Just a few months into his tenure as GLAAD’s president, and Jarrett Barrios has already turned the “condemn-applaud” organization into a bigger joke than even we thought possible. Charging itself with policing media to ensure positive representations of queers, GLAAD is now backing ABC’s decision to yank Adam Lambert from its network. And in doing so, Barrios has shown GLAAD to still be the spineless, ineffective Gay Inc. organization that Neil Guiliano left behind.
When Lambert’s same-sex kiss and crotch-in-face American Music Awards performance generated endless headlines filled with the word “controversial,” GLAAD was the go-to organization for the MSM to grab a soundbite. Fine. That’s it’s job.
So after speaking with GLAAD, the network has released these remarks, which sounds familiar:
Given the live nature of the American Music Awards, Adam Lambert’s performance, which differed greatly from his rehearsal, caught many, including the network, off guard. This is not a question of Lambert’s sexual orientation. As is evidenced by GLAAD’s media report card, ABC is at the forefront of positive gay and lesbian portrayal on television. We welcome openly gay performers and look forward to continuing our great work within the LGBT community.
Guess who has ABC’s back and is just fine with that explanation? Mr. Barrios! He responded:
It would appear that the kiss between Adam Lambert and his keyboardist did not factor into ABC’s decision. ABC has a history of positive gay and transgender inclusion that includes featuring kisses between gay and lesbian couples on-air. We applaud the visibility of openly gay performers and congratulate Adam Lambert for sharing his story on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ this week as well as his upcoming appearance on ‘The Jay Leno Show.’
He’s right in one respect: ABC does have a healthy recent history of positive LGBT portrayals. But its treatment of the Lambert saga completely reverses the network’s good will.
And GLAAD — laughably, but predictably — took the bait.
Especially now that it’s not just about the AMA performance, but Lambert’s entire person. Regardless what the network or GLAAD has to say, Lambert has been branded too gay for television. And somehow the very organization responsible for making sure one of our own isn’t lambasted in the media is going along with it.
Meanwhile, ABC canceled his appearances on The Jimmy Kimmel Show and New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. And no surprise here, in a follow up statement, GLAAD once again gave the network a pass, with a minor caveat:
Since his American Music Awards performance occurred GLAAD has consistently advocated that Adam Lambert and openly gay artists not be held to a double standard. As we have expressed publicly, it is disappointing that ABC will not give Lambert a chance to perform at this time. GLAAD’s discussions with ABC focused on confirming that his sexual orientation was not a factor in their decisions. ABC confirmed this is not about a same-sex kiss or his sexual orientation but about being “caught off guard.” GLAAD asked ABC and calls on them for clarification on ‘caught off guard’ so that the community knows why Lambert is being denied the opportunity to perform on the network.
They want ABC to clarify what they meant by “caught off guard”? Perhaps they should’ve asked the first time around — before including ABC’s own remarks in GLAAD’s own statement. The only reason GLAAD is issuing a follow up? Because Lambert’s fans, ABC’s critics, and GLAAD’s own by-standers were incredulous Barrios was giving in so easily.
Preposterous. That’s what this sort of misguided reaction is. Rather than demanding ABC immediately own up to a double standard, GLAAD instead is taking them at their word — despite the network’s willingness to air other, ahem, “controversial” scenes from pop culture. Because ABC “confirmed” their decision to ban Lambert wasn’t because he’s gay, GLAAD is satisfied that’s the real reason? This is the same organization that went after South Park because it used the word “faggot,” but couldn’t take Comedy Central at its word that it didn’t mean to denigrate gays. Instead of helping ABC get off the hook, GLAAD should be taking a leadership role in demanding more concise answers, particularly because ABC continues refusing press interviews about its censorship.
GLAAD’s involvement in the Lambert situation is actually harming the gay community. As our self-appointed representatives, GLAAD is telling America that ABC’s treatment of a gay man is just fine, nothing to see here, move along.
Sit this one out, Barrios. You’re embarrassing yourself. But more regrettably, you’re embarrassing us.
UPDATE: As Michael Petrelis notes, ABC is a proud sponsor of GLAAD. That means money and favors change hands.
UPDATE: A third statement arrives from GLAAD’s Barrios today: “We appreciate ABC’s commitment to gay and transgender inclusion in other programming. However, let us be clear that GLAAD remains steadfast in our assertion that Adam Lambert is being subjected to a double standard by ABC as an openly gay performer. We do not support ABC cancelling Adam Lambert’s past and future performances. We urge the community to reach out to ABC and express their concerns that Adam Lambert is being subjected to a double standard.” (The statement includes the email address of ABC’s top flack.)
Wow, you’re full of steam there, GLAAD! “Steadfast”? Brutal!
Curiously, GLAAD is now acting just like ABC: refusing interviews about its missteps. Yeah, let’s just let this one blow over, shall we? Shhhhh.