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The channel for gay America? :
b a cultural criticism of the Logo Channel's commercial success on American cable television
h [electronic resource] /
by Michael Johnson Jr.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 111 pages.
Thesis (M.L.A.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: Logo currently holds a self-described monopoly as the "Gay Channel for America." Logo stands alone as the single most concentrated national-level vehicle of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) visibility in the post millennial television era. The Logo Channel has reaped financial rewards from its strategy as a business entity, as LGBT American television viewers embraced its presence as a signifier to America that gays and lesbians have finally "made it". First, any claim to a monopoly deserves critical attention for its place in mainstream television, for its business practices, and for the power it holds in representing and targeting LGBT audiences. Second, Logo's construction of its audience is an extremely important window into current perceptions of LGBT identity, history, and progress.Third, Logo's ability to capitalize on gay and lesbian visibility in American culture and the rhetoric of "inclusiveness" are important historical and cultural moments to explore the political costs and benefits of these strategies-in business practices, programming content, and advertisements. In this study, I argue that Logo does not capitalize on its television presence to participate in LGBT political, economic, and social equality. Despite its significant visibility and messages of "inclusiveness" in American popular culture, Logo contributes to the perpetuation of negative and narrow stereotypes of consumerist gay culture, as it marginalizes ethnic minorities and women, through a variety of conformist, self-serving practices that undermine the libratory opportunity it holds for its LGBT viewers.Chapter Two "Another Lost Opportunity" examines a brief history of the cable television industry, the television business model and the representations of gays and lesbians on television to draw a parallel social history centered on visibility. Chapter Three "Like Taking Candy from a Baby" examines three reoccurring series on Logo: Noah's Arc, Can't Get a Date, and Round-Trip Ticket. Chapter Four "Easy as Shooting Fish In a Barrel" examines the histories of 1) television advertising, 2) the risks and benefits of advertising on Logo, and 3) the history of gay and lesbian print advertising. This history lays the foundation for 4) exploring contemporary constructions of Logo's target market as the "ideal demographic."
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Advisor: Elizabeth Bell, Ph.D.
x American Studies
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
The Channel for Gay America? A Cultural Criticism of The Logo ChannelÂ’s Commercial Success on American Cable Television by Michael Johnson Jr. A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Liberal Arts Department of Humanities & American Studies College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Elizabeth Bell, Ph.D. David Johnson, Ph.D. Sara Crawley, Ph.D. Date of Approval: July 14, 2008 Keywords: Advertisement, Programming, Queer, Sexuality, Activism Copyright 2008, Michael Johnson Jr.
Acknowledgements I canÂ’t begin to express the depth of a ppreciation I have for everyone that has supported me throughout this short but exhaustin g intellectual endeavor. Thanks to David Johnson, Ph.D. & Sara Crawley, Ph.D. for wit hout their intellectual support, friendship and collegiality I would not ha ve begun, much less finished, this work. And thanks to Elizabeth Bell, Ph.D. without whose directi on I would no doubt have been utterly lost. Thank you to Stephen Turner, Ph.D. for ta king a chance on meÂ…and thanks to Andrew (Drew) M. Smith, M.L.S. for his i nvaluable research assistance! Thanks also to my American Studies fa mily Â–Walker Â“The CylonÂ” Hicken, John Crayon, Gary Â“FingersÂ” DeSantis, Matthew Â“The Level 12 PaladinÂ” Arnold, Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D. and Pricilla Brewer, Ph.D. fo r their unconditional and constant friendship with an admittedly and unabashedly cont rarian, irascible, arrogant, academically frustrating, intellectually ir ritating and socially contemptuous person like myself. And finally, but most importantly I th ank my grandmother, Elizabeth, who continues to serve as my inspiration and to whom all my success is indebted toÂ…I love you and miss you very much.
i Table of Contents Table of Contents ............................................................................................................. .... iList of Tables ................................................................................................................ ..... iiiAbstract ...................................................................................................................... ........ ivChapter One: Introducing LogoÂ“The Channel for Gay AmericaÂ” .....................................1Rationale of this Study ............................................................................................ 3Literature Review: The Scholarly Conversation ..................................................... 4The Television Industry .............................................................................. 5LogoÂ’s Programming .................................................................................. 5LogoÂ’s Advertisement ................................................................................. 6Methodology: A Queer Reading ............................................................................. 7Purpose of This Study ................................................................................. 8Chapter Outline ......................................................................................... 10Chapter Two: The Television Indust ry & Another Lost Opportunity ...............................12Business Model: Follow the Money ..................................................................... 14Costs and Benefits: TelevisionÂ’s Te chnological Steps and Growth ......... 15Niche-Marketing: Smaller is Better .......................................................... 17Representation Model: Follow the Images ............................................... 20LGBT Visibility: At What Costs? ............................................................ 22Social Justice, LGBT Activism, and Logo ............................................................ 25Business and Social Justice: A Match Made in Hell? ............................... 28LogoÂ’s Self Description: This is Social Movement? ................................ 30Logo Â’s Lost Opportunity in the Television Industry............................................. 35Chapter Three: Logo Programming Like Taki ng Candy From A Baby ..........................37Logo Â’s Lessons Well-Learned .............................................................................. 37NoahÂ’s Arc ............................................................................................................ 40Ethnicity and NoahÂ’s Arc : Searching for Black Authenticity ................... 41Refusing to Deal with Lived Experience of Blackness ............................ 44Dealing with Sex ....................................................................................... 48Masculinity and its Many Performances ................................................... 49NoahÂ’s ArcÂ’s Contradictions ..................................................................... 51
ii CanÂ’t Get A Date .................................................................................................. 54Broken Â“PromisesÂ” and the Gay Male Aesthetic ...................................... 57What's Real about "Gay" Reality TV ?: Therapy and Surveillance ........... 59Round Trip Ticket ................................................................................................. 64Empty Appeals to Kinship and Actio n: The Cairns, Australia Episode, .. 65Languaging Commodities and Selling Travel .......................................... 67Bottom Economic Line: Round Trip Ticket to Nowhere .......................... 68Chapter Four: Logo Advertisement Easy as Shooting Fish in a Barrel ...........................71A Brief History of Television Advertising ........................................................... 73Logo Â’s Advertising Revenues: Risks and Benefits? ............................................. 75Gay & Lesbian Advertisement History..................................................... 77Alienation vs. Financial Reward ............................................................... 78Who Is LogoÂ’s Target Market?: an Ideal Consumer Demographic ...................... 79The DINK Demographic........................................................................... 81Vanity Ads and Selling Stereotypes ......................................................... 82Reaching the LGBT Market: Cashing in on Liberalism ........................... 84Three Exemplars: Selling to/C onstructing an Audience ........................... 86Brand Loyalty and Pink Dolla rs: Dangerous Results ........................................... 94Chapter Five: Conclusion ..................................................................................................98Where We Started vs. Where WeÂ’re Headed? ...................................................... 99Cultural Criticism of Logo with an African-American Queer Eye ..................... 100Why Is Any of This Important Now? ................................................................. 103What Does the Future Hold? ............................................................................... 103Bibliography .................................................................................................................. ..105
iii List of Tables Table 1, Logo Viewer Activities ....................................................................................... 80Table 2, Subaru Â“ShadowÂ” Segmentation ......................................................................... 87Table 3, Levi Strauss & Co. Â“ChangeÂ” Segmentation ...................................................... 91Table 4, Pfizer Â“Fashion VictimsÂ” Segmentation ............................................................. 93
iv The Channel for Gay America? A Cultural Criticism of The Logo ChannelÂ’s Commercial Success on American Cable Television Michael Johnson Jr. ABSTRACT Logo currently holds a self-described monopoly as the Â“Gay Channel for America.Â” Logo stands alone as the single most c oncentrated national-level vehicle of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transge ndered) visibility in the post millennial television era. The Logo Channel has reaped financial rewa rds from its strategy as a business entity, as LGBT American television viewers embraced its presence as a signifier to America that gays a nd lesbians have finally Â“made itÂ”. First, any claim to a monopoly deserves critical attention for its place in mainstream television, for its business pr actices, and for the power it holds in representing and targetin g LGBT audiences. Second, Logo Â’s construction of its audience is an extremely important window into current perceptions of LGBT identity, history, and progress. Third, Logo Â’s ability to capitalize on gay and lesbian visibility in American culture and the rhetoric of Â“inclusivenessÂ” ar e important historical and cultural moments to explore the political costs and benefits of these strategies Â—in business practices, programming content, and advertisements. In this study, I argue that Logo does not capitalize on its television presence to participate in LGBT political, economic, and social equality. Despite its significant visibility and messages of Â“inclusivenessÂ” in American popular culture, Logo contributes
v to the perpetuation of negative and narrow ster eotypes of consumerist gay culture, as it marginalizes ethnic minorities and women, thro ugh a variety of conf ormist, self-serving practices that undermine the libratory opport unity it holds for its LGBT viewers. Chapter Two Â“Another Lost OpportunityÂ” ex amines a brief history of the cable television industry, the televi sion business model and the re presentations of gays and lesbians on television to draw a parallel so cial history centered on visibility. Chapter Three Â“Like Taking Candy from a BabyÂ” examines three reoccurring series on Logo : NoahÂ’s Arc Can't Get a Date and Round-Trip Ticket Chapter Four Â“Easy as Shooting Fish In a BarrelÂ” examines the histories of 1) television advertising, 2) the risks and benefits of advertising on Logo and 3) the history of gay and lesbian print advertising. This history lays the foundation for 4) exploring contemporary constructions of LogoÂ’s target market as the Â“ideal demographic.Â”
1 Chapter One: Introducing Logo : Â“The Channel for Gay AmericaÂ” What is Logo? Logo is the newest channel from MTV Netw orks, the force behind channels like VH1, MTV, TV Land and SpikeTV. Logo is entertainment programming for lesbians and gays and just about any one who enjoys a gay point of view. Logo is for us, our friends and our family. Logo is originals. Logo is movies. Logo is documentaries. Logo is news. Logo is specials. Logo is the channel for Gay America. Finally. Why did you choose the name "Logo"? We chose to name the channel Logo because as the first and only 24/7 channel for the LGBT community, we wanted a name that people could make their own and give it personal meaning. For us, the word Logo is about id entity, about being comfortable in your own skin. It's about being who you are. --FAQs on www.logoonline.com Launched in June of 2005 with 10 million subscribers, The Logo Channel is a 24/7, cable television channel th at is created, produced a nd distributed for and by the LGBT community. The Logo Channel was envisioned by two marketing executives, Brian Graden (MTV Networks) and Lisa Sh erman (Verizon). Th ese two individuals sought to probe the depths of the LGBT market by creating a historically different LGBT cable network. Logo is a network that exp licitly recognizes its LGBT audience, despite the precarious business implications such a decision embodied. That decision was a calculated risk that overturned 70 years of broadcast standard s and practices that ignored, marginalized, or pathologized LGBT indivi duals in television programming, (Doty 1993) even as Graden and Sherman sought to create and to capture a niche market for advertisers with tremendous potential for fi nancial success. As a cultural moment, the Logo Channel represents, in a meaningful way, the progress that LGBT people have
2 made in society. Many would agree that on ce someone appears on television, as a reoccurring presence, they have "made it" a nd have achieved, at a minimum, some degree of legitimacy. The Logo Channel is important not only because its presence on cable television is emblematic of the larger LGBT communityÂ’s visibility, but also because of how that presence is interpreted in American society. The representation and positive depictions of LGBT people as characters on television have a significant and powerful potential to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual and transge ndered people in America towards equal citizenship. As a powerful communicative and persuasive medium, television can paint influential portraits of segments of societ y, for good and bad; thes e portraits, in turn, move through the fabric of American society with very real consequences. The Logo Channel has an excellent opportunity to leverage that power and ability to the benefit of its LGBT audience, perhaps lessening the stigmatization and discrimination based on their sexual identity and a dvancing and increasing so cial justice for all. The multiple dilemmas inherent in this opportunityÂ—who is this LGBT audience? how does this LGBT audience want to see it self represented on television? What are LGBT interests, goals, and as pirations?Â—are brilliantly enca psulated by Adam Sternberg in his New York TV article, Â“I Want My Gay TV.Â” Sternberg captures the Â“buzzÂ” that surrounded Logo Â’s launch as depicted on Will & Grace Last fall, an episode of Will & Grace aired in which Will, a gay lawyer, and Jack, his swishy best friend, were invited to a focus group for a new gay-and-lesbian TV channel. Will, the uptight, buttoned-down one, wanted shows that reflected a hist orical perspective on gay life and chronicled Â‘our continuing struggles.Â’ Jack, the flighty, fizzy one, wanted Â‘gay Jeopardy!Â’ featuring naked men with buzzers. Will was asked to leave the group. Jack was hired as the junior VP of new programming (Sternberg 2005).
3 The differences between Will and JackÂ’s visions of an LGBT television channel are one starting place for exam ining the challenges faced by Logo Whether and how to feature Â“our continuing strugglesÂ” and/or Â“gay Jeopardy !Â” is at the heart of this study to examine how The Logo Channel does, or does not, take adva ntage of this historical opportunity to capitalize on its television presence to par ticipate in LGBT political, economic, and social equality. Rationale of this Study This study is important for three interconnect ed reasons, all centered on LGBT identity as implicated on Logo : monopoly, audience, and community. Logo currently holds a monopoly as the Â“Gay Channel for America.Â” Logo stands alone as the single most concentrated vehicle of LGBT visibility in the pos t millennial television era. The Logo Channel has reaped financial rewards from its strategy as a business entity, as LGBT American television viewers embraced its presence as a signifier to America that Â“we have finally arrived!Â” (Dempsey 2007). Niel sen ratings on its release revealed a 2.8 rating which translated into being in the top 10 for that time-slot meaning approx. 4.24 million viewers tuned in. Becker (2006) even claims that Â“ Logo has really become like a campfire that LGBT people are gravitating towards.Â” Any claim by Logo as a media monopoly deserves cri tical attention for its place in Â“mainstreamÂ” television, for its business pr actices, and for the power it holds in representing and targetin g LGBT audiences. First, Logo Â’s financial role as a motivator and beneficiary demand close scrutiny in light of its high industry, business, and social profiles. Second, Logo Â’s construction of its audience is an extremely important window into current perceptions of LGBT identity, history, and progress.
4 Given the monolithic presence that Logo holds on American cable television, Logo has become a cultural formation that constructs and perpetuates contemporary understandings of LGBT identi ty in popular American cult ure. Despite the increased visibility of Â“mainstream Â” television programs like Ellen Will & Grace Queer Eye and others, thereÂ’s never been a single, 24/7 te levision location to which LGBT people might turn to in order to see themselves. Logo Â’s role in identity formation deserves critical attention for its window into crucial so cial and political issues: homophobia1, racism, classism, misogyny, and heterosexi sm that create and perpetua te the social stigmatization that LGBT people regularly encounter. Third, Logo Â’s ability to capitalize on gay a nd lesbian visibility in American culture and the rhetoric of Â“inclusivenessÂ” ar e important historical and cultural moments to explore the political costs and benefits of these strategies Â—in business practices, programming content, and advertisements. Logo actively communicates an inclusive message in on-air segments, online at its website, and in LGBT print media like The Advocate Genre and Out Magazine that says Logo = LGBT community. Any claims of communityÂ—for unity, for political move ment, and for subjecthoodÂ—deserve critical examination. Literature Review: The Scholarly Conversation Given the relative newness of The Logo Channel to American cable television, no academic scholarship has been conducted on th is subject. Nevertheless, substantial primary and secondary sources ex ist on the three areas of inqu iry that I use to conduct my 1 Defined asÂ” prejudice against (fear or dislike of) homosexual people and homosexualityÂ” homophobia. Dictionary.com. WordNet 3.0 Princeton University. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/homophobia (accessed: July 14, 2008).
5 analysis. I consult a variety of sources to situate Logo in midst of these three areas which include (1) Television Industry/Business, (2) Programming, and (3) Advertisement. The Television Industry Research has shown sufficient scholarship exists to support a review and analysis of The Logo ChannelÂ’s profitability, against peer co mpetitors within the cable TV industry (Bloomberg.com 2006). A number of scholars all call for more attention to LGBT audiences, the potential revenues that they might generate, and LGBT purchasing power that supports legitimacy as a busine ss entity (Chris and Freitas 2007, Albiniak 2005). Valuable literature is available on a variety of asp ects including financial data (The Economist 2005), industry position/re putation (Walters 2003) and long-term forecasting models of profita bility (Desmond 2005). My argument builds upon some of the scholarship about LGBT visibility in American popular culture through television (Walters 2003), and the theoretical foundati ons on which LGBT identities exist to the benefit of LogoÂ’s business model (Hennessy 2000). The Logo Channel, outside financial circles and industry venues, has yet to be in tellectually acknowledged, much less directly critiqued in a meaningful way. LogoÂ’s Programming There is significant scholarship on the subj ect of LGBT content in film (Summers 2005), especially with the popularity of Brokeback Mountain (Herring 2006) and other Â“mainstreamÂ” television shows (Dow 2001). This field of scholarship, however, remains limited to a few select shows like Will and Grace (Battles 2001, Cooper 2003) and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (Clarkson 2005, Kylo-Patrick 2004, Westerfelhaus 2006). Fischer (2007) claims these two exemplars do not reflect the rapidly changing dynamics of todayÂ’s cable television audience. These analyses tend to be cultural critiques of
6 images of queerness, rather th an related to specific demogr aphics, target markets, or overall programming choices for networks (Martin 2007). More helpful are foundational scholarly arguments which revolve around the communication, depiction (Herdt 1992), and inte rpretations of LGBT identities (Bergling 2005) within popular American culture th rough television (R. Becker 2006, Fonseca 2005). I apply these scholarly works about LGBT constructed id entity and popularity (Peele 2007, Shugart 2003) to three wildly popular Logo Channel productions ( NoahÂ’s Arc, Round Trip Ticket and CanÂ’t Get A Date ) and in so doing extend their arguments to todayÂ’s LGBT television programming (R. Beck er 2006) in a constructive critique utilizing some primary queer theoretical resources. LogoÂ’s Advertisement Preliminary and ongoing research has shown little scholarship on same-sex television advertisements versus print media advertisements (B rachik 2007), despite a wealth of information on opposite sex tele vision commercials (H ampp 2007). However, significant scholarship is av ailable regarding audience, consumerism, and the "gay market" (Chasin 2000) which is directly appl icable to this research. Using current research on LGBT consumerism (Howard 2006), I situate my argument upon research about Â“successfulÂ” communication theories a nd same-sex imagery (Oakenfull 2002) with an emphasis on the commodifcation of LGBT Â“identitiesÂ” through advertisement (Sender 2005). This literature, and obs erved commercial analysis combined with a comparison against print media advertis ements, yields valuable insights for this study.
