The Gay Crawl – The Advocate, 3/30/2002

Leapin’ Botox! We’re going to have our own Gay Channel! All over town “Fantasy Gay TV Programmer” is thee now party game. Everybody’s playing! Naturally, I want my own late night show, Satellite Dish.

Before we get into a GLBT Studies discussion of the ins and outs of such a thing, let’s do take a minute to revel. Before Ellen, Will and Grace or Queer as Folk, all gay viewers could do was wait for Paul Lynde to be the round peg in his Hollywood Square, decode and deconstruct a Lily Tomlin special [“Look! She’s wearing purple. Discuss!”] or decrypt PBS Where’s Waldo-like programming to find “In the Life.” Instead of gay TIVO it’s Gay TV.

Of course if you watched with my girlfriend, you would be convinced that everyone on TV is already gay. Her constant commentary is, “He is so gay,” or less often, “She’s such a lesbian.” Every weather man. Most quarterbacks. When John Madden squeals, “look at him scramble out of the pocket,” I get the nudge. The Antiques Road Show? The Christopher Lowell Show? Gay men telling us what to do with our stuff.

In our household with the exception of that whining second rate Canadian skating pair, the Salt Lake Olympics might as well have been called The Gay Winter Olympics. But they would have been sued. The breakup of the women’s couple in the still called “two man bobsled” team? Dyke drama. “The luge is a very gay event,” my viewing companion pronounced. Watching what look to me like high speed sperm rattling down a crooked, slick chute, I ask, “How do you know that?” at the exact moment the announcer with the Vaseline over his mike intones, “She’s controlling the whole thing with her inner thighs.” Nudge.

Her “Name it and Claim It” viewing habit stems of course from her incorrigible ability to think the best of people. As persuasive as she sometimes is, I’m not buying it. TV is straighter and scarier than ever. Because of an unsettled economy, and decreased ad revenues, TV is forced to produce more shows on the cheap, except of course for the Friends who get a million each per episode. Hey, they are so worth it.

Survivor, Temptation Island, of the so-called reality genre, are really what interest straight people about themselves. One critic said that The Chair and the Chamber, the second genre-ation shows with their soupcon of S/M, tap into and defuse an undercurrent of anger in the country. So show them on Al Jeezera. The Chair, mercifully canceled, was hosted by John McEnroe, torture enough. In The Chamber, a contestant is strapped in a chair, doused with hot and cold water and asked questions. Guantanamo Bay Watch? or a Thursday night down at The Big Cock? Welcome to Gay Jeopardy!

It’s no wonder gay people want their own channel. Some gay cultural commentators have worried that a gay channel could have the effect of draining gay content from mainstream shows, thereby invisibilizing our hard won visibility. Perhaps. The new gay channel could in fact be a safe haven away from really bad TV, a lab for development of investigative journalism, fearless questioning, open debate, hour long dramas. I’ll give it a will and grace period, but I ain’t holding my lesbian breath.

In addition to Gay per View, we should purchase the crawl space on every TV bandwidth, that space at the bottom of the screen where the terror ticker tape has been running 24-7 since 9.11. That “down there” used to be just the province of financial networks. As Lou Dobbs jowled on about the wonders of Enron, you could read that your 401K was worth as much as your Levi 501s.

Now any channel worth its shares is scrolling. We’d run ours all the way around the screen, so you could read it while lying on your side. Like Mystery Science Theater without the silhouettes, our crawl would run dishy comments on whatever was on the screen. Dick Cheney making a rare appearance? “Father Knows Best.” Greta Von’s new eye job? “Her new FOX contract would not allow her to bring her old face from CNN.” And it is a known scientific fact that when you are reading the crawl you cannot hear what is being said.

Let’s roll!