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Hollywood's Role in Changing Attitudes About Gays

4 years ago
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On the heels of the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell" in the Senate, Walter Shapiro has an excellent column up today titled "Why Are Liberals Winning the Culture War and Losing the Tax Battle?"

Walter is, I think, spot-on when he gives credit (or blame, depending on your point of view) to the entertainment industry for contributing to the changing cultural attitudes about homosexuality.

As he writes: "An obvious guess [as to why attitudes have changed] is that these positions correspond with the world view of the entertainment industry. Whether it is gay rights, sexual permissiveness or just-say-yes attitudes on recreational drugs, Hollywood has long been at the barricades. . . . My hunch is that a poll of Hollywood would find about 98 percent support for gay marriage but a self-interested majority would object to higher taxes on those earning more than $250,000 per year."

For decades now, Hollywood has introduced American families to gay characters. There is little doubt this contributed to changing attitudes toward homosexuals. I found the following anecdote, which comes from the book "The Architect: Karl Rove and the Dream of Absolute Power," very telling. It seems that when it came to researching which TV ads to purchase during the 2004 re-election, campaign strategist Matt Dowd's data
showed that Republicans, especially Republican women aged eighteen to thirty-four, liked Will & Grace, a program featuring a pair of gay characters. . . . The Bush campaign broadcast nearly five hundred commercials on Will & Grace during the presidential campaign. . . . The irony was not lost inside the campaign. While the president was reaching out to social conservatives by supporting a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, his ad team was buying commercials on a sitcom celebrating gay life.
It should be noted that "Don't ask, don't tell" would not have been repealed without the support of Republican senators. Clearly Hollywood (as well as the music industry) has played a part in changing attitudes on a bipartisan scale.

Still, the notion that this change implies social conservatives have lost the culture wars troubles me. While Americans are clearly becoming more open to the gay issue and to legalization of marijuana, they are simultaneously becoming more pro-life. (I have theories that might help explain this phenomenon, but we will have to leave that for another day and discussion.)

In short, I think it's premature to declare social conservatives the culture wars "losers"

They seem to have given ground on the gay issue, but gained it on the life issue.

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Why would any sane person want to tell a woman what to do with her body?

December 20 2010 at 3:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Maybe instead of Hollywood pushing for these liberal ideas it is instead just showing real life as it exists. There are and always have been gay people in the world. There was gay character in The Sound of Music. Remember the new girlfriends friend from the city who was the "confirmed bachelor." There were "confirmed bachelors" everywhere in reallife and movies back then. Their gayness was just not recoganized publically but everyone knew what the deal was if a man never got married and was feminine acting. Maybe the conservatives just need to accept REAL LIFE as it exists and stop trying to control everyone and everything.

December 20 2010 at 12:13 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

The republicans who voted for this bill will probably join the rest of the lib and moderates on the unemployment in the next election.I guess they are lucky the unemployment was extended 13 months.

December 20 2010 at 11:13 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

There may be some shift in the pro-choice vs. pro-life ranks, Mr. Lewis. However, conservatives remain on the loosing end of most other social issues including equal rights, stem-cell research, prayer in schools, school vouchers, legalization of marijuana, separation of church and state, global warming and so forth.

December 20 2010 at 10:14 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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