7 Methodology: A Queer Reading I use queer theory as a basis for examining the three areas of this thesis: industry, programming, and advertising, to explore and to evaluate Logo Â’s relationship to LGBT political, economic, and social equality. Queer theory originated through both femini st studies and gay and lesbian studies, which initially were heavily influenced by th e work of Michel Foucault, Eve Kofsofsky Sedgwick, Judith Butler and of other postmode rn thinkers (critics of the modern world order of the nations, states, bureaucracies, and rationalism) who built on the feminist theoretical tradition. Th e term Â“queer theoryÂ” refers to both a theoretical position and an approach to the discourse of sexual identity. The position of queer theorists is that sexual identity is a socially constructed concept, whereas essentialist theorists advocate that sexual identity is an innate a nd biological concept, which is also judged by the Â“eternal standardsÂ” of morality. The queer theoretical approach seeks to deconstruct normative social ideals by applying a political critique to sexual acts, behavior s, and interpretations concerning gender and sexual identity. Queer theorists utilize te xtual analysis as a met hodology to criticize cultural notions that imply hetero-normative ideals. In itially queer theory was associated with radical gay and lesbian political move ments that espoused a separatist, nonassimilationist political agenda. However beca use queer theory rejects a biological basis of sexual identity, some lesbian, gay, bisexua l, and transgender/transsexual (LGBT) social advocacy organizations have exhibited animosity and open hostility with toward academicians espousing this view. Although Queer theory critiques the construction of all identities based on sexual difference, this does not prohibit efforts by LGBT individuals and organizations to pursue an agenda of so cial empowerment. I ndeed, social advocacy
8 efforts that rely upon what normally woul d be theoretically unsupportable sexual categories (LGBT), does not mean that those categories are not useful as a means of organizing. This is especially true when the social advocacy efforts seek to dismantle the hierarchies which produce the appearance of validity for the LGBT subjectivities. Nevertheless, queer theory remains an impor tant theoretical position to critique the discourses of sexuality and sexual identity. This theory lends itself to an analysis of the disciplinary and regulatory regimes that create, perpetuate and disseminate messa ges about sexual identity. The combination of queer theoryÂ’s utilitarian purpose as a me thod of criticism is inherently valuable because it appropriately cont extualizes the observations created in both commercial advertisements and programming content that is the objective of this thesisÂ’ efforts. And the use of queer theory is especially prudent as a means to interp ret the comm unication of westernized queer identities in American popular culture, with the Logo channel as the center of this inquiry. Mode ls for this use of queer theory include FoucaultÂ’s History of Sexuality and its discussion of the social constr uction of sexual id entities, along with Judith ButlerÂ’s Gender Trouble, and its critique of the regula tory regimes associated with gender, combined with Lisa DugganÂ’s Sex Wars and its critique of homonormativity2. Purpose of This Study This study is an analysis of the Logo ChannelÂ’s business practices, its programming content, and its advertisemen ts to understand the intricate and complex dynamics of monopoly, audience, and comm unity that operate in and through Logo the 2 Is a term that Â“Â…is used to describe situations wherein variations from homorosexual orientation are marginalized, ignored or persecuted by social practices, beliefs or po licies.Â” This also includes Â“Â“Â…a politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions but upholds and sustains them while promising the possibility of a demobilized gay constituency and a privatized, depoliticized gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumptionÂ” (Materializing Democracy, 179). Duggan, Lisa The New Homonormativity: The Sexual Politics of Neoliberalism
9 Channel for Gay America. In this study, I argue that Logo does not capitalize on its television presence to participate in LGBT political, economic, and social equality. Despite its significant visibil ity and messages of Â“inclusi venessÂ” in American popular culture, Logo contributes to the perpetuation of negative and narrow stereotypes of consumerist gay culture, as it marginaliz es ethnic minoritie s and women, through a variety of conformist, self-serving practices that undermine the lib ratory opportunity it holds for its LGBT viewers. The chapters in this study argue that Logo Â’s business model is an extremely successful one, benefiting not only from monopoly, but from the dearth of positive images of gays and lesbians on television. Capitalizing on the new Â“gay visibility,Â” Logo Â’s LGBT audience loses a tremendous opport unity to queer visi bility politics that questions consumerism as the route to cons olidate LGBT identity through consumption. Under the guise of creating community, Logo petitions LGBT America with a strategic appeal to communitarian ideals of LGBT kinship, unity, and homogeneity. Logo continues this rhetoric with the subtly implicit suggestion that its viewers can exert their agency through active consumption of its c ontent. This rhetoric of personal investment continues in Logo Â’s programming and commercials that conveniently target, produce, package and market their messages to an exclusively Caucasian, male, affluent, two-partner demogr aphic that consequently excludes a variety of LGBT constituencies. These program s and commercials reproduce the very discrimination practices LGBT individuals suffer from; this hypocrisy is couched within a superficially appearing message that embraces LGBT equality and individuality.
10 Chapter Outline Chapter Two, Â“The Television Industry a nd Another Lost OpportunityÂ” examines a brief history of the cable television i ndustry, the television business model and the representations of gays and le sbians on television to draw a parallel social history centered on visibility. I extr apolate conclusions drawn th rough these observations and argue that Logo Â’s financial success comes at a cost to its LGBT viewers/customers. Logo Â’s success is centered on heteronormativity3, consumerism, and visibility that constrain and support, rather than empower a nd deconstruct, a discriminatory paradigm which equates LGBT identity with social inferiority. Chapter Three Â“ Logo Programming: Like Taking Candy from a BabyÂ” examines three reoccurring series on Logo : NoahÂ’s Arc Can't Get a Date and Round-Trip Ticket Chapter three argues that these shows co mmunicate complicated and contradictory messages of consumerist capitalism, homonormativity, and ethnicity to LogoÂ’s LGBT audience that ultimately undermines LogoÂ’s opportunity for social activism. To accomplish this I analyze each reoccurring series for the specific ways in which ethnicity, homonormativity, and cons umerism are enacted. Chapter Four Â“ Logo Advertising: Easy as Shooting Fish In a BarrelÂ” examines the histories of 1) television advertising, 2) the risks a nd benefits of advertising on Logo and 3) the history of gay and lesbian print adver tising. This history lays the foundation for 4) exploring contemporary constructions of LogoÂ’s target market as the Â“ideal 3 Is best defined as Â“A pervasive and institutionalized ideological system that naturalizes heterosexuality as universal; it must continually reproduce itself to maintain hegemony over other non-normative sexualities and ways of identity constructionÂ” The Urban Dictionary http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=heteronormativity+(heteronormative (accessed: July 14, 2008).
11 demographic.Â” To accomplish this, I analyze three commercials that enjoy primetime slots on Logo to demonstrate how the rhetorics of in clusiveness and visibility operate to the exclusion and invisibility of a wider dem ographic. Chapter Four argues that a strong and destructive relationship ex ists between brand loyalty a nd the Â“pink dollarÂ” thatÂ’s complicated by constructions of an ideal demographic which adopts a homonormative, consumer capitalist approach to revenue investment.
12 Chapter Two: The Television Indus try & Another Lost Opportunity I canÂ’t even say the word. Why canÂ’t I say the word? I mean, I canÂ’t just say... I mean, what is wrong... I mean why canÂ’t I just say the truth, I mean be who I am. I'm 35 years old. I'm so afraid to tell peop le, I mean I just... Susan, I'm gay (Dow 2001, 126). Those words, uttered by Ellen DeGeneres to a record televi sion audience on April 20, 1997, ushered in a new era of television in American popular cultu re. All the critics and commentators agreed that DeGeneresÂ’ coming out Â“changed the face of television;Â” Â“Â…the success of the NBC sitcom Will and Grace Â…was made possible by the path that Ellen had blazedÂ” (Dow 2001, 124). Despite testimonies to El lenÂ’s trailblazing, The Ellen DeGeneres Show was cancelled just a year later in the spring of 1998 by ABC due to lackluster ratings. The plunge in the showÂ’s ratings, some argue, was based on an unreceptive audience to the showÂ’s LGBT messages about sexual identity that increasingly became the focus of its final seasonÂ’s plot: The Friday night sitcom has averaged a meager 4.28 household rating and share and 2.2 rating among adults 18-49 since it debuted on Sept. 24Â… Â‘SheÂ’s a creative comedian, and CBS wants a long-term rela tionship with her. But should it not grow its audience any more this year, itÂ’s not likely that the show will have another year,Â’ says John Rash, se nior vice president (White 2001 ). The business of the television industry con tinues to dictate who, what, when and where programs are airedÂ—despite the work of trailb lazing performers, activists, and advocates for social justice movements. Television is more than just a vehicle of entertainment or communication; it is an industry whose goal is to make money. Since televisionÂ’s purpose is first and foremost to be financially profitable, this object ive stands in stark
13 opposition to the goals held by social movements that seek to empower and remedy social inequities. Sender accurately points out that, gays and lesbians are now considered a sufficiently large and profitable group to warrant marketerÂ’s attention... media executives have been careful to circumscribe these developments within a discursive framework of sound business practices...L GBT marketers have actively produced the gay market from a mutually depend ent but not necessarily civil union between the business imperatives and political stakes of the marketing (2005, 2). Consequently, LogoÂ’s ability to act as an agent of LGBT cultural movement (whether unknowingly or knowingly) is cons trained by the very Â“busine ss imperatives and political states ofÂ…marketingÂ” which give it life through financial profitability. In this chapter, I will argue that Logo Â’s unparalleled financ ial success has been purchased at very high costs to the LGBT community; these costs center on heteronormativity, consumerism, and visibility. First, The Logo Channel appropriates heteronormative cultural attitude s of difference based on sexual identity that have been embraced by the Â“mainstreamÂ” cable TV industry. These cultural attitudes, simply stated, expressly define all non-exclu sively performing heterosexuals as Â“OtherÂ” marking them as different and treating those individuals as a group whose primary characteristic is that difference (e.g. LGBT se xual identities). Second, Logo has not marginalized or crimina lized, but has participated in the commodification of LGBT identity by casting difference as a very narrow consumer market-niche. Difference is now marked through economics as perceived affluence, disposable income, its associated elitism, and sexual identity c onsolidated through purchasing. Third, the Logo Channel has expertly used this tactic commercially against the consumerist impulses of its LGBT viewer s, by capitalizing on Â“new gay visibilityÂ”
14 and exploiting the hopes of ma ny LGBT viewers for positive and diverse representations of themselves through the popul ar medium of television. The hopes for visibility, for unity, and fo r subject-hood are woven into the fabric of American popular culture upon which social change occurs. Logo Â’s self-description as Â“the channel for Gay America,Â” its profit-driven strategies, and its fa ilure to problematize sexual identity, is at odds with an opp ortunity for that social change. This chapter begins with a brief history of the cable televisi on industry to explain Logo Â’s financial success within a business model that operates through risk/benefit calculations and niche-marketi ng. The chapter then surveys re presentations of gays and lesbians on television to draw a parallel so cial history centered on visibility. Next, the chapter outlines the tremendously high costs of this televised visibili tyÂ—for homophobia, meaningful social change, reinforcement of so cial relations and social meanings, and for notions of power. Finall y, the chapter analyzes Logo Â’s self-description, Â“What is Logo ?Â” for echoes of a social justice mission. Logo Â’s current financial success, the increased visibility of gay characters on televisi on, and the tempestuous relationship between consumerism and activism, forces the question: just what are Logo Â’s espoused goals as a channel? And are these goals compatible wit h, even productive of, social justice goals? Sadly, the answer to this question is no. Business Model: Follow the Money "Is your TV set gay?" Â– Ente rtainment Weekly, 11/6/2000 Not only is much recent gay visibi lity aimed at producing new and potentially lucrative markets, but, as in most marketing strategiesmoney, not liberation is the bottom lin e (Hennessy 2000, 112). The recent proliferation of LGBT visibi lity on television belies the historical invisibility and marginalization of LGBT viewers. From the beginning of television
15 history, the television industry was for the consumption of and marketing to a white, middle-class, heterosexually-identified audi ence (Eastman 2002). Any move away from attention to this audienceÂ—in programming, advertising, and industry standardsÂ—risked alienating this Â“mainstreamÂ” audience, their capitalist dollars, and televisionÂ’s advertisement revenue. MoneyÂ—finding it, keeping it, growing itÂ—is the short-hand history of television. This section briefly traces the development of cable television in the United States to better understand how Â“ money, not liberation is the Â“bottom lineÂ” for the Logo Channel. I have approached this history as a confluence of consumerand ownercentered costs and benefits and as a lucrative move to niche-marketing. Costs and Benefits: TelevisionÂ’s Technological Steps and Growth From the inception of the television to its popular adoption, the industryÂ’s objective has always been a careful negotiati on and trade-off between costs vs. benefits. That same dynamic operated in televisionÂ’s predecessor, radio. The radio industry saw a slow, but perpetual decline in listeners that was directly attributable to the arrival of television and its increasing popul arity. From 1945 to 1952, almost all broadcast stations were affiliated with one or more networks only four competitors existed during this period. Sterling notes that As with radio but to a greater degree, th e networks initially cost money, but even individually owned-and-opera ted stations earned too little to cover the massive capital expenditures, but were operated w ith the expectation of future profits...It was clear as early as 1941 that owners of profitable radio networks would undertake the formation of televisi on networks (Sterling 2002, 287). While owners saw the potential for making money, consumers saw television as a marker of progressive soci al status. Despite the signi ficant financial investment associated with a TV purchase, this tec hnology marked those with television as being
16 socially elite; those unable to purchase a television s oon began installing external antennas to outcompete their neighbors. Th e television industry capitalized upon this frenzy of consumer interest with increas ing technological steps, which included the expansion of television screen size to 10 in ches by 1950. This change was soon adopted as the industry-wide standar d. By 1952, television audience s increased from zero to 1/3 of the nation's homes. This growth is significant especially in li ght of its costs: a 5Â” to 7Â” television cost from $375-$500, in addition to installation fees ranging from $45-$300 depending on antenna require ments (Sterling 2002, 316) The popularity of television saw market fo rces drive down the price of television sets to half their 1948 selling price; installa tion charges were eliminated or drastically reduced. In spite of these reductions, the revenue from these changes served as a powerful incentive to meet consumer de mand, so much so that the receiver soon dominated the early American home: It usually went into the living room, rele gating radio to another room, and became the center of attention for the family, a nd their non-television-owning friends... In a very short time, television replaced mo st radio, reading, and weekend moviesto the detriment of the other media. Te levision's expansion was much faster than radios: radio had taken a decade to re ach a 33% penetration, but television managed it in only seven years (Sterling 2002, 318). The increasing popularity of television c ontinued in the following decades and saw an explosion of interest resulting from still more improvements in technologyÂ—color broadcasting and pay-per-view channels. The cable television industry again seized this opportunity to capitalize on es calating consumer interest. Cable "penetration" (a percentage of television view ers) went from under 18% in 1977 to more than 52% in 1988, due in large part to changing viewi ng preferences in programming available exclusively through cable tele vision (Sterling 2002, 505).
17 From owner profitability to consumer a dvances, the consolidation of ownership during the 1970s and 80s, was a further cost/b enefit step in the history of television. Ownership consolidation was initially popular because it was an easy solution to a difficult financial problem. Significant initial capital investment was required of cable system owners due to the in itial technological equipment re quirements of new operators and consolidation was an easy way to reme dy this dilemma. Even more important, lenders saw larger cable system owners as more attractive, thereby creating a financial incentive for the conglomeration of media ow nership that continue s to today (Baughman 2007, 305). Every aspect of cable television involves cost expenditures as well as potential income. The decision to carry a new channel is calculated through a cost-benefit analysis which determines whether the revenue will outweigh the expenses. Revenues are derived from monthly subscriber fees, adve rtising, and promotional support. The history of the development of cable television is about financial risks and benefits: who spends money? who makes money? who lends m oney? To date, the financial risks have paid off, especially for media conglomerates. Increased profit margins, reduction of overhead expenses, an enhanced ability to seize "market share" (a percentage of cable television viewers in a given geographic area) from competitors, are all financial benefits reaped by MTV, the Logo ChannelÂ’s parent company. Niche-Marketing: Smaller is Better The risk/benefit business model coupled w ith the new trend of Â“niche-marketingÂ” (L. Cohen 2003) For 70 years, a central rule of the broadcasting industry was to prize large audiences above all others. With the arrival of cable tele vision, small audiences could also be profit generatorsÂ—especially if the new channels were alternative and
18 inventive. Baughman notes that "... some re gular cable outlets lik e Comedy Central and MTV, because they'd reached largely young a udiences, considered themselves free to ignore some long-held standards" (2007, 505). Â“Pay per ViewÂ” is a niche-marketing strategy that overturns Â“mainstreamÂ” programming standards. Pay-pe r-view was initially researched as a means to distribute movie content, but this technology was expande d in large part due to consumer demand. PPVÂ’s popularity for LGBT viewers revolved around the relaxation of moral standards that encourage an air of permissiveness ...about nudity and the use of obscenity" in programming targeted to that audienceÂ’s pe rceived preference for "mature" content. When speaking about MTV, LogoÂ’s parent company, Frank Rich of the New York Times observed that "Entertainment built on violence and sex isn't going away as long as Americans lap it up" (Baughman 2007, 309). Th is same consumer capitalist engine drives Â“niche programmingÂ” channels like Logo From subscriber fees, Â“local availsÂ”, promotional assistance, merchandising to website promotion, The Logo Channel operates in an industry milieu that successfully weighs risks/benefits and u tilizes niche marketing to generate revenue and to cover industry-wide expenses. These expenses, like copyright payments, Â“churn, or audience turnover and program servicesÂ” or paying fo r its content (Eastman 2002, 249), are all typical of the television business. Logo Â’s success was also forged by the careful use of anti-competitive practices in collaboration wi th major financial backers. Anti-competitive practices included preemptive purchases of Â“local availsÂ” at unbeatable prices, monopolization of scheduling for some programs, and creating financial disincentives for competitors to air programs during similar time slots.
19 Sender accurately points out that the success of niche-marketing for marketers : Â“gays and lesbians are now considered a suffi ciently large and profitable group to warrant marketerÂ’s attention.Â” She also accurately comments on the n eed for this niche-marketing to be profitable: Â“media executives have been careful to circumscribe these developments within a discursive framework of sound business practices.Â” The Logo Channel has adopted Â“sound business practi cesÂ” to generate its revenue and construct its niche-market. The Logo ChannelÂ’s business model is a financial success story, like its precursor MTV (Seabr ook 1994), which capitalized upon perceived audience interest as a means to achieve financial longevity a nd, in turn, industry recognition and market share. Aligning the business practices of MTV (Jones 2005) and The Logo Channel however, reveals how complicated comparisons between Â“niche marketsÂ” can be; clearly, not all audiences, marketing strategies, and the powers of branding are the same. John Seabrook, writing in a 1994 New Yorker piece on MTV, explains: The promotions department is often said to be the core of MTV. Everything on MTV is a promotion for something, and the promo department's mission, in a sense, is to promote that. One of the reasons that MTV is a landmark in the history of media is that the boundary be tween entertainment and advertising has completely disappeared. This is also one of the things that occasionally make you feel weary in the soul when you are watching it. MTV uses youth, which is beautiful and pure, to sell music, clothe s, skin cream, and, of course, MTV. The exact nature of the MTV commodity is di fficult to define. Once, I tried to get McGrath to do it. She said, Â‘You're selling a feeling about what it means to beÂ…Â’ She paused for a few seconds, and then said, Â‘God, I don't know.Â’ (Downey 2006) The question for the Logo Channel becomes, what is the Logo Channel promoting, and how to define the Logo Channel commodity? A simple substitution might read: Â“ The Logo Channel uses GLBT identity, which is beautiful and pure, to sell music, clothes, skin cream, and, of course, the Logo Channel .Â” Every phrase in that new sentence is
20 intensely complicated, historic ally and currently politically charged, and open to debate. Is The Logo Channel Â“selling a feeling about what it means to beÂ” . LGBT? To answer this question, it is first ne cessary to complement the business model with a model that looks at, not finances, but changes in images and representations of gays and lesbians on television. By following the images, a parallel social history of representation is necessary to understand what Â’s at stake for the GLBT community when we see ourselves on Logo Representation Model: Follow the Images Amidst the changing financial landscape of the cable televi sion industry that birthed Logo a simultaneous and equally significant change occurred in representational images of African Americans, women, and gays and lesbians on television. No doubt spurred by the civil rights movement, the womenÂ’s movement, and the gay movement, representations on television carry tremendous political weight for advancing or staunching social change. While it is not fair or realistic to argue that television can remedy racial and gender inequity, the power of images is substantial and social movements have both attacked and harnessed those images. In 1964, Betty Friedan claimed that Â“tel evision has represented the American Woman as a stupid, unattractive, insecure little household drudge who spends her martyred, mindless, boring days dreaming of loveÂ—and plotting nasty revenge against her husband.Â” With the sexual revolution of th e 1970s came changes in the portrayal of women and minorities. As Susan Faludi sugge sted, Â“The practices and programming of network television in the 1980s we re an attempt to get back to those earlier stereotypes of women. Through television, even the most homebound women can experience parts of our culture once considered primarily male Â—sports, war, business, medicine, law and
21 politicsÂ” (Faludi 1991) Politi cal organizations like the Na tional Organization for Women (NOW) targeted television due to its pow erful communicative ability to transmit Â“derogatory stereotypes of woman on televisionÂ” (Friedan 1963, 15). Images of gay characters on television ha ve a different history. Walters maintains that while much early television was Â“innova tive on any number of levels,Â” television Â“avoided the subject of homosexuality as mu ch as it embraced the image of domestic womanhood of a la June Cleaver ... gays were generally played for giggles or pathos..." Television also occasionally utilized gay characters (such as in one episode of All in the Family ) to make a point about anti-gay bigotry (Walters 2003, 60-61). When early television shows sporadically featured gay character s, they strictly adhered to formulaic plots which pathologized those characters as sick or demented. From 1972 to 1980, gay characters appear sporadi cally in many television series as either victims or villains, most often with AIDS, including Alice ThreeÂ’s Company, WKRP in Cincinnati Taxi Kate & Allie Cheers Hawaii 5-0 and The Golden Girls The 1980s are well known as the Dynasty years" with its leading gay character named Steven Carrington who evolves from a "Â… tortured closet case, to cured heterosexual husband, and finally to a gay approximation of gay and proudÂ” (Walters 2003, 64). And while not all portrayals were negative, the vast major ity of depictions of gay men and lesbians during this era could not be characterized as empowering the LGBT audience that viewed these stereotypical characters. And while television has historically broa dcast messages about same-sex desire in consistently negative terms, recent developments in "mainstream" television have tentatively begun to reveal a new traject ory toward social progressiveness in
22 incrementally fumbling, and halting step s. On March 1, 1994 a truly groundbreaking moment in American television history occurred on the show Roseanne in an episode entitled "Don't Ask Don't Tell ", where she (Roseanne) kisses another woman. The episode aired over the objection of ABC ne twork executives under pressure by right wing groups. Roseanne publicly declared she would switch networks rather than edit or cancel the episode. Looking back on 1994 at Roseanne or to Ellen DeGeneres 1997 Â“coming outÂ” episode, seems almost quaint given the curren t popularity of not just gay characters, but gay television shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, The L Word, and Will and Grace Perhaps remembering that this is televisi on, and not film, is an important issue: "There's less risk on TV, so you have more freedom... a gay character in 22 hours (a TV) is not as important as a gay character in a two-hour movie. You aren't risking your entire box office by having a gay characterÂ” (Walters 2003, 28). Logo the Â“channel for Gay America,Â” is posed on the brink of a myriad of new possibilitiesÂ—for new images, for new program s, for new visions of social justiceÂ— without the attendant risk of alienating a Â“mainstreamÂ” market and with the opportunity to shape images and representations of GLBT individuals that do jus tice to real lives, experiences, and desires. Standing on this brink, however, means looking much more closely at the high costs of of buyi ng GLBT visibility on television. LGBT Visibility: At What Costs? The new LGBT visibility achieved in Am erican television has brought with it a panoply of sociopolitical baggage. On one hand, visi bility is part of th e trajectory of any movement for inclusion in social change, and television is the vehicl e for that "cultural meeting placeÂ” to see each other represented. Th e costs of this visibility, however, are
23 tremendously high in homophobia, meaningful social change, reinforcement of social relations and social meanings, and for notions of power. This visibility has created new forms of homophobia: the perpetuation of the marriage-loving or sexless gay, versus the ba d liberationist, promis cuous gay, that lends itself to a false and dangerous substitution of cu ltural visibility for inclusive citizenship. "In many ways, this movement provides us w ith a picture of soci ety readily embracing the images of gay life but still all t oo reluctant to embrace the realities of gay identities and practices in all their messy and cha llenging confusionÂ” (Walters 2003, 10). Visibility does not bring with it security and may create a deceptively smooth path which can derail the search for meani ngful social change. And while discourses about visibility circulate around a distinct LGBT identity "the marketers invested in a gay and lesbian niche discovered that sameness and difference amounted to the same thing: profit....Â”capitalism accelerated the process by wh ich initially countercultural forms were appropriated until counterculture itself becam e the prime commodityÂ” (Chasin 2000, 50). The representations embodied in LGBT ch aracters do not promote socio-political equality. Television historically acted to th e superficial benefit of LGBT individuals by making them valid targets for inclusive ma rketing, yet simultaneously condemned that presumptively lucrative market for its diffe rence from the heteronormative ideal. Â“By 2000, American business defined sexuality by a host of non-sexual characteristics: disposable income, product preferences, propensity for disease, taste in wine, shoes, etc. Hence, changes in representation show th e imbedding of sexuality within social relationsÂ” (Ragusa 2005, 671).
24 These social relationsÂ—heteronormativ ity and homonormativityÂ—are privileged stereotypes of visibility. Exam ples of this are seen in th e frequently cited and much applauded receptivity of LGBT shows o ccurring on "mainstream" cable television. However, those same television shows are in actuality employed negatively, despite the presence of superficially libratory LG BT plots or characters in shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (Bravo, 2003-2007), Will and Grace (NBC, 1998-2006), Gay, Straight, or Taken (Lifetime, 2007), and Playing It Straight (Fox, 2004). These examples reveal that, despite thei r ostensibly inclusiv e visibility, such shows support the heteronormative and homonorm ative regimes of power that regulate sexual identity. These shows, rather than queering sexual identity, actually reinforce the rigid boundaries between heterosexual and gay fo r the explicit consumerist reward that respectively results in "total makeovers" fo r the benefit of heterosexual men at the expense of gay stereotypes; gay individuality and social legitimacy, predicated on female companionship, occurring with the homonormativ e, yet sexless (Will) or stereotypically effeminate (Jack) gay caricatu res (Linnerman 2007); and, all expense paid vacations and cash rewards, ultimately for the benefit of the heterosexual winner(s). The representation (or its early palpable absence) of LGBT identities as a consumable commodity reflects the power with which television rewa rds its viewers but masks the stratified society in which thos e representations are produced. Arguments which perpetuate the importance of circul ating money within an exclusively LGBT market (presumptively for the benefit of th e LGBT "community") fail to address how exchanges of capital, far from preserving a nd communicating identit y, actually launder the social meanings out of money. "Visibility in commodity culture is in this sense a
25 limited victory for gays who are welcome to be visible as consumer subjects but not as social subjectsÂ” (Hennessy 2000, 201). Indeed, one of the byproducts of this visibility in television is the consolidation of inaccura te, stereotypical repr esentations of LGBT identities that become fixed and unchangeable in the minds of some demographics. This is especially true with ho monormative representations that are internalized by LGBT viewers. Most important, LGBT visibility does not equal power. Peggy Phelan writes, Â“If representational visibility e quals power, then almost-naked young white women should be running Western cultureÂ” (1993, 10). PhelanÂ’s critique of re presentational visibility is aimed at cultural activists who advocated Â“i dentity politicsÂ” of the early 1990s. Still relevant today, however, is PhelanÂ’s claim a bout the relationship be tween visibility and capitalism: Visibility politics are compatible with capitalismÂ’s relentless appetite for new markets and the most self-satisfying id eologies of the United States: you are welcome here as long as you are produc tive. The production and reproduction of visibility are part of the labor of th e reproduction of capitalism (Phelan 1993). LGBT visibility on television is not a simple unfettered, or unilaterally advantageous social and political goal. But visibility is also a word that appears frequently paired with social justice and social movements. If visibility has tremendous baggage for representations on television, wh at is the relationship betw een visibility and the GLBT movement for social justice? While Logo certainly makes gays and lesbians visible on television, does it also utilize this visib ility to further so cial justice goals? Social Justice, LGBT Activism, and Logo In the context of LGBT activism, social ju stice is a two-fold, interpretive concept: first, social justice points to heterose xism and transphobia as accounts of LBGT
26 marginalization in society; second, social justice does not advocate predetermined positions, but acknowledges the need to study a given phenomenonÂ—like homophobia and its resulting discrimina tory effectsÂ—in society. Implicit in the concept of social justice is the objective that justice can and will be achieved throughout all areas of society rather than achieved only in certain areas through the strict admini stration of law. Social justice conceives of a world in which all individuals receive fair treatment and an impartial share of society's benefits as well as an equal distribution of social disadvantages. The best example of this phenomenon is the civil rights movement (Lead ership Conference on Civil Rights 2008), which employed a variety of tactics and active engagements to achieve racial equality through social, political, economic, and legal means. LGBT activism has largely modeled itself on the civil rights movement and fits within the parameters of so cial justice accounts, advocacie s, tactics, and objectives (Phelan 1997; Vaid 1995; D'Emilio 2002). A lengthy history exists for such activism, which began with the formation of the Mattachine Society, The Daughters of Bilitis (Jagose 1997) among others, and continues t oday in such organizations as The Human Rights Campaign, The National Gay and Lesb ian Task Force, Lambda Legal. The objective of these organizations is to remedy a perceived disparity in the social hierarchy for its LGBT constituencies. These organiza tions approach this objective by advancing a variety of theories of oppr ession and privilege with diffe ring strategies, spanning the resistance spectrum from civil disobedien ce to coalition buildi ng and boycotting. One organization which differs from most of the others is GLADD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance
27 Against Defamation), because it serves as th e only social advocacy organization that critiques representations of LGBT individuals in mass media. This organization is important because of its similarities to and differences from other Â“maintstreamÂ” LGBT activist organiza tions. GLAAD describes its mission as being Â“dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a mean s of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientationÂ”.4 In many respects GLAAD differs little from other mainstream LGBT social advocacy organizations; a cursory examination of its hierarchy, staffing, management and funding mechanisms are remarkably similar. But what makes it particularly interesting is it s unique focus on mass media representations of LGBT people and the methodology that the orga nization uses to pursue its agenda. Many other LGBT organizations mimic the civil right s model that appeals to political and legal avenues for redress of social inequities su ffered by their LGBT members. GLAAD does not do this; in fact, GLAAD uses an innovative method to achieve its results Â– publicity. The use of publicity as a mo tivator and punishment has a lengthy history (Garcia and Parker 2006), and GLAADÂ’s Â“Red CarpetÂ” even ts employ this strategy effectively. Comprehensive data suggest that GLAADÂ’s success is related to its ability to efficiently deploy verbally combative rhetor ic that challenges hom ophobia, transphobia, and the social hierarchies which produce th ese phenomena through Hollywood film stars, producers, theatres and other entertainmen t industry entities. Through news reports, interviews and website publications GLAAD critiques both Television/Film Management and the Commercial Advertis ers businesses who contribute to those projects, thereby effec tively doubling their poten tial social impact. 4 GLAAD Website, http://www.glaad.org/about/index.php (Accessed: July 14th, 2008)
28 This is important because when power possesses power absolutely how can anyone expect television networks to behave admirably? Indeed, the very opposite is true. Lack of publicity for an organization or businessÂ’s discriminatory practices or behaviors is the anesthetizing fog which b linds LGBT viewers to extensive libratory opportunities. Business and Social Justice: A Match Made in Hell? Sender points out, "the division of busine ss from politics disavows the extent to which all economic activity has po litical effects..." (2005), and this is also true for the "business" of television. By separating bus iness from politics, marketers appeal to a liberal, utilitarian economic model in which financial decisions can be made free of political motivations or ramifications. In tu rn, marketers then reach new consumers and generate increased profits independently of any impact this activity might have on social relations or cultural politics. At the national level, the gay community is not a pre-existing entity but is a construction of an imagined community. This community is constructed, for example, in its highly visible political activism. Â“High visibility,Â” however, depends on an increasingly sophisticated and commercially supported national me dia that gives these political actions Â“airtimeÂ” (Cha sin 2000). Marketing in commercial television media has been instrumental in the formation, construction, and visibility of these politically motivated LGBT groups. Visibility is at the heart of both marketing to LGBT audiences and achieving the social justice missions of LGBT organizati ons. "The Â‘Battle for acceptanceÂ’ is fought within the national imaginati on, through media images and legal debates, but it is also fought within corporations themselves" (S ender 2005, 7). And "cor porations," like the
29 Logo ChannelÂ’s parent company, Viacom, are particul arly sensitive and acutely aware of the role they play in this process, especia lly as it affects their bo ttom line. For Walters, "... niche marketing becomes yet another sign of the thin and exploitative nature of the new gay visibility, using gay Â‘differenceÂ’ to sell products without evidencing any substantive engagement in the moveme nt for gay rights" (Walters 2003, 239). This complex interaction among media, ac tivism, and LGBT audiences reveals an interconnected process whereby LGBT c onsumerism reproduces its own identity. Consumption practices and actions can be effectively employed for and against businesses, turning "private acts of consumption" into politic al acts of social legitimacy. The impact of LGBT buying habits, boycotts and negative media reports have been influential on corporate America's hiring practices, adoption of nondiscriminatory statements and domestic partner health benef its. Â“PurchasingÂ” social justice indirectly through direct non-consumption is one advant ageous strategy of the LGBT community. But what disadvantaged is this commun ity purchasing? Sender points out that "Â…aligning gay consumption with a specifi cally domesticated, monogamous model of gay relationships increases at the respectabili ty of those relationships, because straight neighbors see gay consuming couples as Â‘j ust like themÂ’Â” (Sender 2005, 7). This assimilationist result can pose a direct threat to the efficacy of gay political activist efforts. Logo Â’s current financial success, the increa sed visibility of gay characters on television, and the tempestuous relationship between consumerism and activism, forces the question: just what are Logo Â’s espoused goals as a channel? And are these goals compatible with, even productive of, social ju stice goals? Early in th is chapter, I asked
30 the question, is the Logo Channel Â“selling a feeling about wh at it means to beÂ” . LGBT? And is this Â“feelingÂ” in any way related to social justice? ItÂ’s time to answer that question. LogoÂ’s Self Description: This is Social Movement? The LGBT world has a place all its own with Logo the new lesbian & gay network from MTV NetworksÂ… Logo is entertainment programming for lesbians and gays and just about anyone who enjoys a gay point of view Logo is for us, our friends and our family. Logo is originals. Logo is movies. Logo is documentaries. Logo is news. Logo is specials. Logo is the channel for Gay America. Finally. We chose to name the channel Logo because as the first and only 24/7 channel for the LGBT community, we wanted a name that people could make their own and give it personal meaning For us, the word Logo is about identity, about being comfortable in your own skin It's about being who you are.5 LogoÂ’s self-description on its FAQ web-page acknowledge s the historical absence of LGBTÂ’s Â“placeÂ” on television and remedies this absence for Â“the LGBT world.Â” Â“Finally.Â” Moreover, this place is populated with Â“us, our friends and our familyÂ” and Â“just about anyone who enjoys a gay point of view.Â” This world is full of enjoyable entertainment, visible gays and lesbians w ho are Â“comfortable in [their] own skin[s];" Logo is a community where Â“identityÂ” is abou t choice, agency, a nd Â“being who you are.Â” A Â“gay point of viewÂ” is seamless, effortle ss, and apolitical. Finally. Left unspoken, but lurking, are all binaries traditi onally associated with each of those descriptors: the closet in a heterosexual world; painful discrimina tion and rejection by friends and family; a majoritarian viewpoint of homophobia and heteronormativity; the marginalization and social oppression that continues to crimina lize and to pathologize much of the LGBT community. 5 Welcome to Logo http://www.logoonline.com/about/ June 28, 2008
31 LogoÂ’s answer to the question, Â“What is Logo ?Â” is invitational rhetoric; that is, this passage invites subscribers to join the Â“channel for Gay AmericaÂ” and paints a necessarily ideal portrait of LogoÂ’s world. LogoÂ’s answer also suggests that itÂ’s a channel thatÂ’s for Gay America, but not necessarily LGBT America. This rhetoric exposes the assimilationist problem that effectively silen ces lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered by equating them with gay men, thereby perhaps making Logo only for gay men. But this worldÂ’s idealization, fo r all its unmentionables, also re calls similarly unspoken social justice concepts: Social justi ce conceives of a world in whic h all individuals receive fair treatment and an impartial share of society's be nefits as well as an equal distribution of social disadvantages. The rhetoric of choosing the name Logo does echo a social justice mission for LGBTs (and perhaps only for some of these constituencies)Â—to name ourselves, for ourselves, inve sting political actions w ith personal meaningÂ—with Â“a name that people could make their own and give it personal meaning For us, the word Logo is about identity, about being comfortable in your own skin It's about being who you are.6 This rosy picture of Logo is not a mission statement for the Logo Channel Mission statements are most often internal documents that are tools for organizational members.7 A mission statement paints a picture of a set of aspirations ; that is, what does this organization want to be? And how will it do this? John SeabrookÂ’s New Yorker essay gives us a peak into MTVÂ’s internal mission statement. It reads in part: "Because it believes in rock and roll, MTV today is tele vision's most powerful source of freedom, 6 Welcome to Logo http://www.logoonline.com/about/ June 28, 2008 7 The College of Arts and Sciences at The University of South Florida, a public institution, does publish its mission statement on the USF website.
32 liberation, personal creativity, unbridled fun and hope for a radically better future. MTV keeps you plugged in." ItÂ’s terribly ironic that MTVÂ’s mission statement is more politically potent, engaged, activist-oriented, and radically hopeful than the self-description of the Logo Channel. Indeed, Logo has capitalized on its own monopoly on the LGBT audience to solidify its industry position by exploiting its LGBT audienceÂ’s dependency. The national LGBT community has come into being as an imagined comradeship of gay men and lesbian women watching an increasingly co mmercial television industry in which Logo is Â“the only Gay Channel for America.Â” Here I unpack Logo Â’s self-description for thr ee interrelated themes that foreshadow the analytic and critical work th at will occur in the ne xt chapters. For now, my analysis of Logo Â’s self-description hinges on its construction of audience as consumers, for its dismissals of strugg le in and through consumption, and for its homogenization and apolitizati on of sexual difference. First, Logo Â’s self-description communicates implicit messages about LGBT nationalism that solidifies rather than destroys divisions of gender, race, and class. Â“Gay AmericaÂ” is really about white, affluent, ma le couples; "Â…a gay nation that, like all nations, appears to bring together highly diverse and geographically disparate group of people under a false unity" (Chasin 2000, 98). This empty appeal to unity reproduces rather than eliminates both the structure and inequalities found in th e social hierarchy of American society. And Logo begs the very question about this Â“Gay AmericaÂ’sÂ” hopes, dreams, and lives by suggesting there is a si ngle, unified, and unproblematic Â“gay point of view.Â”
33 Next, LogoÂ’s self description suggests that the struggle for social equality need not be a struggle; in the event that it was a struggle, itÂ’s now over. Â“Finally.Â” LogoÂ’s emphasis on Â“being youÂ” reduces LGBT cultura l distinctiveness to style choices and comfortÂ—no doubt, addressed by purchasing pr oducts. Â“Being youÂ” invites the LGBT audience to become subscribers who are pres umably more concerned with their next purchase than with ci vil rights progress. Logo's role in the shifting balance of power over who has control over LGBT cultural definitions and who reaps the profits is related to the perpetuation of a fantasy of assimilation and upward mobility. Logo fails to disrupt consumer culture contexts for its audience spec ifically because it relies on its viewerÂ’s vicarious identificati on with a consumption ethic, thr ough their strict dependence on and confidence in LogoÂ’s portrayals of LGBT visibility, the product of which is their reification as a sexual minority. Third LogoÂ’s self-description homogenizes and renders apolitical Â“both the constructedness of sexuality and the sp ecificity of LGBT difference." Indeed, Logo does not exhibit any resistance to the normalizing tendencies of the gay market, in either its programming or advertisements. "... the ideal gay consumer is in part a product of the norms of marketing in which people of color, older people, poor and working-class people, and a host of other less privileged sectors of society ar e underrepresented or invisible... the narrow image of the gay consum ers also is a product of the history of gay visibilityÂ” (Hennessy 2000, 238). The superficial inclusion of the transgendered, lesbians and ethnic minorities in its programming doe s little to remedy the power inequities between these groups when examined agains t the frequency of their appearance in
34 reoccurring series, much less th rough its advertising which re quires that LGBT people be desexualized. In short, Logo Â’s self-description is a lost opportunity to aspi re to bigger and better thingsÂ—for problematizing gay unity, for produc ing social subjectsÂ—not just consumers, and for enlarging its very construction of the LGBT community in and through sexual difference. As the only LGBT channel, Logo could re-territoria lize television's public space as a vehicle to challenge the construc tion of meanings associated with sexual identity by potentially "...understanding vi sibility that acknowle dges both the local situations in which sexuality is made intellig ible and the ties that bind knowledge and power to commodity production, consump tion, and exchangeÂ” (Hennessy 2000, 142). Profit and social movement do not have to be mutually exclusive endeavorsÂ—but only if both concepts are queer ed. As Sender persuasively poi nts out "I would not worry so much about an ad that dramatizes the idea that assimilation is a cause of liberation and enfranchisement an effect of consumption, if I did not see these ideas at work in the movement.Â” Indeed, some LGBT social move ments, like Gay Shame, have identified and criticized the consumption ethi c that's associated with the socially progressive companies that support "mainstream" LGBT movement s and their presumptively heteronormative agenda. Gay shame articulates a resistan ce to what they consider to be the commodification of the LGBT identity (Weiss 2008). "Gay Shame is an outgrowth of a younger generation disgusted with over-commerc ialized pride celebrations as more about corporate sponsorships, celebrity grand ma rshals, and consumerism, than about the radicalism that gave birth to our post-Stone wall gay liberation movementÂ” (Sender 2005). Nowhere does The Logo Channel exhibit a similarly que ered initiative.
35 Logo Â’s Lost Opportunity in the Television Industry This chapter began by tracing the devel opment of the cable television industry and the business model of ope rations to account for the Logo ChannelÂ’s financial successes. Logo Â’s wholesale adoption of this business model, despite its rhetoric of difference reveals a widely held, indust ry-proven business strategy whose goal is financial success at all costs This chapter then moved to a brief hist ory of the representa tions of gays and lesbians on television to foreground the importan ce of visibility to political and social movements toward equality. The costs of this visibility, for LGBT identity and movement, have been tremendously high. Logo Â’s Â“sound business practicesÂ” have capitalized on visibility, exploited their monopoly on an LGBT audience, and invited subscribers into an LGBT world characterized by fabricated unity, lack of struggle, consumptive practices, and a thoroughly unproblem atized concept of sexual difference. Visibility alone is insufficient to achiev e the goals of social equality for sexual minorities, particularly when that visibility occurs at the expense of accurate, nonnormative, presentations of underrepresented constituencies like the transgendered, women, and ethnic minorities. Moreover, Logo seems to benefit from, and predicate its survival on, the reactionary efforts that insp ire its superficially transgressive-appearing programming and advertisements, that stem from a historical denial of moral respectability that characterizes th e legacy of its LGBT audience. The Logo Channel occupies a position of presence in the cable te levision industry and therefore may appear as if it's ex ercising socio-political power through its communicative ability, itÂ’s a power thatÂ’s dist ributed as equally as the market permits. That The Logo Channel pursues this avenue of illus ory socio-political empowerment
36 under the guise of progress, with its rhetor ic of personal investment in the LGBT community, is disingenuous at best. Considering LogoÂ’s financially competitive industry position and the lucrative capitalist opportunities Logo exploits through its monopoly on audience, Logo has lost a tremendous opportunity to participate in permanent and effective social change.
37 Chapter Three: Logo Programming Like Taki ng Candy From A Baby In this chapter I examine three reoccurring series on Logo : NoahÂ’s Arc Can't Get a Date and Round-Trip Ticket I argue that these three s hows communicate complicated and contradictory messages of consumerist cap italism, homonormativity, and ethnicity to LogoÂ’s LGBT audience that ultimately undermine LogoÂ’s opportunity for social activism. In pursuit of this examination, I begin with an overview of Logo Â’s programming successes and the challenge of analyzing and m eeting the needs of its audience. I then analyze each reoccurring series for th e specific ways in which ethnicity, homonormativity, and consumerism are enacted. While NoahÂ’s Arc is a valiant attempt to complexify the realities of gay African American menÂ’s lives, CanÂ’t Get a Date and Round Trip Ticket reinforce harmful and constric ting boundaries of GLBT identity, undermining the very audience Logo seeks to attract. Logo Â’s Lessons Well-Learned Logo Â’s success as a cable channel can be di rectly attributed to lessons learned from its predecessors: the failures of Q Television Network (USA) and PrideVision TV (Canada) and the achievements of Here (USA) and OutTV (Canada). The failures experienced by Q and PrideVision TV were numerous, but chief among them were the inclusion of "adult" progra mming, and airing of that pr ogramming during early evening hours; an inability to create solicit and maintain an audi ence; weakness in programming variety; disputes about dist ribution revenue with local ope rators; and, finally, financial mismanagement. Salamon points out that:
38 It took more time than anticipated to sell the channel... if the channel had started in February, the original debut date, it would have been available to only two or 3 million viewers; now it will be available to 10 million. Unlike Q. and Here, a video-on-demand service for the gay market, Logo is offered on basic cable systems and subject to the ge neral operating principles fo r those services... (2005) The Logo Channel's President, Brian Graden, further acknowledged that "We have come at this from the consumer point of view, not from a standards point of view or a political point of view but from a bra nding point of view... as a business opportunity people get it" (Salamon 2005).But th e unsuccessful predecessors of The Logo Channel have been very important to its success. Why? Because, The Logo Channel successfully avoided the failures of Q Television Network (USA), PrideVision TV (Canada) while simultaneously capitalizing on stra tegies that did work for Here! (USA) and OutTV (Canada). From its inception, The Logo Channel identified and capitalized on strategies that worked. These strategies included purpos ely subjecting itself to industry accepted, advertisement-based revenue, along with its profitability and its precarious volatility; extensive and diverse program ming with reoccurring series ; strategic scheduling of "adult" programs; inclusion of binding, longterm, re-negotiable contracts with local operators; and the use of MTV networkÂ’s res ources for its management and demographic experience. The Logo ChannelÂ’s financial success is indisputable. Logo has grown by 5 million subscribers since its launch after just four months. At 18 million, it's almost halfway to its total available digital capacity of 40 million homes, says Lisa Sherman, the channel's senior VP/General Mana ger. Both its predecessors and LogoÂ’s failures and success have hinged on programming. The progr amming engine of these networks drove
39 the economic success or failures because of its centrality to garn ering advertisers, building and maintaining an audience, and generating income fo r local operators. Logo has successfully navigated these programming waters through strategic inclusion and timing of Â“adultÂ” programs, the careful deve lopment of high viewership shows, serializing those shows where warrant ed, and carefully matching advertisers to program content while maximizing revenue fr om those sources. Brown reports that Logo Â“Â…continues to program a strong mix of docs, reality, drama and sitc oms that reflect the diversity of the channel's audienceÂ…Â” (2006). But this diversity fails to include some demographics (ethnic minorites, women, etc.) at the expense of inclusion of others (gay men). Eileen Opatut, Senior Vi ce President of Programming for Logo states that the key to successful programming is to be authentic and inclusive. Eileen Opatut also grudgingly acknowle dges that "I can't say we've been happy with all of the pitches we've receivedÂ” becau se Â“misconceptions and stereotypes . are all too common.Â” Because programming and advertising go hand in hand in the construction of audience/target market, progr amming decisions are often based on market research. OpusComm, a TV marketing giant, is hugely influential in constructing audience. Brown (2006) claims, Â”OpusComm's research reveals that 60% of GLBTs identify more strongly with their sexual orientation than their ethnicityÂ… the common denominator is sexual orientation, so you have a wider audience you don't have to slice and dice as much. As long as you're unilaterally sens itive to the GLBT, [sic] you're in good shape.Â” The Logo Channel's programming reflects a strong reliance upon research data, produced by major, industry-supported co mpanies like OpusComm responsible for
40 researching the highly challenging LGBT view er markets. Traditional marketing research regularly asks questions about age, gender, ethnicity, income, interests, and buying habits in surveys and data collection. Marketers have not found workable so lutions that ask the question, Â“Are you gay?Â” in a political climate of hostility and backlash that makes both asking the question and offering an honest an swer not only dangerous, but impossible. Given the unreliability of data for this demographic, LogoÂ’s programming decisions possess the appearance of validity, but in actuality reflect decisions made about audience desires devoid of substa ntive information (Heste r 2007). My analyses of NoahÂ’s Arc CanÂ’t Get a Date and Round Trip Ticket are attempts to complicate the intersection of programming choices and audience desires. Indeed, do these shows paint complex, helpful, and libratory portraits of the GLBT community? NoahÂ’s Arc LogoÂ’s Senior Vice President and General Manager, Lisa Sherman, was asked by TV Week : Is there one piece of programming from Logo that really sticks out as outstanding?Â” Sherman responded: The program I'm most proud of is NoahÂ’s Arc .We launched our very first scripted series about four African American gay me n. That is a story that just doesn't get told. And I will tell you that the audience just flipped over "Noah." They had a Web write-in campaign trying to advocate for a green light for season two. We were flooded with e-mails and phone calls. For our first time out for a scripted show, we were thri lled. (Lisotta 2006) Logo describes NoahÂ’s Arc in the following passage from its website: Experience the lives and loves of four African-American gay men looking for love and signs of intelligent life in We st Hollywood, Los Angeles. This one-of-akind groundbreaking original series tells the story of Noah, Chance, Alex and Ricky as they deal with boyfriends, struggl e to build careers, and search for Mr. Right. It's Sex & The City meets Soul Food -but gay, of course.
41 While the show can reasonably be describe d as a "one-of-a-kind groundbreaking original series" because of its gritty, superficially realistic presenta tion of gay African-American male lives, it also fails to acknowledge the sometimes contradictory messages embodied in its characters and plot a bout ethnicity, same-sex male desire, and masculinity. I approach the analysis of this show th rough three categories of the experiences of its characters that illustrate the unique challenges implicated through their ethnic minority status. Drawing from the above description, IÂ’ve isolated th ree verbs: deal, struggle, and search as operative terms for gay African-Ame rican menÂ’s lives. These categories include how they (1) Â“dealÂ” with their relationships and sex, (2) how they Â“s truggleÂ” within their economic confines of their professional lives, and their (3) Â“searchÂ” for potential partners. And to accomplish this, I look at how black authenticity, lived experience, sex and masculinity interact as areas of inquiry. I selected NoahÂ’s Arc because of its pivotal role, both for The Logo Channel and for the larger television industry, in the re presentation of gay African-American men. Its failures and successes, are subjec ts for scholarship in the comp lexly intertwined issues of African-American authenticity, masculinity, a nd sexual identity within the context of American popular culture. By employi ng a queer theoretical approach, which emphasizes that sexual identities do not functi on independently of other forms of racial differences, NoahÂ’s Arc serves as an excellent exampl e through which these differences are articulated against each other in a complex and sometimes contradictory negotiation of lived experiences in the "public space" of The Logo Channel Ethnicity and NoahÂ’s Arc : Searching for Black Authenticity A critique of Season 1 of NoahÂ’s Arc reveals a positive and revolutionary approach to the subject of African-American ethnicity in the context of gay male
42 relationships. Throughout the first season, all four central character s represent various iterations of African Americ an identity. Extensive schol arship suggests that Black masculinity iterations have historically evol ved beginning with the slavery Era which saw the socially constructed Â‘Black SamboÂ’ or Â‘CoonÂ’ personas. These personas evolved over time to encompass a wide range of (mis)cha racterizations from the obedient Sambo, Jim Crow eraÂ’s Â‘boy,Â’ Â‘cool catsÂ’ who vary fr om the non-threatening, middle class Black Â‘sidekickÂ’ or effeminate Â‘sissyÂ’ to the work ing class, hyper-sexualized Black male rapist, thug, or pimp. These representations have hi storically contributed to one-dimensional understandings of Black masculinity: Th[ese] narrow depictions of Black me n only serves to reinforce negative stereotypes about this heterogeneous co mmunity. Moreover, because Black menÂ’s sense of authenticity is often constr ucted within a heteronormative sociohistorical framework, gay and bisexual Bl ack men often remain invisible within the discourse on Black masculinity. (Ford 2008, 1104) Wade easily represents the "strong black ma n" image: his muscularity, physically domineering posturing, taciturn and hesitant dialogue, "stree t" clothing, and Afrocentric hairstyles which range from cornrows to fa des. But Wade also reveals an emotional sensitivity, physical tenderness, and unapologetic erotic attracti on to Noah that serves to blur the lines that demarcate male hegemonic, African-American identity. The same juxtaposition between emotiona l sensitivity and stereotypical Black masculinity is true for Chance who exposes the constructedness of ethnicity with his alternating adoption of cons ervative, subdued clothing, inte llectualized dialogue, and Stepford-Wives-like home decorating that embraces a historically white, affluent, Â“high societyÂ” ambiance. From his elbow-patched su ede jackets, earth toned color palettes of his craftsman-style home, Crat e & Barrel furniture, and carefully self-censored lexicon, Chance communicates a constructed image th at constantly vacillates between his
43 physically identifiable African-American et hnicity to non-Afrocentric, "mainstream" influences. In Episode 3, for example, Chance conf ronts an unfaithful Eddie who reveals a sexual desire for "thugs." Chance then abandons his articulate and gentle persona for the hyper masculinized street thug. And his adoptio n of this faade necessarily means that his complexity as a gay African-American man is reduced to a cultural stereotype of what constitutes an "authen tic" black identity. Chance is trapped in the exquisitely pain ful confines of heterosexist societyÂ’s making. His education and professional ca reer mark him as upper-class and this complicates his identification as an authen tic black man, given the stereotypical value attributed to working-class masculinities. A nd he also canÂ’t be a Â“thugÂ” because itÂ’s a cultural stereotype that serves to illustrate the socially constructed nature of Â“authenticÂ” blackness. Spearman discusses episode 3 in which Chance Â…seems to think he likes it more street and he decides to take thug lessonsÂ…and there were some great moments when Chance had to say th ings like Â‘would you like me to break you off some cheddarÂ’Â” that indicate an appeal to the onedimensional stereotypical Â“brothasÂ” previ ously mentioned, albeit to highlight the contrast between authentic Â“blacknessÂ” and superficia l Â“blacknessÂ” for laughs. And although, as Yep poignantly observes, ChanceÂ’s "African-American garb and mannerisms imbue him with real, authentic bl ackness. Particular kinds of clothing worn in particular ways and the various mannerism s and gestures signify the kinds of class trappings that are closely a ssociated with authentic blac kness" (2007,33). Chance still is forced to negotiate the precari ous confines of his identity through a socially constructed minefield rife with Â“dangerousÂ” outcomes. Although the episode ends on a positive note that reveals EddieÂ’s appreciation for ChanceÂ’s fl exibility to fulfill his sexual desires, the criticism this reveals is powerfully valuable.
44 The series makes great inroads into th ese types of complicated negotiations and concessions by its characters and evidence of exceptionally high viewership reveals an appreciation for those efforts. The series first season concludes w ith a record number of emails soliciting Logo to continue NoahÂ’s Arc for a second season, and thereby solidifies its success as a reoccurring series on the network. In its second season, NoahÂ’s Arc continues to build upon this successful framew ork that complicates tropes of authenticity and the boundaries of prevailing iterati ons of African-American ethnicity. NoahÂ’s Arc sees Chance increasingly adopt Afrocentric artwork, jewelry, and home furnishings in his attempt to Â“reconnect Â” to his African herita ge during a trip to Kenya. Noah also increasingly appears w ith changing Afrocentric hairstyles and furnishings in a new apartment that c onveys an unambiguous message of African American ethnicity. These things serve to connot e an adopted identity that he constructs for himself through a personal search of his et hnic heritage. Searching for authenticity is just that: a search. NoahÂ’s Arc does not present frozen, static images of African-American masculinity, but reveals in its characterizatio ns a continual, difficult, and self-reflexive quest for authenticityÂ—even when notions of authenticity themselves are double-binds. Refusing to Deal with Lived Experience of Blackness The lived experiences of Af rican Americans are as di verse as the population, but some theoretical consistencie s do exist through which indivi duals negotiat e their lives that tenaciously hold true de spite resistance efforts by socially progressive movements. The parameters of this discourse are defi ned by class and its intersectionality with African American identification of black au thenticity: Â“The romanticized view of working class as authentic renders middleclass, educated blacks as assimilated,
45 capitulated and inauthentic. Furthermore an in ner city lifestyle is associated with black authenticityÂ” (Yep, 32). This association cr eates a romanticized and monolithic view of ghetto life without recognizing and recounti ng the harsh material realities of such experiences. In the process, it continues to divide middle class subur ban blacks from their working class counterparts. If NoahÂ’s Arc successfully negotiates black authenticity, it has been less successful at incorporating the lived expe rience of black peopleÂ—experiences that include exclusion and discrimination, stereo typing, lack of critical recognition, and homogenization. Muting or ignoring these liv ed experiences dilute s the capacity of NoahÂ’s Arc to complexify the meaning of black lives as represented on Logo Unfortunately, during the entirety of the seri esÂ’ first season, there isn't a single episode which explicitly speaks to racial discrimi nation, exclusion, or any other problem which stems from racial marginalization. This only occurs in the second season, which begs the question -why the delay? A variety of anecdotal evidence also s uggests that the decision to include an episode in the second season that focused on African-American ethni city was a reaction to ongoing controversies associated with the show's cancellation and lack of recognition. The controversy surrounding the abrupt cancellation of Noah's Ark after only 17 episodes (after its second season ending 2006) re veals questionable judgment about LogoÂ’s utility as a vehicle for ethnic visibility. Terrell ac curately observes that "feature film(s) like Brokeback Mountain and television shows like Will & Grace and Queer as Folk have been a boon to gay visibility, but their almost entirely white casts have left people of color behindÂ” (2007).
46 And while there have recently been a few complex gay African-American characters on television, such as Â“KeithÂ” on Six Feet Under and Â“OmarÂ” on The Wire (both on HBO) the majority of roles, Â“Â…st ill fall under one-dimensional stereotypes: Â“Mandingo objects of sexual desire, sissies sa shaying in the hair salon, and down-low Â‘brothasÂ’ spreading HIVÂ” (Terrell 2007). To add in sult to injury, NoahÂ’s Arc failed to be recognized by GLAAD in its 2005 Media Awards ceremony. ...the interracial gay relationship in "Six Feet Under" also helped that show win a new nomination. But for the black LGBT community, the big television news of 2005 was NoahÂ’s Arc on Logo Â… I understand GLAAD's decision but I think it's a mistake. For the first time ever, we get a new black gay TV series and new black gay movies and they don't get recognizedÂ…So neither the black groups nor the gay groups will directly recognize some of the seminal achieve ments in black LGBT media during the past year (Boykin 2006). Yet despite this controversy, during its brief lifespan the groundbreaking role of NoahÂ’s Arc as a vehicle for gay African-American visibility is wide ly respected. Keith Boykin cogently observes that Â“Before NoahÂ’s Arc there were no gay black TV shows. So if nothing else, it created the possibility in the minds of the pub lic and the industry that this is something that can happen and be supported" (Terrell 2007). That recognition, particularly in light of contr oversies which challenge the seri es value for social progress, is important to any critique about its role in American pop culture. When describing what the series is ab out, a variety of voices reveal a wide spectrum of views on how NoahÂ’s Arc fits within the larger television industry and the social fabric of American popular culture. Many of these voices typify exclusionary rhetoric as a lived experience of black pe ople. And while Vincent Christian, who plays Ricky in the series, states that "(Th e show) humanizes a group of ethnic men,"8 the 8 Bonus Video, Episode 2, Season 2
47 unasked question is: why do these ethnic men need to be humanized? This implies that humans are white; Â“ethnic menÂ” are not. The in clusionary rhetoric of Â“loveÂ” also mutes black experience and gay experience. Hete rosexual actor Jensen Atwood who plays Wade grossly oversimplifies racial and sexual specificity, couched in terms of acceptance. "The notion of family is greatly expanding and everybody can fit Â…love is what it is, its love, it's not necessarily gay love it's just you know, two people sharing their feelings for each other."9 Superficially this statement seems only to serve as an affirmation that promotes NoahÂ’s Arc's central position in the rhetoric of communitarian ideals of shared kinship, even as it refuses to deal with blackness. And that rhetoric is premised on a shar ed kinship amongst gay African-Americans that may or may not exist. Moreover comments like, "it's not necessarily gay love" by an actor central to the series, suggests a th inly veiled heterono rmative attempt to homogenize and diminish same-sex attraction, at the expense of the se ries marketability. Comments by Lisa Sherman, Sr. Vice President and General Manager of Logo blithely states "I don't see it as a story about a black gay community, I say that it's a story about a family and community..." reveal an amazing i ndifference to the centr ality that ethnicity plays in the series. This indifference is re miniscent of the unsu ccessful attempts at colorblindness used as a liberal attempt to remedy racial discrimination. (West n.d.) With a cast of 14 major reoccurring ch aracters, 13 of which are AfricanAmerican, NoahÂ’s Arc exists on Logo as the only show with an overwhelmingly ethnic minority cast, whose African-American creator de scribes it to be a "Â…somewhat realistic view of these charactersÂ’ lives and ummm real life is both fun and dramatic...Â” 10 9 Ibid. 10 Patrik Ian Polk, Bonus Video, Episode 2, Season 2
48 African-American lived experiences of discri mination and exclusion are not represented on NoahÂ’s Arc ; empty appeals to inclusion and harmful claims that homogenize the realities of these lived experiences. Dealing with Sex In terms of sex, NoahÂ’s Arc has a contradictory record. There are substantial differences between both seasons of the show in its portrayal of gay sexual activity. NoahÂ’s Arc's first season reveals an interesting complexity in its treatment of AfricanAmerican sexuality thatÂ’s alternatingly mediat ed by appeals to same-sex marriage, in the case of Chance and Eddie, and the rejec tion of monogamy by th e stereotypically promiscuous Ricky in his relationship with Juanito. Notably the issue of same-sex marriage arises amidst the developing relati onship between Chance and Eddie, but also because of the financial savings that th e combined purchase of a new home would provide (Shales 2005). Realistic depictions of sex are also curiously absent for the promiscuous Ricky. RickyÂ’s sexual encounters are brief, rarely nude and extensively dialogued, perhaps in an attempt to support preventative measures a bout HIV/AIDS transmission. But these sexual encounters do not accurately reflect the wide spectrum and variety of activities embraced by gay African-Americans (Mille r 2005) with the platonic, "vanilla" sex acts found in Season 1. One almost never sees any of its characterÂ’s even partially unclothed, much less engaging in simulated fellatio or anal se x. The relatively innocuous sex lives of NoahÂ’s ArcsÂ’ characters stand in stark contrast to the graphically accurate, completely nude, fictionalized depictions of gay se x across all seasons of ShowtimeÂ’s Queer As Folk. And given ShowtimeÂ’s audience is not strictly an LGBT audience this fact is a clear indictment
49 against LogoÂ’s depiction of gay sexuality. This dichotomy is tantamount to a capitulation to The Logo ChannelÂ’s need to temper its representations of gay sex to the palatable, by continuing a trend of desexualizing gays. Only after the seriesÂ’ se cond season do the major char acters attend a Gay Black Pride event11, where Wade accidentally catches Noah having sex in a bathroom stall. In many ways this "coincidence" serves as a crucially important critique about gay sexuality and ethnicity. How and why is this fictional moment crucial? In other words, what does it say about African-American sexuality? This moment uses controversial "tearoom" sex acts to vividly illustrate the complexities of real-life sexual experiences and their connectivity to an idealized, sexually potent and perpetually virile, African-American ethnic identity. This scene is poignantly j uxtaposed against an event sponsored by "mainstream" social movement organizations (in this case Los AngelesÂ’s Gay Black Pride organizing committee). An additional danger implicit in this depiction of black sexuality is the message that same-sex attr action between black males, inevitably results in a sexual encounter. This serves only to perpetuate false a ssumptions about the promiscuity of gay men, while obfuscating the sexual liv es of these characters for NoahÂ’s ArcÂ’s viewers. Moreover, the reaction and subsequent beha vior by Wade in this episode, further illustrates how sexual spontaneity can be misinterpreted, and Â“morallyÂ” coded as wrong, bad, etc. where those sex acts oc cur in nontraditional locations. Masculinity and its Many Performances Episode 8, Season 1 serves to highlight the juxtaposition of ethnic identity and masculinity, with Noah participating in a r unway fashion show, complete with knee-high 11 Episode 208, Season Two
50 boots, skirt, make up, feather fan and wig. This episode is reminiscent of the film entitled Paris Is Burning that documents gay African-American fashion balls. Additionally, throughout Season 1 and Season 2, the characte rs Alex (played by Rodney Chester) and Chance (played by Doug Spearman) serve as count erpoints that reveal the wide spectrum of African American masculiniti es. Rodney Chester describes hi s character Ales as "..the comic relief of the showÂ…the character Alex is so on like really, really out there ... everybody knows an Alex; the cr azy but fun; just a crazy outrageous person. This season you have that other side of you [sic] not that happy person all the time." Chester uses adjectives like "outrageou s" and phrases like "really, really out there" and "on" to supplant meanings about highly feminized, verbose, and flamboyant caricatures of stereotypically gay African-Ameri can males. This is not to suggest that Alex does not accurately represent a segment of this demographic, but it does reveal the tacit understanding that there is a potentially negative meaning associated with AlexÂ’s femininity. Yet, most of the show's characters do create an idealized self in the gaze of other fellow gay characters by relying on external mark ers of sexual identity like designer clothing labels, vacation destinations, home deco rations, etc. appearing in the series that stereotypically associated w ith gay male identities. The range of performed masculinities is important because it undermines the potential deconstruction of hegemonic masc ulinity associated with African-American ethnicity and the framework that cons truction supports which perpetuates the femininity=gay arithmetic. It's no surprise that Ricky is the owner of a designer clothing shop located on Melrose Avenue. The choi ce of occupation for one of the main characters for the series re veals how, in this example, NoahÂ’s Arc relies on how
51 "...appearance constitute s a primary way of asserting a nd displaying a lesbian and gay identity... lesbians and gay men use clothing and adornment to create a sense of group identity (separate from the dominant culture) ...to signal their sexual identity to the wider world or just to those Â‘in the know Â’Â” (Clark and Turner 2007, 267). The consequences of nonconformity result in negative feedback in the form of bitchy comments, disapproving looks and be ing ignored by other characters. This feedback is sometimes unmerited because cl ass affects the "access to credit and capital [which] determines who can wear what, and those who can be whatÂ” (Clark and Turner 2007, 271). This assertion is certainly true across all characters in NoahÂ’s Arc from the economics professor Chance to the struggling writer Noah. NoahÂ’s ArcÂ’s Contradictions African-American ethnicity, same-sex de sire, and masculinity are intricately linked in sometimes detrimental as well as beneficial ways, As Munoz persuasively points out "... queerness is, for the queer of color, always abou t adjacent antagonisms within the social, including but not limited to, class and race" (2006, 102). NoahÂ’s Arc is a show that is replete with contradictions, adjacent antagon isms, social subjectivities and markers in a world in which Â“black homose xuality is viewed as a white disease and a threatÂ…because homosexuality is believed to be a threat to hegemonic black masculinity, it is often dismissed, laughed at, and violently rejectedÂ” (Yep, 35). And as such, the show invariably serves as a canvas upon which thes e issues are dealt w ith by its characters. The four main characters present both realistic and unrealis tic depictions of African American reality. In terms of ethnicity, NoahÂ’s Arc initially failed to aggressively pursue any cultural criticism of the challenges associated with its characters racial minority status or to write creativ ely from the daily life of a minoritarian
52 viewpoint. The daily lived experiences of Af rican Americans are replete with socially imposed challenges which restrict individua l agency and social equality. Extensive studies suggest that from a dolescence, African Americans develop and internalize a social hierarchy where heteronormative c onformity is privileged. Â“Within this framework, homophobia, heterosexism, or antig ay practices get inte rpreted as acts of masculinity that allow boys to gain power over other boys and construct themselves as Â‘real menÂ’Â” (Froyumm 2007) These interpreta tions of black masculinity adopted by both genders possesses distinct and unassailable boundaries. Scholarship reveals that these social challenges begin early in life and are often associat ed with the classist, socioeconomic position of black families, but doesn Â’t necessarily minimize the prejudices experienced. Moreover, these challenges continue through adulthood but evolve into increasingly more subtle fo rms of discriminatory practi ces that insidiously undermine individualized attempts to escape the effects of racial prejudice. Â“BlacksÂ…are seldom safe to roam public places: police and Whites harass them in White spaces and stores, while street violen ce and drugs infest their own neighborhoods. The public considers their nontraditional and interdependent families to be Â‘brokenÂ’Â…Â” (Froyumm 2007).Additional scholarship areg ues the role mass media plays in the perpetuation of negative stereotypes with depictions of Black youth as hypersexed, dependent, stupid, lazy, violent, and dangerous (Collins, 2004). Obstacles for this same demographic exist in education where even their teachers treat them as troublemakers (Connolly, 1998; Ferguson, 2000). These obstacl es are only some (Froyumm 2007, 619) of the early obstacles faced by this demographi c across the lifespan and the trajectory of
53 social advancement is fraught with a vari ety of increasingly di fficult challenges which range from economic insufficiency to elevated HIV infection rates. Given the plethora of challenges that this constituency faces, the added complication of gay sexuality makes the lived experiences of NoahÂ’s ArcsÂ’ characters especially impor tant and revealing. And while some may argue that its unstated, matte r-of-fact approach is indicative of an acceptance of the show's premise, such an argument fails to acknowledge the inherent challenges of daily life for this constituency that NoahÂ’s Arc purportedly seeks to personify. But the series redeems itself in its sec ond season with an increasing attentiveness to the unique challenges implicated in Amer ican society for gay African-American men. By candidly and realistically dealing with issues like HIV, Afrocentrism, economic inequality and crime, "down-low, same-sex desire," NoahÂ’s Arc powerfully and persuasively exposes the connections between ethnicity, sexuality and masculinity for African-American males. NoahÂ’s Arc therefore is extremely valuable as a commentary on the integral and inseparabl e ways in which signifiers produce a "racialized gender, sexual, and class subjectivity that challeng e prevailing conceptions of blackness" (Yep 2007, 37 ). LogoÂ’s President, Brian Graden maintains that he "Â…resent(s) the assumption that it takes more sex to tell my story than it doe s to tell my brother's or my mother's. It's [those assumptions are] based on outdated notio ns of what it means to be gay" (Fonseca 2005). It is not, however, an Â“outdated noti onÂ” that our status as a sexual minority revolves around the differences and n onconformity of our sex lives. And NoahÂ’s Arc
54 makes an excellent attempt to honestly and convincingly discuss gay sexuality in the lives of African-American men. CanÂ’t Get A Date Dating can be confusing. So it's good to have a helping hand Find out what to do, what to wear, and where to go by checking out Can't Get a Date Reality television is increasingly becoming a larger segment of television programming. While there are a variety of r easons behind this trend, one thing remains clear: itÂ’s a genre thatÂ’s here to stay. R eality TV is wildly popul ar within the 18-32 age demographic (Hill 2005) and i llustrates the poten tially powerful social impact this medium possesses for some viewers within this constituency. Some of the early reality TV programs utilized a thematic focus that was central to its "brand identity," and these shows exist along a vast spectrum of self-improvement interest s. Some examples of these include Extreme Makeover (Physical Appearance), Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (Home Renovation), Fear Factor (physical co mpetition), and I Love New York (Romance and Dating) Edwards perceptively observes that Â“If reality TV helps discipline subjects because it encourages them along paths of self-improvement, it does so by mobilizing some specific genre featuresÂ” (Edwards 2003) Critics have pointed out how the genre generates cheaper content by getting viewers to put themselves on TV, but more importantly, this process also encourages wh at Burton has called "the growing use of viewers to entertain vi ewers" (Burton 2000, 159). And as such, its increasing popularity has spawned a plethora of related shows on broadcast television within the past decade that have extended this success to embrace LGBT cast members and episodic themes. "The dramatic appeal of (gay/lesbian)
55 representations, intermixing se xual differences with broad hu manistic identifications, has solidified gay/lesbian people as a staple of the reality genre" (Bennett 2006). Recent shows include Boy Meets Boy Playing It Straight Gay Straight Or Taken Gay Weddings, Project Runway, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Road Rules and The X Effect all of whom have cast member s who self identify as LGBT or make sexual identity central to its theme. Can't Get a Date, is a series similar to the foregoing examples of Â“reality televisionÂ” and precisely conforms to the parameters of these programs. Can't Get a Date (herein interchangeably referred to as CGAD) is a series that takes three lesbians and three gay men "off the st reet" in an attempt to get them a date. To accomplish this, the show's host, also the narrator, systematically examines each individual for Â“flawsÂ” that they (willingly?) attr ibute to their inability to "attract potential partners." The host uses a variety of commercia l resources to effectuate, what is hoped to be permanent changes that will "help" the cast members "... find romantic and emotional fulfillment through a dramatic transformation of their people skills as well as their physical appearance." The show is described as an Â“Â…original series [that] follows a group of people who have trouble with dati ng and attracting potential partnersÂ…Through interactions with the host and the helping hands they en counter along the way, each of the people is offered genuine insi ght into both their flaws and strengths and gains the chance to use what they learn on their dates.Â” CGAD reveals an insidious process at work that produces compliance and conformity to homonormative ideals of sexi ness (Clarkson 2005), physical attraction (Bergling 2005), clothing value (Clark a nd Turner 2007) and ultimately, self-worth. Implicit in the premise of the show is the id ea that gay and lesbian individuals are not
56 complete, and live unfulfilled liv es absent a partner. This premise articulates a position that valorizes dating amongst lesbian and gay constituencies at the expense of queering pernicious, heteronormative monogamy as the ideal. The show perpetuates the centrality of sexual coupling, and the associated importa nce of bringing non-familial relationships into the purview of heterosexist societ y rather than affirming nonnormative gay and lesbian sexual relationships without the atte ndant trappings of emotional affection or a mutual responsibility. Thus, Can't Get a Date seeks to normalize gay and lesbian sexual relationships through assimilation "into the ideals of domesticated family valuesmonogamous commitment and partner cohabitation" (M urray-Gorman 2006) that regulates and subverts gay and lesbian sexualities uniqueness. Given current research on the state of lesbian and gay couples which indicate th at between 8% and 21% of lesbian couples and between 18% and 28% of gay couples have lived together 10 or more years, it is clear that gay men and lesbians can and do build durable relations hipsÂ…Â” (Kurdek 2005, 253) and that "perhaps what is most impressive about gay and lesbian couples is not that they may be less stable than heterosexual marri ed couples, but rather that they manage to endure without the benefits of institutionalized supports Â” (Kurdek 2005, 253). Significant questions remain about th e necessity of shows like Can't Get a Date whose existence is predicated upon a perceived unmet need. To accomplish these objectives, the host re peatedly identifies for each guest, the external "flaws" that include negative body image, clothing, accessories, physical characteristics/stature, poor verbal skills, et c. But this brutal examination does not cease with its external criticisms; the examination continues to evaluate internal psychosocial
57 "flaws" like insecurity and anxiety, i ndecisiveness, perfectionism, antisocial reclusiveness, etc. The show spans six episode s with one guest per ep isode that initially aired for one season. Can't Get a Date creates and defines homonormative boundaries by which dating is constructed through the use of social surveillan ce and policing that undermine the very demographic it seeks to empower. To successfully analyze this series, I examine how reality TV surveillan ce and homonormativity cooperatively operate as the backdrop against whic h CGADÂ’s messages undermines Logo Â’s libratory possibilities as a medium of gay visibility. Broken Â“PromisesÂ” and the Gay Male Aesthetic Can't Get a Date makes a variety of assumptions about its guests, and then makes "promises" to help its participants actuali ze their (its) goals for self-improvement. The first assumption is that the willingness of its guestÂ’s participation s uggests legitimacy for its role in their sexual lives. Admittedly while these individuals voluntarily submitted themselves to the scrutiny, I argue that pa rticipantÂ’s uninformed decisions reveal a reliance on homonormative ideals, successfu lly communicated by the show, to their detriment. An example of this phenomenon is the equation between happiness and dating that is the premise from which the show opera tes. CGAD extends this interpretation from relationship monogamy to other areas. CG AD capitalizes on homonormative gay male "ideals" in the areas of fash ion, style, and especially physic al appearance which Hallmark the "gay male aesthetic". Lemon observes that Makeup, cosmetic surgery, full-body workout s, hormone injectionsÂ—the age-old tools of beauty have been reclaimed by men Is the gay-male aesthetic to blame? The well-muscled physique has been a fixture of gay-male culture for so
58 long that it is difficult to imagine a time when we celebrated any other body type as the ideal (Lemon 1997). This compulsion towards exterior superficia l physical perfection th at's embodied in the gay male aesthetic is intricately tied to self -worth and self-esteem. As Yelland points out "Â… gay men (like women) believed their phys ical appearance was more important to others Â…These importance measures may provide an indirect measure of the pressure illustrated by (Atkins 1998) that gay men experience to be attractive and muscular from within their own community" (2003,114). Recent research reveals that homonorma tive gay aesthetic id eals influences conformity and that "...strong support has b een found that the gay ideal does involve being both thin and muscular, and that gay men actively engage in behaviors aimed at achieving this ideal, making them potentially more vulnerable toÂ” (Yelland 2003) social surveillance and policing. Within this framework Can't Get a Date pursues an agenda that classifies nonconformity with homonormative ideals of attractiveness and "looking good enough" as a "flawÂ”. Why and how doe s this happen? They're many reasons why lesbian and gay people, such as those who appear as guests on the show, may subject themselves to this scrutiny. Superficially, the main reason may be their powerful interest in obtaining a date, which subsequently motiv ates their participation. Yet that interest may be compelled by a carefully orchestrated strategy deployed to communicate homonormative ideas of commodification to LogoÂ’s LGBT audience. As Joyrich points out in her discussion about the role of LGBT TV, Â“Â…there is no pure space of gay self-disclosure uncontaminat ed by relations of consumerism and commodification, just as there is no pure sp ace of consumerism uncontaminated by what
59 we might see as closet relati ons" (2001). But this is only one explanation for a complex topic that involves economics, class and race, personality and psychology. Equally important is the "how," or the second ha lf of the equation that asks, "How does Can't Get a Date undermine the very guests that it purportedly seeks to empower?" Each episode of the series follows a formulaic process and it's that process that we must examine in order to reveal an answer to this question. Each episode of the series begins with a standard introduction in which the disembodied voice of the narrator states Â“All these people are talking about dating and none of them are getting it right ." That this comment, and indeed all of the criticisms raised by the host/narrator originate from a disembodied voice, immune from similar critic isms about physical appearance, serve to illustrate the hypocrisy implicit in such stat ements. Writing about the implicit harem mentality of The Bachelor reality TV series, D ubrofsky states that Â“ The Bachelor tells a very specific story about whiteness, where wh iteness is essential to finding a romantic partner" (2006). And in much the same wa y as race, CGAD tells a very specific story about an authentic gay identity as essential to finding a romantic partner. Within the framework of this show, authenticity is defined as a homonormative gay identity conformant with gay male aesthetic ideals. What's Real about "Gay" Reality TV?: Therapy and Surveillance (Previews of future episodes with phot os of each guest are displayed in quick succession) From the first moment, viewers are informed about the gay and lesbian people being depicted, and their failure to "get it right," which sends an unambiguous and clear message about the importance associated with dating success. Disembodied voice: Robert thinks the best way to find a man is to be one.
60 Robert is uptight, (brief clip of Robert discussing his personality to two female friends) with stiff hair (brief c lip of Robert describing how he Â‘doesn't like people touching my hairÂ’ to a female stylist named Tiffany) and some stiff clothes (brief clip of Robert wearing a new pair of jeans, while being critiqued by Paul a stylist) The show conveniently and quickly makes judgment calls about the sources of its Â“guestsÂ” problems that extend not only to his superficial appe arance but also their internal "flaws". Disembodied voice: RobertÂ’s finding that being a perfectionist is the perfect way to be single. But things are about to change. These are real people having real trouble needing real advice. The truth can be harsh but dating doesn't have to be ... Can't Get a Date ? Yes you can Again the presence of this seemingl y omniscient, omnipotent disembodied narrator compels viewers to interpret his (t he narrator's) comments as irreproachable. Indeed, the narrator's godlike comments or iginate from behind the homonormative camera lens: only his voice is heard, he is never seen, and on some occasions throughout the episode he offers criticisms in Robert's absence. In this segment, the narrator reinterprets for Robert his own feelings of inadequacy in such a way as to neatly diagnose his problem. The remedy can only be found with help, and it's help that can only be found through the showÂ’s narrator and staff. The narrator innocuously uses th e word "finding" to supplant his own reinterpretation for that of Robert's actual opin ion that (at this point in the episode) goes unvoiced. The repeated emphasis on "real" sugges ts three things: firs t, that Robert, and others like him who appear in successive epis odes, is an authentic actual person rather than an actor; second, RobertÂ’s, and other guestsÂ’ problems, are not manufactured; and finally, the advice, supplied by the show, that will permanently remedy his problems. The
61 Â“realÂ” of reality shows centers on the therapeutic. Dubrofsky effectively illustrates the methods by which Reality-based shows often bring together key conventional elements of the therapeutic: self-reflexive comments in displays of the self and an emphasis on talk and confession. On the shows, these activities are carried out under surveillance: viewers watch pa rticipants talk directly to the camera about their experiences and what these have taug ht them about themselves (2007,268). And it's through this social su rveillance that these self re flexive comments originate, thereby casting grave questions about the legitimacy of Robe rtÂ’s "voluntary" comments. When assessing Roberts clothing for a night out on the town, Robert is stopped for a predate critique, where again the narrator assesses his appearance. How about a look at your jeans, Robert? Are you ready for the truth ? You look like the kind of guy that gets upset when someone leaves the cap off the toothpaste. Here the narrator strategically employs the powerfully-loaded word "truth" which operates to immediately convey the message that it's an unassailable "truth" immune to rebuttal, and the narrator is in the position to deliver that "truth". This judgmental rhetoric succinctly and quickly communicates a hierarchy of authority to which Robert is subject, at the very beginning of the episode. Apart from the use of social surveillance and policing, Can't Get a Date also uses actual surveillance with the use of a night-vision lens, and follows him from a distance throughout the night at a local bar while periodically capturing brief glimpses of him engaged in conversation with various men. The next shot is of Robert catching a ta xicab during which the narrator makes the following observations: Robert seems a little up tight. It's a sort of behavior that may lead to some very forced interactions when he's trying to meet men. Robert got nowhere at the bar. He was pushy, snappy, and a littl e socially awkward. And as a result, he's going home to way he always does, alone.
62 The narrator engages in a sort of armcha ir psychoanalysis that, while factually accurate, not once but twice, concludes with a condemnation on Robert's failure to solicit a potential partner. And this condemnation is delivered with a surprisingly vindictive tone that connotes disapp roval and disappointment. Robert is caught in a homonormativ e "catch 22:" he is condemned for not picking up a man at the local bar as a potential date, but then he is also condemned for failing to take home a man as a "one-night stand". Conseque ntly, Robert is doubly penalized for his failure to to make a choice in conform ity with homonormative demands of coupling. The next day, Robert is sent to a stylis t. Upon his arrival, Robert is confronted with the following criticisms about his clothing, specifically his jacket & jeans combination. RobertÂ’s failure to keep his jacketÂ’s bottom button unbuttoned is noted by Paul who unbuttons it. Roberts says "oh thatÂ’s a mistake" to which the disembodied voice of the narrator says "that's a flaw Robert" to which Robert testily retorts "it's a mistake !" Then they proceed to comment on his jeans, in which Paul observes that Â‘They are way too high, theyÂ’re ill fitted and they make him look like a girlÂ’ the narrator then challenges RobertÂ’s comfort after this critique by saying, Â‘Do you think you're still going to go out with this ?Â’ To which he quickly answers, Â‘No. Paul briefl y describes his interpre tation of sexiness and after changing out of his suit into le ss formal clothing, RobertsÂ’ Â“choicesÂ” are affirmed with statements by Paul like Â‘let's put it this way if I sell you walking down the street wearing this, I say that's a cute boy.Â’ Wh en immediately after, Robert is asked what he thinks about his appearance he responds positively, by saying Â‘yeah I like it, it feels relaxed.Â’
63 From the very moment he enters the room Robert is aggressively criticized about his clothing choices. Indeed, Pa ul initiates a very heteronormative gender policing in his comments about RobertÂ’s jeans. This is quickly capitalized upon by the narrator's challenging question regarding hi s intention to "go out" in wh at he previously, was very comfortably wearing. Under this onslaught, Robert quickly cap itulates, but even this is insufficient! The criticism continues but in a less adversarial way. No w Robert engages in a "discussion" among himself, Paul, and the narr ator that superficially appears to be a negotiation that embraces Roberts own stylistic preferences. In reality, this Â“discussionÂ” is a highly choreographed pro cess that follows a trajectory wi th a predefined destination. Along the way, both the narrator and stylist us e positive reinforcement to prod Robert into final agreement that is the de stination of this Â“discussionÂ”. This process continues after Robert is sent to a hair stylist, whereupon the narrator observes that Â“Roberts only hope is when professionals like Tiffany start to point out why his old style isn't projecti ng what he wants it to.Â” Here again, the narrator reasserts his superiority by identifying for Robert that he has hope however constrained, rather than leaving that assessment to himself, and that hope is exclusively located with "professionals" of the fashion and beauty industrie s. It is unsurprisi ng then that the show systematically utilizes th ese industries, and through their complicity, perpetuates heteronormative ideas of dependency on t hose industries commodification of gay and lesbian identities. Unsurprisingly, as a postscript, Robert stat es that "I've had a lot of time to digest what the show talked about, and aahh, I think I've incorporated a lot of the things that I learned during the showÂ…" Immediately before the conclusion of the episode, the
64 narrator asks RobertÂ’s unidentified friend if his love life has impr oved. She replies that RobertÂ’s inability to date di d not stem from a lack of interest. To which the narrator tellingly points out, "Well, it's not called can't get a hookup Â…" My question then would be, why not? CanÂ’t Get a Date operates on three intertwining principles: the reality TV genre format, social surveillance/policing, and homonormativity. As Dubrofsky pointedly notes, "Current scholarship ar gues that therapeutic discourse encourages individuals to focus on changing the self rather than cast a critical eye on larger social structuresÂ” (2007, 268). CGAD certainly is no different. Indeed, this series inculcates the need for change in its participants, whilst under cont inual social surveillanc e through superficial criticisms that are bookended w ith pseudo-psychological ther apeutic rhetoric. Airing and marketing programming that serves only to domesticate lesbian and gay men through these tactics, does little to subvert or challenge the re gulatory regimes of homonormative conformity. Indeed, it accomplishes the ve ry opposite and paradoxi cally undermines the socially progressive opportunity embodied in its visibility on The Logo Channel. Round Trip Ticket Round-Trip Ticket is a reoccurring travel series that features four hosts who travel the world in 13 episodes per season. Logo describes the show as a Â“a globe-trotting travel magazine series that ditches the usua l sites and well-worn paths to seek out the entertaining and little-known alternatives in one international location each week. Round Trip Ticket features hosted interviews with some of the gay personalities in each destination, as well as travel tips on each loca tion and profiles of local businesses, artists,
65 restaurants, clubs and bouti que hotels. Featured destina tions include Bangkok, Dublin, Tokyo, Rome, Manchester, and Buenos Aires.Â” Round-Trip Ticket serves as an excellent example to critique programming which communicates messages about gay and lesbians and their collective economic abilities to pursue entertainment. The showÂ’s empty appeals to kinship and social action are complemented with language that valorizes luxurious commodities. The bottom line is without a doubt an economic one: Round Trip Tick et invites its audience to see travel as a libratory practice purchase d with their dollars. Empty Appeals to Kinship and Acti on: The Cairns, Australia Episode12,13 Host Will Winkle begins this episode with the sentence, "We gays and lesbians do love to travel." He continues by saying "the more we do, the more we realize that we are part of one big diverse family. This is Round-Trip Ticket ; your passport to how gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people are living, loving and ch anging the worldÂ… this is where tomorrow's trends started yesterday ." Communitarian appeals to shared kinship (Â“one big diverse familyÂ”) and social action (Â“changing the worldÂ”) are undermined by the implicit directiv e to initiate and to follow tr ends that have much more to do with commodities than with social justice. WeÂ’re introduced to a local by the name of Ron Clifton (who a ppears later in the episode, and is more extensively interviewed then), and Clifton describes for Winkle the gay and lesbian "climate." After some pr eliminary discussions about the geography, weather, local history, and avai lable facilities, Winkle precedes to ask specific questions 12 Episode 211, Season 2 13 It should be noted that recently, Round Trip Ticket added two domestic destinations, in what I believe to be an attempt to proactively answer criticisms th at I raised herein, about its exclusive focus on international travel. Consequently Episode 205 (Portland, Oregon) and Episode 205 (Austin, Texas) have only recently been included in its lineup.
66 about the presence, distributi on, and activities of its gay a nd lesbian population. Clifton answers with sufficiently persuasive number s to suggest Cairns is both a popular and minimally tolerant destination for LGBT touris ts. Interspersed throughout this discussion are photographs that appear in quick successi on of rainbow flags, and other LGBT icons emblazoned across buildings faad es interspersed throughout the city streets. Ironically, despite this apparent LGBT presence and activities, there are few same-sex couples photographed and virtually no evidence of same-s ex groups of either sex even in the few brief clips shown. Indeed, if Round Trip Tick et purports to show GLBT people Â“livingÂ” and Â“loving,Â” these activities are not represented in still images. Next, Winkle narrates: Â“I get whisked away to my very own private little island and then we are off on a gay Safari through the World Heritage listed Daintree National Park with Ron Clifton.Â” This episode is divide d into three separate sections. WinkleÂ’s interviews begin with Ron Clifton, Shane Ho rn, and Craig Stewart. All are Australian citizens who are native to or settled in Cairns Winkle proceeds to briefly interview Ron Clifton, the owner of a "gay" Safari service that provide s guidance through Daintree National Park and caters to LGBT tourists. C lifton poignantly observes that: Â“It was tough because most people considered gay people wouldn't want to go into the forest in a four-wheel drive, and I believed differe ntly, and it's something I enjoy doingÂ…Â” Of the three interviews, this is the briefest of the three in this episode. Perhaps producers also agreed that audience members Â“wouldnÂ’t wa nt to go into the fore st in a four-wheel drive?Â” Winkle spends very little time w ith Clifton at this lo cation. If the showÂ’s representation of Cairns boast ed rainbow flags, but no images of GLBT people, then Daintree National Park was empty of both.
67 Languaging Commodities and Selling Travel Winkle then introduces Shane Horn: Â“Get ready for pure indulgence when I hang with Shane Horn on the world-famous Great Barrier Reef on one of Australia's most luxurious motor yachts. N ow, this is living ." And it's with this introduction that Winkle begins his interv iew with Horn... Winkle: Shane, how lucky are you. This is like your normal day? Shane: Yeah, not every day, not every day. Winkle: What can someone expect if you take them here? Shane: We will provide them with all the little nibblies, champagne and all the comforts Winkle: So if J-Lo wanted to buy this, could she ? Shane: No, probably not. Winkle: Why? Money buys everything ? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Winkle: Where can you go? Shane: There are a lot of new little cafs and clubs popping up all the time. Winkle: And a lot of people come up he re on holiday and just never leave? Shane: Yeah, that's true. Shane: I think for the gay market this is your ideal destination... Quick splash shot graphic-A night fo r two on the Enterpri se (the yacht) approximately $3500 US. The third and final part of this episode be gins with quick splash shots of Winkle and Craig Stewart, a local who operates a luxury salon, eating caviar hors d'oeuvres Interspersed between the shots of Winkle and Stewart are shots of countryside scenery, people, and underwater wild life of exceptional beauty. Winkle: Tell me a little bit about the gay scene here? Stewart: The population is just ove r 5000, but there are 140,000 accommodation rooms, and most of the gay boys work in the tourist industry which is where you'll find [them] Winkle: Why did you make this place your home? Stewart: I actually thought of this as home the moment that I drive into Port Douglas14 lined with all those oil pumps. ItÂ’s itÂ’s luxury, it really is. Winkle: Why is this place special to you? Stewart: Where else can you live in the sa me latitude as Tahiti, get an array of bars, clubs and restaurants? 14 A suburb of Cairns
68 Stewart: Everythi ng is right here! Winkle: It is Throughout all three sections of this episode, interspersed commercials are targeted to the audienceÂ’s travel interest s. These commercials address a variety of practical concerns that include air, hotel, re ntal car and entertainment options, as well as commodities that dovetail with travel, interests like food, wine, and antiques. The language of these interviews is hype rbolic: Â“This is living,Â” Â“How lucky are you,Â” Â“Everything is right here,Â” Â“ideal de signation.Â” While all tr avel narration indulges in some degree of hyperbole, Round Trip Ticket constantly couples the exaggeration with explicit promises of indulgenceÂ—mundane and hi gh end: Â“bars, clubs, restaurants,Â” Â“itÂ’s luxury,Â” Â“little nibblies, champagne and all the comforts,Â” Money buys everything!Â” Less explicit is the buried claim, Â“most of the gay boys work in the tourist industry.Â” No doubt, these working boys are unabl e to afford $3500 a night on the Enterprise Bottom Economic Line: Round Trip Ticket to Nowhere Round Trip Ticket, like many other travel shows, enables audience members to travel vicariously and at no expense (except, of course, for the cost of subscribing to Logo ) to themselves. Travel shows marketed to straight audiences, however, make no pretense of constructing travel ers as Â“one big diverse family Â” that is Â“living, loving and changing the world.Â” These appeals to kinshi p and social action ar e purchased through a rhetoric of luxury and consumerism that cons tructs a GLBT market based on stereotypic and harmful assumptions. First, the show presumes an economic abil ity in its LGBT audience, to travel the globe, which may not exist. And this pres umption perpetuates the falsely homogenizing conclusion that all, or the majority of LGBT people, are affluent and interested in travel
69 as entertainment. While the show includes two episodes with destinations within the continental US this tacitly implies an econom ic hierarchy for its viewers: those who can travel internationally and those who cannot. Second, the language of economic hyperbol e, like "indulgence", "luxury,""this is livingÂ” and "Money buys everything," is an i nvitation to accept uncritically the values of purchasing these amenities and to conform with prevailing trends of gay/lesbian commodification. When travel destinati ons are languaged as Â“trendsÂ” and LGBT travelers are Â“trend settersÂ—yest erday,Â” audiences are too easily invited to see travel as libratory practices. This dangerous proposition does nothing to free LogoÂ’s gay and lesbian audience. Indeed, it does the direct opposite by slav ishly reconstituting false assumptions about economic privileges in this constituency. But more importantly for purposes of social equality, this conception of gay/lesbian affluence and wealth reinforces capitalist objectives, reproducing the commodification of gay/lesbian identi ties. In short, Round Trip Ticket informs the audience about gay friendly travel destinations which validates the acceptance of the LGBT community and their sexual nonconform ity. Such validation and acceptance, however, are pu rchased by their dollars. How and what does this mean for LogoÂ’s programming overall? At the beginning of this chapter, my objective was to e xpose how (1) ethnicity, (2) homonormativity and (3) capitalist consumerism are embodied and communicated in The Logo ChannelÂ’s programming, through three specific shows. My analysis and its conclusions suggest that with regard to these three examples, The Logo Channel communicates ideas that on their
70 surface appear to convey positive, inclusive and empowering messages but in actuality communicate contradictory, dual, self -serving and undermining messages. Admittedly, these three shows are not adequately repr esentative of The Logo ChannelÂ’s broadcasting content, but they are reasonably representative of its standard programming schedule, and therefore suggest that more study should be conducted across its programming lineup, in order to refute or confirm the conclusions drawn here.
71 Chapter Four: Logo Advertisement Easy as Shooting Fish in a Barrel They ( LogoÂ’s gay/lesbian viewers) like that there are commercials it makes them feel supported. They tell us they go out of their way to support the companies that support our channel. Â– Eileen Opatut, Senior VP of Original Programming, Logo (Brown 2006) The gay community has a lot of money. Â– Chris Auburn, Marketing Executive, Miller Brewing Lisa Fortini-CampbellÂ’s Hitting the Sweet Spot: How Consumer Insights Can Inspire Better Marketing and Advertising is a classic in college advertising classes. Fortini-Campbell uses the termi nology from racket sports to argue that the Â“sweet spotÂ” is that magical moment when consumer needs meet product benefits. This magical moment, however, only comes after extensive re search on a target demographic: what are the needs of an individual consumer in a ta rget market? And, how to match the needs of that market to the features and benefits of a specific product? Opatut and AuburnÂ’s quotations above certainly complicate the Â“sweet spotÂ” strategy. If LGBT audiences do Â“go out of their wayÂ” to support companies that communicate supportive messages, then product feat ures or benefits have little to do with marketing and salesmanship. And if Â“the gay community has a lot of money,Â” then advertising on Logo is the financial equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. This chapter seeks to complicate the LG BT audience as a target demographic for the Logo channel, for advertisers, for consumers, and for American society in general. The Logo ChannelÂ’s ongoing presence and financial succes s represents a dramatic and
72 powerful change in advertisement trends which, no doubt, reflect a concomitant change in American society's views towards the LGBT community. Historically, television advertising, like the television industry in general, carefully policed issues of sex, race, and moralityÂ—by excluding minority groups and viewpointsÂ—from constructions of Â“m ainstreamÂ” programming, advertising, and consumers. With the increased visibility a nd acceptance of the LGBT community in and through The Logo Channel commercial advertisers no longer have to walk the fine line between alienating mainstream audiences and garnering financial rewards. Logo made that line meaningless, where television ads are aired on networks with a predominantly LGBT audience, thus eliminating any risk they might previously have incurred when viewed on "mainstream" television networks. At the same time, LGBT marketing perpetuates the ideas of chic style and "lifestyle" that are crucial markers of social valu e and identity upon and through which LGBT individuals collectively create an audi ence. This narrow construction of the LGBT target demographic as DINK (dual income, no kids) cashes in on LGBT Â“pink dollarsÂ” through the rhetorical strategi es of inclusiveness and visi bilityÂ—to the exclusion and invisibility of a wider constr uction of the LGBT community. To make this case, I briefly trace the histor ies of 1) television advertising, 2) the risks and benefits of advertising on Logo and 3) the history of gay and lesbian print advertising. This history lays the foundation for 4) exploring cont emporary constructions of LogoÂ’s target market as the Â“ideal demographi c.Â” The fifth section is my analysis of three commercials that enjoy primetime slots on Logo to demonstrate how the rhetorics of inclusiveness and visibility operate to the exclusion and invi sibility of a wider
73 demographic. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the rela tionship between brand loyalty and the Â“pink dollarÂ” to demonstrate how The Logo Channel adopts a homonormative, consumer capitalist a pproach to revenue investment. A Brief History of Television Advertising Stagnant advertisement budgets during the Great Depression and the Second World War came to an end, created in part by a new generation of consumers whose income increased by 37.7% and whose home ownership rose from 40 to 60%. This increase in home ownership, along with its increased space for household goods, saw a subsequently dramatic rise in mass cons umption. Baughman persuasively argues that advertisement agencies capitalized on th is "mass consumption ethic." Baughman explains that "Postwar advert isingÂ…involved more than hyping brands of toothpaste: to some degree it assured the nation's economic growth and political stability. Mass consumption had to be encouraged, maintain edÂ…in the 1940s to prevent another Great Depression and avoid worsen ing labor relations." Commercial advertisers met this dema nd by "providing the selling force to galvanize our economy into another explos ion upwardÂ” (Baughman 2007). Commercial advertisement has long been the single most lu crative source of reve nue in the television industry and has its roots in its precursor, the radio. Televi sion had a powerful attraction for advertisers because of its ability to represent goods visually. As one advertiser mentions, "We sell by demonstration" (B aughman 2007, 194), Commer cial advertisers use a variety of techniques to limit the produc tion costs of shows on which they appeared while maximizing product receptivity. The use of multiple underwriters for a single show was the result of this approach. I Love Lucy, for example, lost its original sponsor, Philip Morris, because of concerns
74 about Lucille Ball and Desi ArnazÂ’s refusal to smoke on air. Despite its high ratings, the sponsor decided its promotional budget was be st spent elsewhere. This decision almost canceled the wildly popular show. Fortunately, I Love Lucy successfully encouraged multiple sponsors to underwrite the series. Still another adaptation to maximize profitability is the use of the "magazine concept" of advertising: underwriting for te levision programs is sold in the fashion of mass circulation periodicals. This tactic was an advantage for the networks to control when a program appeared on the schedule; networ ks did not have to base decisions on maximum audience appeal for single sponsor This dynamic of underwriter sponsorship by commercial advertisers also invited "brand" protection. This could affect what a company sponsored. S. C. Johnson, the ma nufacturer of household cleaning supplies declined to sponsor crime shows: Â“A J ohnson image is desired, an executive remarked, and programs must be good, clean, and for the familyÂ” (Baughman 2007, 205). While not all advertisers closely monito r their productions, the "temptation to tamper with a TV property could be enormous A sponsor's exclus ive patronage of the program fostered a gratitude factor, but also brought with it the risk of generating ill will." Thus, the influential relationship between commercial advertisers and television programming content created a dynamic that pl aced television networks at advertiserÂ’s mercy given its reliance on the financial re venue that advertisement generated. Fears about Communists, alcohol ics, and racial prejudice are reflected in the early years of television's advertis ement history. "Blacks rarely appeared in commercials; as late as 1960-61, studies indicated that black performers constituted 2% of the cast of commercials... and The Nate King Cole show left the air after a year's runÂ… Â‘The only
75 prejudice I have found anywhere in TV is in some advertising agencies.Â’ he remarked. Madison Ave. is afraid of the darkÂ” (Baugh man 2007, 209). This hist orically reciprocal and symbiotic dynamic between commercial advert isers and television continues to exist, fundamentally unchanged on today's television networks: "AdvertisingÂ’s dominant role has affected program content and production, widened the differences between the haves and have-nots, and helped establish differe nt roles for today's radio and television" (Sterling 2002, 715). Logo Â’s Advertising Revenues: Risks and Benefits? With the arrival of cable television an d its subscription-based revenue, came the perception of increased advertisement oppor tunity. With each additional new channel came more avenues to market to consumers, yet this also proves to be problematic because each additional channel further divi ded the audience. And the financial success enjoyed by cable "networks often rose and fe ll on the results of their selling sufficient advertising time to cover costs..." (Sterl ing 2002, 525), yet this success has incrementally but consistently diminished over time. The Logo Channel can best be described as any "branded niche or micro-niche network" in which a network ai rs a single type of program c ontent or is targeted to a predefined demographic population w ith a mix of program types, e.g. The Independent Film Channel The Filipino Channel etc. Why is this important? Because of the high level of specialization associated with this type of network, the number of subscribers becomes dramatically more important to the financial longevity of the network. Thus, with the potential reduction in subs cription-based revenue that's anticipated in the future (Eastman 2002), the profile of commercial advertisements becomes increasingly more important for these networks.
76 Cable prices have risen 77% since 1996, roughly double the rate of inflation, the bureau of labor statis tics reported this month...The producers of cable television content shared $15 billion $20 billi on a year in fees from cable subscribers, roughly equal to the $20 b illion they receive in advertising revenue ... without those fees, the cab le companies say prices would go up (Richtell 2008). If each channel depended on individual c onsumers electing to pay individually for those channels, the resulting diminishment of viewers potentially would hurt the ability of most channels to attract advertisers. A nd subsequently, lost co mmercial advertisement revenue would have to be replaced by hi gher subscription and license fees. Logo exists within this competitive financial environment, with the distinct disadvantage of being branded with a potentially controversial label; due to its LGBT oriented programming and its associ ated social stigma. And yet, Logo continues to enjoy significant financial success and longevity, as result of its commercial advertisement revenue. Why? One potential reason that explains The Logo ChannelÂ’s financial success originates from history. Logo built upon a successful strategy which originated in gay/lesbian print advertisement, and Logo expanded upon this through strategic marketing that utilized tele vision commercial advertisemen ts. How and why did this happen? To answer the question why LogosÂ’ network executives chose to employ this strategy requires a small measure of clairvoya nce. We can potentially ascertain their motives by interpreting the historical success of gay and lesbian print advertisement and extrapolate that interpretation to arrive at a reasonable conclusion that might shed light on this question.
77 Gay & Lesbian Advertisement History The history of gay male images and prin t advertising began during the 1920s, but positive depiction of same-sex couples or "gay images" did not truly begin until the 1990s. According to Clark, this history traverses four stages through which minorities are presented in the media, and they are (1) non-recognition, (2) ridicule, (3) regulation, and finally (4) respect.15 It's not until the 1970s that mainstream media began to discuss the "gay community" in economic terms and this progressed through the 1980s because of perceptions about fashion, style, a nd cultural sensibility (Branchik 2007, 38). Throughout the 1980s, there is an increasing tr end among advertisers to same-sex couples in very specific target markets. These ads typically but not exclusively, appeared in LGBT publications like The Advocate and embraced a wide variety of commercial interests which included Samsonite luggage, Benetton clothing, and even 7Up soda. And as Branchik explains, "Given the targeted readership of the publication a nd the increasing openness gay men felt following the 1969 Stonewall RiotÂ…advertisers were usin g clearly more blatant images" (2007,44). This interest in pursuing this "underserved" segment of society quickly escalated so much so that, "by the mid-1990s gay male images appear with increasing frequency, primarily in gay targeted magazinesÂ… but in mainstr eam publications as we ll... although eroticized images can still be found in fashion ads, everyman-type male models begin to emerge as the central objects of thes e ads" (Brachik 2007, 47). With the arrival of the mid-1990s, these ad s entered the fourth and final stage of Clark's framework that continues to today. Images of same-sex ki ssing and/or caressing, 15 Clark's framework originally was used for ethnic minorities, but Branchik persuasively applies his framework to be gay and lesbian context and thus is incorporated here.
78 what Branchik describes as "aggressi ve sexuality," become ubiquitous in Calvin Klein, Banana Republic and Hyatt advertisements, but also in ads by Avis and in the "Starting a Family" campaign by Volvo. The increased adoption of this tactic by commercial advertisers suggests an increasing sensitiv ity to the growing acceptance by society towards the LGBT Â“market.Â” Alienation vs. Financial Reward Advertisers have capitalized on this tre nd. Advertisers are ac utely aware of the effectiveness of their print advertisements and sought to expand their financial success to television ads targeted to this Â“underserved mark etÂ”. The results have proven financially lucrative, especially where lesbian and gay male imagery are positively employed to elicit the highest recep tivity of this audi ence (Oakenfull 2002, 1284). As Ragusa convincingly points out, corporat e interest in gay and lesbians as a Â“niche marketÂ” dramatically increased afte r 1999 and was fueled in no small part by "a study revealing that 66.8% of LGBTs [sic] s ubscribed to cable television" (2005,670). Why is this important? This is importa nt because although contradictory evidence suggests that "Â…advertise rÂ’s current practice of using gay male imagery and advertisements when crossing over to mainstream media pr ovides the greatest risk of alienation to heterosexual audi ences, regardless of their agenda. That risk increased directly with the level of intimacy depict ed in the advertisement" (Oakenfull 2002). For Logo the fine line that commercial adve rtisers negotiate between alienation and financial reward becomes completely m eaningless, where television ads are aired on networks with a predominantly LGBT audien ce, thus eliminating any risk they might previously have incurred when viewed on "mainstream" television networks. And the increasing visibility of the LGBT people as "celebrities, athletes and models" (Branchik
79 2007, 156) in larger society has the unintende d result of more easily defining the LGBT market, which increases the financial profitabili ty of commercial advertisements targeted to this constituency. The Logo Channel began with a core group of 80 a dvertisers, who were willing to back an admittedly risky business endeavor of creating a 24/7 LGBT-oriented cable television network. Â“Any new channel that wants to launch has a selling job [to advertisers] to do because theyÂ’re compe ting with everyone else out thereÂ…WeÂ’re ultimately selling a business case, and we have to make a compelling argument for why they should take Logo over anyone [other network/ch annel] else.Â” (A. Becker 2005) The initial group quickly expanded to hundreds advertisers over the course of just a few short years. Logo Â’s leading national advertiser s include: 20th Century FOX, Absolute Vodka, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Para mount Pictures, Prudential Real Estate, American Express, Anheuser-Busch, Kodak, La s Vegas Tourism, Lexus, Red Bull, Sears, SONY Electronics, Avis, LionÂ’s Gate F ilms, SONY Pictures, Bacardi, Disaronno, MacyÂ’s, Miller Brewing, Miramax, Stoli Vodka, Subaru, Tom Tom, EBay, Motorola, Nivea, Garnier, Olivia Cruises, Warner Br others, General Motors, Orbitz & WrigleyÂ’s. (Newswire 2004) American Express featured Ellen DeGeneres, and Orbitz has a mock game-show ad in which an affectionate male couple competes for the fastest booking of a trip. A steady increase in the adoption of gay/lesbian themed ads is a direct result of the increased profitability such ads generate. Who Is LogoÂ’s Target Market?: an Ideal Consumer Demographic But looking more closely, one can see a change not only in the number of advertisers, but also in their composition a nd the composition of their advertisements. LogoÂ’s programming also conforms and supports a commercial advertisement agenda by
80 "narrowcasting" (R. Becker 2006, 93) to sp ecific demographics through individual shows: o Adults 25-54: Real Momentum, Logo Films, CBS News on Logo, Queer as Folk, The L Word, Bad Girls, The Big Gay Sketch Show, Exes & Ohs and Rick & Steve o Adults 18-49: NewNowNext, The Click List, Wisecrack, Round Trip Ticket (Time Warner Inc. 2008) The information above reveals how specific ads are targeted to audiences that are subsequently placed to maximize viewer re ception Becker also provides information about the top 12 anticipated consumer activities of Logo viewers: Activities Logo viewers are more likely to do Index to A18+ Took 3+ plan trips for vacation/past year 273 Watched online video/past month 269 Used Wi-Fi or wireless connecti on outside of home/past month 261 Paid bills online/past month 195 Made a purchase online for personal use/last month 188 Most recent TV purchase had any HDTV capability 178 Obtained financial information online/past month 175 Downloaded music/past month 166 Traveled to other countrie s for vacation/past year 158 Go to fitness club 2+ times/week 146 Made personal or business trav el plans online/last month 140 Attended live music, dance or theater/past year 137 Acquired any banking se rvice/last year 123 Table 1, Logo Viewer Activities Unsurprisingly the majority of these activ ities reflect an affluent, technologically savvy, financially progressive a nd socially active ideal viewer stereotypically associated with gay men and lesbians. Within the past three years this traj ectory has increasingl y evolved from an original emphasis on fashion, entertainment/n ightclub interests and sexual activities of gay men to the currently Â“urban, socially sophisticatedÂ” consum er of both genders. Original advertisements from Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss to RSVP and AtlantisÂ’s
81 exclusively gay cruise lines; Stolichnaya (Howard 2006) Absolute and ID Lube Trojan and other prophylactics indicate a commercial emphasis on these subjects. Within the last 3 years, advertisements from Orbitz, Avis, Intel, Motorola Subaru and Tom Tom to American Express convey messages that reflect the t op categories of travel, technology and financial/investment subjects perceived by advertisers as likely activities for LogoÂ’s gay and lesbian viewers. The advertisement industry was acutely aware of the potentia l advantages and disadvantaged Logo presented from its very begi nning. Â“Some advertisers will be reticent, but this network will be judged mo re on their audience acceptance than on their sexual preference,Â” says John Rash, senior VP/d irector of broadcast negotiations for ad agency Campbell Mithun. (A. Becker 2005) The prevailing percep tions about gay and lesbian affluence created a unique set of circumstances for The Logo ChannelÂ’s financial success. Marketers anxious to uncover untap ped markets helped to construct the gay community as an ideal consumer demographi c in which statistics (of dubious validity) indicated that "a typical gay male c ouple earned $51,600 a year while the average straight couple earned only $37,900. The average lesbian coupl e reportedly earns $42,800 a yearÂ” (R. Becker 2006, 201). The DINK Demographic Recent scholarship has come to define these perceptions of affluence as the Â“DINKÂ” phenomenon. This term is defined as Â“dual-income, no kids Â” and is repeatedly used to highlight LGBT coupleÂ’s disposable income. Current press accounts reflect a frenzied approach to soliciting the Â“pink dollarÂ” associated with this illusory demographic. Moreover, Logo willingly grants legitimacy to this unsubstantiated marketing demographic. Â“As we think about selling, we go to those advertisers first who
82 already have been in the gay market,Â” (Sr. Vice President) Lisa Sherman says. Â“And they are thrilled to have the chance to reach 18 million households very efficiently when, before, they could only maybe reach 130,000 w ith the countryÂ’s biggest gay magazineÂ” (Albiniak 2005). And of course that reach is not only to attract those households attention but to obtain their dollars as well. WhatÂ’s also notable about this media repor t is the rhetorical choice inherent in ShermanÂ’s statement that speaks volumes a bout the constructed nature of the DINK demographic. Word choices like Â“househol dsÂ” implicitly communicate the idea of dual occupancy and of course, dual income. But LogoÂ’s management isnÂ’t the only participant complicit in the development and perpetuati on of the DINK demographic. Indeed, LGBT people, as well as their purportedly repres entative media contribute to the problems associated with the creation and applicati on of this capitalist, consumer label. As Jeffery Weeks poignantly asks, Â“IsnÂ’t a gay identity little more than a pseudo ethnic identity that is easily accommodated by late capitalist societies, easily succumbing to the pink dollar or pound or euro?Â” ( 2008,30) ItÂ’s not remarkable then, that The Logo Channel had great potential for financial rewards given comments by Chris Auburn, marketing executive for Miller Brewing who th eorized that "The gay community has a lot of money". The use of this label further complicates an already entangled system of consumer knowledge that creates and sustai ns market attempts that define LGBT identities for LogoÂ’s viewers. Vanity Ads and Selling Stereotypes The newest trend among advertisers on Logo is the use of Â“vanityÂ” ads, like those from Johnson & Johnson, Merck and other cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies
83 which appeal to perceived superficial obsessi ons with beauty and physical perfection that are embodied in gay male stereotypes. Â“In the morning itÂ’s all about get in, get out,Â” begins the commercial that began appearing recently. It shows a young man gettin g ready for work by shaving, showering, brushing his teeth and, ye s, rubbing a dollop of Rogaine foam into the crown of his head. Rogaine initially developed by Upjohn, now a division of Pfizer, was bought in 2006 by Johnson & Johnson, which created the productÂ’ s new identity around the foam version. This step by Johnson and Johnson is a smart one, as Out Now gay market research has revealed gay men to be Â“above average spe nders in the area of personal grooming and toiletries products.Â” Both Propecia and Rogaine have become involved in marketing their hair loss treatments to gay men. Out Now has created two gay advertising campaigns for pharmaceutical company Merck the marketers of Propecia The Out Now campaign for the Propecia brand used the headline "He Doesn't Believe I'm Over 30", and used imagery of two gay men on a sofa. Such an approach is Â“a big move away from Rogaine treating a condition, to being pa rt of an everyday grooming routine for men who want to look their best.Â” These are only two exampl es of commercial advertisements currently airing on Logo that reflect the changing approach ove r time by advertisers to pursue the Â“pink dollarÂ” market(s) represented by the networks audience. WhatÂ’s noticeably absent from many of these commercials are the presence of ethnic minorities, visibly identi fiable transgendered (if such a thing is possible or conceivable?) and to a lesser extent wo men. Commercial advertisers have made substantial progress in advertis ing to lesbian viewers and a commercial by Olivia Cruises
84 (an all lesbian cruise line) is one example of this cha nge. Despite an increase in commercials aired with same-sex female c ouples and/or commercials targeting that demographic, the representation of women versus men on Logo advertisements remains low (Oakenfull 2002). If Logo Â’s advertisers arenÂ’t in cluding ethnic minorities, transgendered, and equal numbers of women, th ey are cashing in on Â“liberalismÂ” as a substitute for constructing a wider demogra phic that more accurately reflects the LGBT community. Reaching the LGBT Market: Cashing in on Liberalism From the beginning, advertisers targeti ng the LGBT demographic have employed the use of careful, deliberative and strate gic linguistic constructions. The triumph of salesmanship over substance is exemplified with the use of gay/lesbian-identified colloquialisms and vocabulary. An example of this is also seen in political advertisements, from which this approach or iginated. "Low negative" words and phrases ("liberal") are then incorporated into attack ads, and "high positive" words ("compassionate") are put to use in slogans and speeches Â– hence "compassionate conservative." In an era of increasingly competitive cab le TV niche broadcasting, it is not surprising that advertisers and marketers would seize upon an untapped LGBT oriented brand like Logo as a vehicle for their collaborative financial efforts. "According to Buford, Logo has become an efficient way for advert isers to target the LGBT audience. In the past, they could reach gay viewers by buying commercials on such programs as Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and NBC's Will and Grace But buying ads on those shows was far more expensive than buying spots on Logo which reaches a smaller but more targeted audienceÂ” (Guenther 2006). This is significant, as st udies indicate that
85 there is a direct correlation between the proxim ity of a target audienceÂ’s receptivity to commercial advertisements and the percenta ge potential of those consumers acting on those messages of consumption, thereby translat ing to directly proportional increases in revenue. Clearly, this phenomenon explains how LogoÂ’s successfully competes against its Â“mainstreamÂ” shows like Will & Grace and Queer Eye Why is that important? Becau se marketersÂ’ interest in and repeated reports about gay and lesbian consumers confirm the power of free market capitalism and the validity of Â“market liberalismÂ” which is defined as encouraging independent individual economic actions motivated by self-interest, that are free from restrictions, will ultimately produce the best Â“resultsÂ” (R. Becker 2006, 200). The ongoing battle for market share among cable TV networks created an excellent opportunity for The Logo Channel to profit from that liberalism. The Logo Channel benefited from a change in social attitudes towards LGBT individuals that preceded its arrival. "...supporting ga ys and lesbians was still a relatively exceptional marker of just how open-minded one wasÂ” (R. Becker 2006, 200). This is the basic negotiation by which te levision consumers internalize messages communicated to them in a neatly prepared entertainment medium-television. Indeed, the television industryÂ’s reliance on this process is the source of their financial security. Their intimate familiarity with this negotiation of the "private acts" of consumerism by their viewers is the method by which they are then empowered to solicit advertisers, local carriers, and others stak eholders for financial investment. Indeed, Sender observes that"... the gay community, on a national scale at least, is not a preexisting entity that marketers simply need to appeal to, but is a construction, an imagined community formed not only from political activism but an increas ingly sophisticated,
86 commercially supported, national media ...LGBT people are consumers that are increasingly openly recognize d, organized, measured, and appealed to...Â” (2005,200). By encouraging the pursuit of new tastes and se nsations as pleasures while concealing the labor that has gone into making those possible, LGBT marketing perp etuates the ideas of chic style and "lifesty le" that are crucial markers of social value and identity upon and through which LGBT individuals co llectively create an audience. Three Exemplars: Selling to/C onstructing an Audience Given the television industry's historical sensitivity over issues of sex, race, and morality, the commercials aired on Logo represent a dramatic and powerful change in advertisement trends which, no doubt, reflect a concomitant change in American society's views towards Logo's LGBT audience. To better explore and evaluate this shift, I have chosen three commercials th at regularly appeared on Logo in 2007 and were in heavy rotation during "primetime" hours. My analysis of the visual and verbal texts is my attempt to look past the surface message of selling a product to explore how inclusiveness and visibility are substituted for political change and social equality Indeed, some LGBT audience members are invited to see themselves in these ads as included and visible, but these strategies al so render invisible and exclude d LGBT identities that do not fall within the gay male aesthetic, vanity advertising, the DINK demographic, and the Â“celebrities, athletes, modelsÂ” strategy of a dvertisement. Together, these ads construct a LGBT audience at the price of the LG BT communityÂ’s social equality.
87 Subaru: Who Will You Take With You? Subaru Â“Shadows" Media Outlets: United States television Agency: Moon City Productions Year: 2005 Shot one shot two Shot three Medium Close Close Up Medium Close Up High-speed still photography of actors and digital models of Subaru vehicles, which were then animated and composed with entirely artificial digital environments, crossed the screen. A splash shot appears with the text "Subaru Outback 2006, with synchronized all-wheel drive standard" above an actual Subaru model that pulls up into a virtual landscape. Immediately two Caucasian men exit the vehicle and stand next to each other against the front side of the car with their backs to the camera. The Subaru Logo appears with its standard tagline "Think. Feel. Drive." 1. How do you see yourself? 2. What do you see yourself doing? 3. Where do you see yourself going? 4. How would you get there? 1. Who would you take with you? (they walk off into toward s a sunset in the distance) No other text appears. Black screen. These questions scroll across the screen, with a fade-in and fade-out effect. They appear in quick succession against a digitally superimposed bridge with a moving virtual Subaru. Again the text appears at the top of the screen, with a fade-in effect, but it solidifies into a permanent header. The text also occurs against other action as indicated above, set to modern music. Fade-in, with slowly diminishing music volume. Table 2, Subaru Â“ShadowÂ” Segmentation With cutting-edge graphics, composite photos and 3-D animation, the Subaru spots have a familiar car-ad look -until the end. In one, two men get out of the car to share a vista together; in another, a spa ghetti of highways turns into same-gender symbols. The campaign's inspiration is Subaru 's popular Â‘gay-vague printÂ’ ad featuring gay-themed license plates from 1999. This term serves to illustrate how the sexual identity of actors in these commercials is not explicitly made clear a nd left purposefully vague "As we approached the tenth anniversary of our advertising campa igns, the outlets to reach gay and lesbian
88 consumers were limited. We were very hams trung by the general lack of media," says Moon City Productions president John Na sh, who has managed Subaru's LGBT marketing efforts from the start. Subaru supported Logo at its launch with a mainstream commercial, "but the novelty of being there (on Logo ) wears off for viewers after three months, so we knew we needed custom creativeÂ…and Subaru customers who aren't gay respect its outreach to gays", notes Nash. Nash begins by recognizing the limited me dia outlets targeted exclusively to LGBT audiences and the limitation that placed on SubaruÂ’s ability to reach them (Â“we were hamstrungÂ”). Like many other advertiser s, Nash placed a Â“mainstreamÂ” commercial on the Logo network that had three effects: 1) Subaru reached a LGBT audience, 2) Subaru garnered Â“respectÂ” from straight audiences for this reach, and 3) most importantly, Subaru realized it needed to create commercials that specifically addressed and targeted Logo Â’s LGBT consumers; not simply import mainstream commercials to The Logo Channel Hence, the Â“noveltyÂ” of reachi ng that audience with mainstream commercials and the goodwill it created quickly wore off. For Nash, an advertising promoter, hi s comments recognize the need for advertisers to address the emotionally substa ntive and personally influential message(s) communicated by commercial advertisements that speak to LGBT audiences. His description of the advertisement as a "nove lty" suggests that (1) Subaru ads are novel only within a "mainstream" hete rosexist context and that (2) any appeal to LGBT consumers that superficially appear inclusiv e is sufficient to command their respect and appreciation while (3) interpreting that respect as being legitimately rewarded to Subaru
89 by heterosexuals where that marketing strategy (o f including positive LGBT imagery) should already be standard practice. When analyzing this ad, the four rhetorical questions seek to stimulate an internal debate within the viewer about the suffici ency of their identit y, activity, goals and methods to achieve and answer these questi ons. These rhetorical devices operate to establish Subaru as the source of the answer s to these questions. These strategies are typical of all commercials. Indeed, the only change is a substitution of two men for a woman and a man. Such a substitution co mmunicates an Â“inclusiveÂ” message of visibility: attempting to solidify Subaru as the car manufacturer of choice for LGBT consumers. This inclusion and visibilit y, however, also limits and homogenizes the LGBT audience. The rhetorical question "Who would you take with you?" is already answered in the visuals of the ad. Â“You,Â” the purchaser of a Subaru, and Â“you,Â” the person along for the ride, are a Caucasian male couple This pe rpetuates the idea that "safe" homosexuals are only white, gay men in monogamous re lationships, absenting single men, ethnic minority men, and all women. Moreover, the vista they admire speaks to the travel images, luxuries, and commodification critiqued in the last chapter. If Round Trip Ticket excluded images of gay couples, then this Subaru commercial re turns a very specific kind of couple to the picture, along with their product. Michael Wilke poignantly observes that Â“For the new TV ads, the car maker had to double its gay advertising budget (it does not reveal spending figures), but the opportunity was ripe as competition increased dramatically: Mitsubishi, Volvo, Jaguar, Toyota, Saa b, Volkswagen, Cadillac, Scion, Saturn,
90 Mercedes, and others now seek gay drivers -compared to just Saab in 1996.Â” The unfortunate prediction I can make here is th at, despite a doubled budget, car ads will not double the kinds of people that appear in the ads nor will it expand the DINK demographic to better account for th e lives of all LGBT individuals.. LeviÂ’s: What Will You Wear When You Hook Up? Levi Strauss & Co. "Change" Media Outlets: United States television Agency: Bartle, Bogle, & Hegarty Year: 2007 Shot one Medium Close Fade into a slow pan across the screen moving from left to right of an upscale, minimalist industrial sized loft apartment with sophisticated urban furniture, rugs and accessories as a background to a well groomed Caucasian-esque male with perfectly coiffed jet black hair opening an unseen package and lifting out a pair of jeans. Shot Two Close up The next shot is of his naked legs and feet, with his hands on the jeans as he slowly lifts them over his ankles. Teasingly and seductively he raises the jeans up to mid-calf which point his hands begin to shake and contemporaneously his surroundings be gin to reverberate with what appears to be his efforts. Shot Three Close up the young man bend over in a sexua lly seductive position in a crisp, white V-neck T-shirt looks around with his eyes darting left and right, while frozen in position, trying to discern wh at's happening to his apartment in the environment around him. Shot Four Medium Close the young man pulls his pants up to mid thigh level, at which point viewers glimpse the tight gray boxer br iefs he is wearing. While in the background, we see entire buildings ri se in the distance outside the walls of his apartment in conjunction with his efforts to lift his pants up to his waist. Shot Five Medium Far He continues whereupon a telephone booth (when's the last time he seen one of these?) abruptly burst through the floor of his apartment, complete with an attractive blonde haired ma n with the telephone to the ear, but only partially engaged in his conver sation while facing the young man. Shot Six Close Up on the blond man; his face turns to fully inspect a half naked man, and slowly a smile crosses his face and a barely perceptible nod occurs Shot Seven Close Up on the young man; shocked, the young man quickly looks down in bewilderment, then slowly precedes to drop his pants again to the floor while watching the blond man in the telephone booth descend. Shot Nine Close Up the young man is shown buttoning his jeans looking intently into the camera that switches to
91 Shot Ten Extreme Close Up the blond man hanging up the telephone in a telephone booth, and leaving it with a smile on his face Shot Eleven Close Up on the young man again; with a wide smile on his face, the commercial then switches its focus toShot Twelve Extreme Close Up the waists of both men, closed in Levi jeans showing there rears to the camera lens with their arms touching, walking off into the distance in a street scene Table 3, Levi Strauss & Co. Â“ChangeÂ” Segmentation What's most interesting about this commercial is its comp lete lack of text, sounds, or verbal commentary. This commercial is composed entirely of visual imagery, and thereby both avoids and encourag es criticism for its lack of an explicit message as well as its high subjectivity to a udience interpretation. The setting for this commercial perpetuates the idea of gay male economic affl uence. But surprisingly, given the trend to appeal to the DINK demographic, this commercial does so in a way that doesnÂ’t predicate the young man's financial status on a dual income. The commercial, like many, many clothing ads aimed at straight audiences, regularly uses sexually suggestive shots to ge nerate and maintain viewer interest, but does so in an inventive, albeit implau sible way. And this creative device, while amusingly interesting, could easily be interp reted to suggest that the young man's ability to attract a partner is not based in reality. Th is is particularly true considering his blonde counterpartÂ’s instant and inte nse physical attr action, which inexplicab ly manifests itself in their immediate, instantaneous pairing and ex it. Still another read is that this encounter physically enacts the Â“earth movingÂ” analogy (or clich?) of heterosexual romance novels. That a pair of jeans causes the earth to move, capriciously directed by its wearer, imparts a strange kind of omnipotence to the wearer of Levi jeans.
92 For the LGBT audience, however, the co mmercial undeniably communicates the capitalist, consumption ethic message that says gay men need to purchase this product as a means to enhance their pers onal attraction to facilitate their unfulfilled single lives At the same time, the inexplicable Â“hook upÂ”Â—without words exchangedÂ—reinforces the false connection between sexua l attractiveness and gay male promiscuity (where words need not be expressed to a rrive at a mutually underst ood inevitably successful sexual encounter). Again, this commercial absences ethnic minorities. The main character does appear to possess some physical characteris tics that place him on the periphery of Caucasian phenotypes. His jet-bl ack hair, angular facial features and dark eyes seemed to suggest this, yet these features are only sec ondary to his safely wh ite skin and perfect teeth. And these subtle physical differences are ultimately remediated by the intense physical attraction expressed in his stereotypically Caucasia n, blonde, blue-eyed partner which validates his value as legiti mate source of sexual interest. Another extremely attractive, Caucasian, gay male couple is included and made visible by LeviÂ’s. While Subaru implies that their gay couple are long-term partners enjoying life through Subaru, Le viÂ’s gay couple is hooking up through LeviÂ’s jeans earthshattering capacity to attract a partner; the attraction, however works for very attractive, gay Caucasian men, leaving the rest of the LG BT community excluded from the magic. Reactine: Sneezing Fashion Victims Pfizer "Fashion Victims" Brand: Reactine Media Outlets: United States Television Agency: TAXI Advertising & Design Year: 2000 Shot One Shot Two Shot Three Shot Four Alternatingly Extreme close-up Close-up cut to Medium Far
93 Medium Close to Close Up Extreme Close-Up Various models walk down the runway at a fashion show as their pictures are snapped by the press, who are sitting around them. One model (coded as a drag queen) walks by an audience member who for some reason is holding a cat. The model then sneezes, spewing a volume of fluid onto the runway. Models behind her begin slipping, falling flat on the floor as a couple of feminine men watch with smiles. Before she leaves the runway, the model has one more sneeze, shooting a spray onto a shirtless muscular man in the audience -but he is protected by his fruit basket hat and sunglasses. The model exits the stage. At the end, the British announcer says to the sneezing model, "Bless you, love." Narrator voiceover: "Still suffering from allergies? Isn't it time you tried Reactine?" Table 4, Pfizer Â“Fashion VictimsÂ” Segmentation Reactine is a prescription aller gy medication, branded as Zyrtec in the U.S. This commercial appears as a mix of camp and burlesque that directly and indirectly comments on gays and the fashion commun ity. There is an element of laughing at the drag-queen model and the obvious ly gay onlookers, as well as with them. The characterization of the drag-queen model w ith exaggerated make up, running eye liner, and generally disheveled appearance, caricatures her role in the commercial as an object of pity (Â“Bless you, love.Â”) and in need of medication to remedy her dishevelment. But the impotence of other men in this commercial is potent. The feminized men in the audience with their stereotypical wa iflike, effete appear ance and another manÂ’s hypermasculinized muscular build are acted upon throughout the commercial. In the first group, theyÂ’re passive watchers who do nothing to inhibit the modelÂ’s progress, nor do they do anything to aid her apparent distress or those who fall behind her. Indeed, they smile at both her readily apparent illness and the distress of the other models.
94 The muscular man, with his ostentatiously gay Carmen Miranda-like fruited hat, is the unfortunate recipient of her gross sneeze. And although its impact is diminished by his accessories (hat, eye glasses, etc.), he remains incapacitated by this performance, reducing him to passive receptivity for disease. This communicates the distinct message that (1) gay men are clearly susceptible to illness (2) despite their physical narcissism, and (3) must use Reactine as the sole remedy to their prob lem. The presence of women is refreshing, but only until one realizes that they exist as caricatures of femininity. The women caricatured are alternat ively disease infected, socia lly inept, and professionally vapid whose existence is only useful as ve hicles of the fashion industry. High fashion becomes an industry that is easily curtailed by a simple cold. Again, ethnic minorities are completely absent, but this commercial perpetuates stereotypes of gay men. That this commercial appropriates humor to subtly insinuate these messages without explicitly alienating its viewers is a tacit capitulation to the commercial strategy of inclusiveness and visibility when marke ting to LGBT audiences. A consistent theme throughout these examples perpetuates the consumption ethic among LGBT viewers, while simultaneously alienating women and et hnic minorities whose total absence speaks volumes about these productÂ’s Â“inclusive ness.Â” Despite superf icial communitarian appeals through visibility that serve to Â“supportÂ” the LGBT community, the strategic rhetoric of these commercials is based not on product features or benefits, but on brand loyalty that captures pink dollars. Brand Loyalty and Pink Dollars: Dangerous Results This chapter began with the perhaps unfor tunate characterization of advertisers marketing to gay consumers as Â“shooting fish in a barrel,Â” but there is research on the
95 facilitating roles "product/brand relationships play in the construction of gay community and gay resistance" in order to examine th e impact of the "pin k dollar" (Kates, 1998; Koss-Feder, 1998; Penaloza, 1996). Given the Logo ChannelÂ’s adoption of its marketing efforts as a microniche "brand," this research is valuable because it illustrates the complex dynamic through and upon which Logo operates as a brand. LGBT audiences construct a sophisticated, dynamic and vital meaning system in which "brands play significant facilitating roles" which constitute a commitment to a "communal" understanding of consumerist "ci tizenship." This concept is defined as a condition in which a person's civic identity is at once defined and reproduced by their consumption of products that other indivi duals immediately recognize and accept. And consumerist "citizenship" is also characterized by a commitment to particular brands which assume shared meani ngs, traditions, and values a bove and beyond their commonly understood utilitarian functions. This characterization is supported by data which reveals that LGBT consumers were likely to purchase from "gay-positive companies that advertise in gay media that target gay customers Â…Such positive feelings appear to transfer to these companiesÂ’ brands" (Kates 2000, 506). And the "consumption ethic" is defined as the use of LGBT consumers Â“market power and dollars as wea pons to wield against those organizations they perceived to be their corporate en emies,Â” while simultaneously rewarding and deepening "brand loyalty [with] those companie s that treat gays and lesbians in an ostensibly decent manner." Both withholding dollars as weapons and spending dollars as rewards formulate "relationships with vari ous businesses as a means of empowerment and of dealing with homophobia" on an individual level (Kates 2000, 507).
96 This consumerist capitalism isnÂ’t excl usive to the tripar tite dynamic between advertisers, LGBT consumer, and The Logo Channel Television actors, producers and other program content shareholders participat e (albeit in a limited fashion) in this dynamic. Many people of varying political pe rsuasions were troubled by what they saw as a harmful mix of consumerism and gay poli tics, either because of the harm caused by any consumption of a "gay lifestyle" or b ecause of the harm caused by having such a serious issue sullied by consumer excha nge. Koojiman recounts how, whilst in a discussion about her show, Ellen DeGeneres st ates that she Â“Â…seemed concerned about what this (the showÂ’s can cellation) might do to her futu re earning power. Well aware of her own position within the TV industry, she remarked on more than one occasion that Â‘I'm the one who's going to get the biggest boycott.... I'm the product here,Â’ and even went so far as to plead in her 20/20 interview, Â‘Please buy me!Â” (2005,45). While it is not the objective of this rese arch to closely examine the financial data of The Logo ChannelÂ’s marketing efforts, it's reasonable to conclude that its marketing executives are knowledgeable about the economic and politically shared dimensions that characterize LGBT consumerÂ’s "consumpti on ethic" and their communal "consumer citizenship". Logo strategically capitalizes upon this dynamic and indeed, its financial success and longevity is emblematic of its success in that endeavor. However, that success comes at a price. LogoÂ’s commercial advertisements emphasize the ideal image of the gay consumer as affluent, white, male, thir ty something and gender conforming. The construction of this image occurs at the expense of ethnic minorities, bisexuals, and particularly the transgendered.
97 The rhetoric of inclusiveness and visib ility is purchased through the consumer citizenship of the LGBT community; these pi nk dollars buy a very na rrow portrait of the LGBT community that is a refl ection, not of the co mmunity itself, but of the gay/lesbian demographics and tastes of the marketers and the media producers.
98 Chapter Five: Conclusion Television is a great source for entertainm ent, and itÂ’s a very efficient tool to communicate and educate. American societyÂ’ s love of television is evident in the passionate, quick embrace of this technology, an d the longevity it has enjoyed since its development and subsequent marketing in the 1940Â’s and 50Â’s. But th e social effects of television have long been a source of inte llectual curiosity and intrigue. The highly complicated regulatory history of the medium reflects the tenuous struggles made by our government to address tele visionÂ’s social impact. A variety of areas have hist orically been subject to gove rnment efforts to control that impact; business practices, advertisem ent and program content have all been regulated through government intervention. The use of profanity, language, dress, appearance, and behavior of characters on television are examples of how program content has been censored over time. Regulatio n, control, and censorship is the U.S. governmentÂ’s recognition of the power of television as a communication medium for persuasion, social control, and political agendas How society has adopted, interpreted and perpetuated messages communicated through television has long been a source of academic and scholarly interest as well (perhaps because of the perceived threat that televi sionÂ’s poses to government). That intellectual interest has manifested itself in variety of scholarly questions over time, which has focused on these areas of communicati on. My interests parallel those interests, with The Logo Channel as the subject of my efforts.
99 Where We Started vs. Where WeÂ’re Headed? I began this thesis with the assertion that The Logo Channel possessed great potential to further LGBT effo rts of social equality and faile d to achieve that potential. This failure occurred despite LogoÂ’s significant visibility in American cable television because of the perpetuation of negative ster eotypes that marginalized ethnic minorities and women and through a variety of se lf-serving practices that undermined LogoÂ’s libratory potential. LogoÂ’s power is vested in LogoÂ’s visibility: its visibility as a legitimate business, its visibility and powerful abi lity to attract advertisers and messages that it communicates through its programs to viewers about LGBT id entities; its visibility as the Channel for Gay America. TV's gay/lesbian characters are constructed as crucially important epistemological points that contribute to th e production of knowledge if not always to the dramas that drive TV productions. Studies which indicate that people demonstrated significantly more positive att itudes than did those who were exposed to anti-gay visual media, even after two weeks had passed (L evina, Waldo and Fitzgerald 2000) suggest that the effects of visual me dia are not only powerful, but al so possibly lasting. And this ability to influence attitudes is another source of LogoÂ’s power. The visibility of positive LGBT characters and individuals in its programming and advertising messages has a potentially powerful impact on both LogosÂ’ LGBT audience and on larger Â“mainstreamÂ” television viewers of all demographics The judicious and strategic exerci se of televisionÂ’s influence has a serious an d potentially long lasting social impact on Â“mainstreamÂ” he terosexual societiesÂ’ approach to LGBT activism. How Logo effectuates social change is conne cted to its ability to successfully communicate positive messages about itself and its characters. A brief glimpse at the
100 popularity of Â“reality TVÂ” exposes the highly subjective and rapidly changing world of television programming and the advertis ements which support those series. How Logo negotiates this rapidly changing envi ronment, the decisions it makes, and the implications of those decisions ma y have far reaching effects on LGBT efforts towards social equality. IÂ’ve identified the unfortunate cons equences of the decision to cancel NoahÂ’s Arc in an attempt to illustrate the potential dangers such a decision can have for LGBT ethnic minority viewers. The same far-reaching effects can apply to other constituencies across the social spect rum of LGBT American society. And as Joyrich points out, Â“Like a television console whose exterior is made to be displayed while the actual workings are hidden within, such tactics may repackage or reframe but not necessarily short-circuit the systemÂ…Â” ( 2001) of oppression that exists in American society for LGBT people. Cultural Criticism of Logo with an African-American Queer Eye My own stakes in this cultural criticism of Logo are high ones. My personal experiences as a gay man and an ethnic minor ity are characterized by exclusion, struggle, and searches for representations of my self in the media. My critique of Logo centers on my disappointment in Logo Â’s practices, programming, a nd advertising that fail to accurately reflect and problematize my world in all its complexities. In Chapter Two, The Television Industry and Another Lost Opportunity, I offered a brief history of the cable television indus try, the television business model, and the representations of gays and le sbians on television to draw a parallel social history centered on visibility. I extr apolate conclusions drawn th rough these observations and argued that Logo Â’s financial success comes at a cost to its LGBT viewers/customers. Logo Â’s success is centered on heteronormativ ity, consumerism, and visibility that
101 constrain, rather than empower and deconstruc t, a discriminatory paradigm which equates LGBT identity with social inferiority. Utilizing trade publicati ons, public relations communications, and scholarly busine ss journal articles published during The Logo ChannelÂ’s most recent fiscal year (2007), I prov ided quantifiable financial data on the profitability of the Logo channel. This information stands in stark contrast to Logo Â’s potentially libratory opportunity to unshackle its LGBT audience fr om social tyranny. The networkÂ’s industry position served to illustrate the precarious and dangerous contradictions and trade-offs necessary when vi sibility is purchased at the price of social and political subjecthood. Chapter Three, LogoÂ’s Programming: Like Taking Candy from a Baby examined three reoccurring series on Logo : NoahÂ’s Arc Can't Get a Date and Round-Trip Ticket Chapter Three argued that these shows co mmunicate complicated and contradictory messages of consumerist capitalism, homonormativity, and ethnicity to LogoÂ’s LGBT audience that ultimately undermines LogoÂ’s opportunity for social activism. To accomplish this, I analyzed each reoccurring series for the specific ways in which ethnicity, homonormativity, and consumer ism are enacted. Th e cancellation of NoahÂ’s Arc was especially painful to me since this was a television show produced and created by and for gay black men. Despite its superfic ially positive and empowering depiction of African-American gay men, the mere presence of ethnic minorities is insufficient to remedy the continuing racial inequalities expe rienced by this demographic within the gay and lesbian community. Moreover, negative depictions of gay black men on this television show could conceivably damage, a nd further erode, any social progress made
102 by this group toward remedying the racial di scrimination they already suffer from the hands of both gay and straight communities. Chapter Four: LogoÂ’s Advertising: Easy as Shooti ng Fish In a Barrel examined the histories of television advertising, the risks and benefits of advertising on Logo and the history of gay and lesbian print advert ising. This history laid the foundation for exploring contemporary constructions of LogoÂ’s target market as the Â“ideal demographic.Â” To accomplish this, I analyzed three commercials that enjoy primetime slots on Logo to demonstrate how the rhetorics of in clusiveness and visibility operate to the exclusion and invisibility of a wider dem ographic. Chapter Four argued that a strong and destructive relationship ex ists between brand loyalty a nd the Â“pink dollarÂ” thatÂ’s complicated by constructions of an ideal demographic which adopts a homonormative, consumer capitalist approach to revenue investment..The evolution adopted by commercial marketers towards the LGBT demographic has exposed an increasing sophistication that results in substantial financial profits, but uses socially destructive practices that continue, rather than eliminate, LGBT discrimination. The larger consequences are very real and very dangerous. Gay men are effectively marginalized by their same-sex de sire already in hetero sexist society; but through these industry, programming, and adve rtising mechanisms, they become even more marginalized and that occurs with th eir unknowing complicity by participating in a capitalist endeavor shaped and manipulated by external forces. Lesbians are similarly affected but are also further abused by th eir complete and almost total absence as a source of attention. What does this mean fo r Â“mainstreamÂ” television? It means that
103 these tactics are accepted as Â“standard operating procedures Â” which are both profitable and innocuous given the lack of opposition voiced by Logo subscribers. Why Is Any of This Important Now? This thesis serves an important role in American scholarship by exposing the machinery of American televisionsÂ’ bu siness, marketing, advertisement and programming trends, while situating Logo within that complex machinery. But most importantly, by exposing how Logo works (or doesnÂ’t work) within this machinery, we can learn more about how LGBT identit ies are either knowingly and unknowingly constituted, constructed and communicated to LGBT audiences and American society at large. If, as Sedgwick compellingly argues, Â“sexua lity is inextricable from what counts as knowledge in our culture, th en it is impossible simply to define a program of knowing sexuality. This, of course, is as true of television programs as it is of academic ones. The question of what exactly the viewers of queer TV texts know must thus remain an open one,Â” (Sedgwick 1993) but one thing is certain Â– where and how those queer TV texts appear as equally important as what they sa y. U.S. television does not simply reflect an already closeted sexuality but actually he lps organize sexuality as closeted and LogoÂ’s power to change this dynamic can serve to empower its LGBT audience. When this exercise of power occurs without regard to the social consequences for its audience, Logo only mimics the same discriminatory behavi ors of Â“mainstreamÂ” televisionÂ’s history, albeit in a nicely appearing package of same-sex imagery, sight and sounds. What Does the Future Hold? The future of television is difficult to predict. The cha nges in technology and their influences on content, advertising, and industry practices will inevitably continue
104 beyond the current digital evolution. But gi ven the significant power attributed to television in popular American culture and the valorization of its actors, actresses, directors, and others, it seems prudent to suggest that the research conducted here continue. Possible avenues to expl ore would be the examination of Logo Â’s content from a transgendered subjectivity, a much closer ex amination of Lesbian representation on this network, not to mention resistance to Logo Â’s construction of a udience, demographics, and industry practices. How the LGBT community might Â“push backÂ” on Logo Â’s monolithic industry position to will be a fascinating line of inquiry. Ultimately the passage of time, money, and social change will show wh at, if any, substantial role Logo plays in the advancement of social equality for its LGBT viewers.
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