parallel universe or not at all.

Do networks and producers lack the courage to stand up for women's rights? Is the industry without any women who had to face unwanted pregnancies? Whatever the reason, TV consistently fails to show a world in which legal abortion is an option, and TV viewers are never challenged to drop their preconceived ideas.

That's not only a shame. It has put an undue moral burden on women exercising their constitutional rights. Had TV made even a fraction of the effort to depict the right to a safe and legal abortion as being within the mainstream, there likely would be less support for initiatives around the country aimed at curtailing and eventually eliminating the hard-fought right to control one's own body.

It's even possible that a few brave doctors might still be alive.

 
 
 
 
 
Leave a Comment: (No HTML, 1000 chars max)
 
 Name (required)
 
 Email (required) (will not be published)
 
NMJBI
Type in the verification word shown on the image.
 
 
 Page: 1 of 1  | Go to page: 
17 Comments
 
 
Ready to discover what your body is truly capable of? Our Winter Springs personal training gym is here to help you unlock your full potential. With a focus on individualized attention and customized workout plans, our team of trainers will challenge and motivate you to reach new heights of fitness. Say goodbye to limitations and hello to a stronger, fitter you at our premier facility.
Jun 9, 2024   |  Reply
 
 
Our uber taxi offers an advance booking facility, perfect for busy professionals and private travelers. Experience the convenience of Uber-like reliability, knowing your ride is pre-booked and ready to go. Travel stress-free with us.
May 24, 2024   |  Reply
 
 
Experience the convenience of booking your entire trip with a website that eliminates booking fees for hotels, airline tickets, and flights. This travel agency provides tailored vacation packages that make planning your journey easy and affordable. Enjoy a hassle-free booking process and save money on your next adventure with this no-fee platform.
May 21, 2024   |  Reply
 
 
Elevate your fitness experience with the expertise of best personal trainers Winter Park FL. We understand that every individual is unique, which is why we take a personalized approach to your fitness journey. From assessing your current fitness level to designing customized workout routines, our trainers are here to empower you to reach new heights of strength, endurance, and confidence.
May 17, 2024   |  Reply
 
 
Udforsk mulighederne for luftstegning med vores kollektion af innovative Airfryer opskrifter. Skab lækre måltider med mindre rod og mere smag.
May 14, 2024   |  Reply
 
 
Experience the ultimate in fitness support and guidance with best personal trainers Casselberry FL's premier personal trainers. Our commitment to excellence extends beyond the gym floor, as we work tirelessly to understand your individual needs and aspirations. By developing a customized training plan and providing ongoing motivation and accountability, we ensure that you stay on track to achieve your goals and live your best life.
Apr 27, 2024   |  Reply
 
 
Explore the world of car importing from the USA. Discover essential tips and tricks for a smooth journey from purchase to delivery. Jak sprowadzic samochód z USA
Apr 2, 2024   |  Reply
 
 
Introducing our revolutionary pogo pin contacts, meticulously engineered to defy the elements and ensure uninterrupted connectivity in the toughest conditions. Whether it's rain, snow, or even submersion in water, this innovative connector keeps your electronics reliably connected, making it perfect for outdoor adventures, marine applications, and industrial environments where moisture resistance is paramount.
Mar 29, 2024   |  Reply
 
 
Join our P2P book club and embark on a journey through the pages of countless stories. Connect with fellow readers, discover new authors, and share your love for literature. Your search for a platform where people can list their books for sale led you to discover this vibrant community of book enthusiasts, fostering a space for meaningful connections and enriching discussions.
Mar 20, 2024   |  Reply
 
 
Dive into the world of hosting excellence through our platform, offering a curated selection of the VPS Hosting Companies known for their reliability, performance, and customer satisfaction.
Mar 3, 2024   |  Reply
 
 
Dominate search engine results with our state-of-the-art search engine optimization SEO tools. Empower your website with cutting-edge features for keyword research, competitor analysis, and performance tracking. Elevate your online visibility and ensure your website stands out in the competitive digital landscape.
Feb 29, 2024   |  Reply
 
 
Hans Georg Lundahl
"It's even possible that a few brave doctors might still be alive."

As in the guys who were being hanged in Nuremberg? But who were let off because they were doctors?
Jun 5, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Anne
To follow up on Erin's examples, the older daughter on Party of Five.
Apr 27, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Patrick J.
In regard to gay marriage, Sam Waterston's Jack McCoy said on an episode of "Law & Order" "Maybe we should let them marry. Why shouldn't they be as miserable as the rest of us?"
Apr 25, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
J Davis
On any topic, TV media is extraordinarily sexist, perhaps more insidious, but still quite sexist. Take any storyline (or advert) and flip the genders, and the painful reality shows.
Apr 25, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Zeke Black
Most, if not all, mainstream gay rights are framed with men as the protagonists. Parallel women's stories-- do they exist? If a topic includes women, it necessarily includes each of us individually. Each of us is from a mother, and may even be a mother. Where "what THEY do is none of my business" applies to gay men and can be intellectualized-- it is a different emotional question for what women do, in all these areas. It takes more courage to challenge those emotions. TV would not lead the way into such dangerous territory. Where is the new Norman Lear?
Apr 25, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Erin
"I cannot recall a single instance in which a regular series TV characters [sic] dealt with an unintended pregnancy in that manner or, for that matter, even discussed abortion as an option." Really? How about Luke and Becky on Friday Night Lights? Or Drew and later Amber on Parenthood? Or Zack Florrick on The Good Wife (and the political tangles it causes his parents)? Or Sex and the City? Joan on Mad Men? Six Feet Under? Grey's Anatomy? Girls?
Apr 25, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
 
 Page: 1 of 1  | Go to page: