A kiss is just a kiss?

When two men kiss, is it ideologically offensive? News Limited columnist Paul Gray thinks so:

My young family were among the viewers. At Christmas, they all sat down to watch the Spicks and Specks yuletide special, A Very Specky Christmas. Despite my often caustic anti-ABC comments, I was impressed that the ABC could create a show attracting a genuine family audience.

Then when Spicks and Specks host Adam Hills worked in a gag involving a gay kiss — he walked across the set and gave Brokeback Mountain style mouth-to-mouth to fellow program regular Hamish Blake — I looked around the living room at the embarrassed looks on my children’s faces and said: "You bloody idiot."

I wasn’t referring to the kids, of course, or to Hills. I was angry with myself for believing, even for a few minutes, that the ABC could broadcast a straightforward lifestyle program without inserting some form of ideological offensiveness into it.

But wait… maybe it’s not just the ABC. How about Barbie, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Tinky Winky?

According to Paul Strand at the Christian Broadcasting Network, Hollywood and America’s television networks are involved in a "well-planned propaganda campaign" to promote the homosexual agenda. As far back as 1988 gay propagandists like Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen "proposed using tactics on ‘straight’ America that are remarkably similar to the brainwashing methods of Mao Tse-Tung’s Communist Chinese…" Perhaps the US Congress should set up a House Committee on Un-heterosexual Activities to investigate.

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Tiny Tyrant
15 years ago

Ideological offensiveness? This coming from an article printed in Murdoch’s ‘Nation shaping’ vehicle is too much.

I guess fanaticism can hinder the sense of humour. Pity, Paul.

Does this also mean that South Park is now off the conservative-cool list?

David Tiley
15 years ago

He does this about once a month. Always the same rant, always the same lack of evidence, always the same simple minded approach to logic.

“If I see it happen once, it must happen all the time.”

“I found an example of bias. So the ABC is always incorrigibly socialist.”

If he is stupid in public once, does that mean….. ?

There are many good arguments to be had about the ABC. This just ain’t one of them.

BTW – wasn’t it the Right that invented the phrase “joke police”?

Mark Bahnisch
15 years ago

One word for Paul Gray: Deal.

Mark Bahnisch
15 years ago

And some more words – he might like to think about how gay men feel observing straight couples kissing constantly in the media and in public while except in some safer spaces in inner cities, they can and do get bashed or abused for expressing affection.

MrLefty
15 years ago

I was so about to write a post responding to that ridiculous rant of his. I’d saved the link and everything.

But you’ve saved me from needing to.

It was so STUPID!

THE ABC IS FILLED WITH LEFTY BIAS. MY ONE EXAMPLE OF THIS IS TWO MEN KISSING ON SPICKS AND SPECKS, AND A VAGUE CLAIM THAT THEY KEEP ATTACKING THE WEST, BUT WHICH I CAN’T PUT INTO ANY DETAIL.

AND I AM GOING TO WRITE A THOUSAND WORDS OR SO WAFFLING ON ABOUT LEFTY BIAS AT THE ABC BASED ENTIRELY ON THOSE TWO PATHETICALLY WEAK PIECES OF EVIDENCE.

Unbelievable.

Yobbo
Yobbo
15 years ago

Even lesbians are under attack!

Honestly though, trying to deny the ABC is ideologically biased is ridiculous. I personally couldn’t care less about the gay messages. If all the ABC ever did was advance the “queer agenda”, at least they wouldn’t have as much time to advance the socialist agenda.

Vee
Vee
15 years ago

Does he feel the same way when straight male sports stars kiss after scoring miraculous points in their game or winning a final or grand final?

or when it happened in the Rocky movies in similar circumstances?

Admittedly these ones are just pecks but they’re still kisses.

Gummo Trotsky
15 years ago

Can anyone make sense of this little gem of a paragraph? I can’t make head or tail of it.

” ABC broadcasters appear to be protected from accusations of bias by a special set of emperor’s new clothes. Against repeated charges that the national broadcaster is biased, broadcasters and their defenders repeatedly say: bias, what bias?”

The closest I can get to a sensical reading is something like:

“Oh look, the ABC is dressed to the left.”

“No it isn’t, it’s completely naked.”

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
15 years ago

Crikey I wish you’d deal. Of course you can comment and disagree and discuss ways inwhich society may be improved by coming to your particular viewpoint but it seems pointless to snort derisively when some guy expresses the opinion of a huge majority of Australians as if the world has moved on; you have won the argument; and he is some kind of cave dwelling idiot. He may or may not be the idiot but it’s definitely you in the cave.

The world has not moved on – maybe La La ABC planet, which if memory serves was his point rather than not liking gays per se.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

What Yobbo said! Although the women in the article linked to aren’t lesbians, just having a bit of fun.

Unfortunately the kiss example chosen by Gray was poor judgement and detracted from the effect of an otherwise excellent article. It enabled the ABC-philes to ignore everything else but that and to make hay with confected rage about what is after all a fairly trivial issue.

Mark Bahnisch
15 years ago

Perhaps, whyisitso, that’s because it’s the single point that Gray makes about something identifiable that he actually saw on ABC tv?

Although the women in the article linked to aren’t lesbians, just having a bit of fun.

And we all know that lesbians, like lefties, are humourless and never have any fun.

Here’s one for James Hamilton – where’s the outrage at the (shock horror) lesbian kissing on The OC? Or doesn’t Channel 10 have a similar mandate to “defend the values of Australian civilisation”?

David Tiley
15 years ago

I particularly love the theory that Mr Dalton, the new head of ABC teev, will have to look at this.

I looked at the corporate structure on the ABC site recently, to do an article about said appointment. Mr Dalton reports to the managing director, along with a whole slew of others, including the heads of radio, new media, radio australia, corporate stuff and – gasp – news and current affairs.

It is possible to argue to bias in news and current affairs, although I would answer it by discussing the definition of bias, the role of a broadcaster in being adversarial, the larger context of television ownership etc etc.

You can certainly argue that the culture of news and current affairs is very persistent, as it is in most organisations.

But that culture is completely separate from drama, or light entertainment. Comedy has nothing to do with the ABC’s journalists. Neither has drama. Given that they compete for resources, they probably find it hard to share a canteen. Certainly Sandra Levy loathed the idea that her precious drama programs could be interrupted by an emergency news flash, and couldn’t see that maybe she was being stupid.

I think the Shier beast set up a loathsome senior bureaucracy, based on fear, patronage and toadying, with a performance culture based on the wrong things. But it did break open the historical progression of leadership in the various sectors. The senior positions in places like light entertainment, documentary and drama are all recruited from outside, with varied backgrounds, mostly in different parts of the independent sector.

It is pretty hard to argue that the indys are dominated by closet revolutionaries when we all survive in a pretty brutal marketplace. Sure, the government is in it, but it is still driven by money and presales, with the commercial broadcasters locked into the mix. SPAA is not a Trotskyite organisation; it is a hard nosed employer advocacy group which could just as well run the Wheat Board, and would have been just as cynical.

So there ain’t no reason why the alleged bias of news and current affairs should be spread across the organisation, and I have just shown you the practical reasons why it doesn’t.

There is a whole other level about the ABC with its vision of audience and the kind of people it seeks to engage. There is a lot to be said in here, and I don’t want to defend the damp world view of an essentially middle class production sector.

That debate needs to be fairly intricate, as the ABC is also scrabbling for wider audiences and new generations, without ever really understanding its role, and stabilising its place in relation to the commercial broadcasters. After all, why should the government fund a channel nine clone?

But that debate does not work out on party political lines. I don’t think anyone has ever seriously researched the voting patterns of ABC voters. I think it would reveal a lot of liberal voters; a sufficiently fine-grained study would probably reveal that ABC watchers are firmly in the centre of Australian politics, and would vote in a flash for a properly organised centre party. To use that horrible Thatcherite phrase, the “wets” of Australian politics.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
15 years ago

My gosh, next we’ll have fish-kissing Rex Hunt being accused of bestiality.

Gummo Trotsky
15 years ago

There’s lesbian kissing on the OC? Damn, have I been watching the wrong channels.

Now for one more quick derisive snort and I’m out of here again.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
15 years ago

Hi Mark

I dunno where the outrage shock and horror was but it certainly wasn’t with moi.

Regretfully not many of the commentariate (left or right) watch that wonderful show so I guess there is your answer.

I think most people agree (out in punter land) two hot babes kissing is less offensive than two blokes. Having said that I do not think it is a small point that Hollywood is much much better at producing entertainment than Australia and that if the ABC had a lesbian kiss they’d make it cringeworthy.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
15 years ago

Leaving aside news and current affairs David and let’s confess right now that this has no scientific basis we are just having fun working with our guts – what proportion of non news and current affairs staff would you say considered themselves to be anti the Federal Gove or if you like left wing/ALP/Dems?Green voters.

My call is that the proportion of Howard Govt supporting staff members OUTSIDE News and current affairs would be 15% max.

Furthermore I would say that they, with sincerity and good faith of course, consider it acceptable or their obligation to lobby viewers in the manner of what party they support.

That’s how it seems to me when I watch their shows.

What do you honetly think? Make a number up.

David Tiley
15 years ago

Ah James, that is interesting. I have a working assumption that a significant proportion of the entertainment industry vote liberal. I think it is close to the national average and for the same reasons. Mortgages, self preservation, unhappiness at ALP leadership.

I can tell you that the entertainment industry in general despises political drama. No one wants to be preached to, no one wants to be producing stiff, politically correct shows. We just want to have a good time.

I think there are a couple of things that go on in popular entertainment around politics. One is that dramas about supporting the underdog, demonising leaders and revealing conspiracies are basic to human communication.

Another is that discontent about the direction of a government is not the same as voting for the opposition. We could get into a much deeper discussion here about what I reckon is the detachment of politics and community sentiment on a huge scale. Television will be a more accurate representation of sentiment so it is not surprising that it is hostile to governments and politicians in general.

Another is that non-news entertainment is working off sentimental buttons anyway (not be cynical but talking about that is a huge topic of its own). The evening news on Channel Nine gives us bloodstained whales, and we end up feeling yukky about it and then some comedy show is hitting audience buttons with harpoon imitations. Notice how this can flow in racist directions very easily, particularly with this example.

Entertainment deals in a modicum of transgression, often to assert normal morality. It goes back to Graham Kennedy, and out to Network Ten’s Big Brother penis. Gray is objecting to the naughtiness syndrome. Again, we can note that this is inhibited in a right wing direction.

As a guess, I think we on this site would generally think that racist and homophobic and generally sexist jokes should be discouraged. Anti-semitic too. If you don’t then you are in the odd position of criticising entertainers for being leftists, but thinking they should be allowed to do exactly as they like. To his credit, Gray was arguing to repress comedians further, so there is no element of special pleading – he is a complete as opposed to a partial wowser.

Because we have had a Howard government since 1996, it is easy to forget what happens in the ABC when the ALP is in power. Remember those puppets of Paul Keating? Clarke and Doyle?

No friends of the government, who were hopping up and down about them as well.

I think that is where we end up in this discussion. We live in an iconoclastic, cynical and anti-authoritarian society, and our entertainment reflects that fact. Around the bar, we take the piss out of politicians, and guess what is on the television?

As I said above, the damp middle classedness of thing is not the same issue. In fact, the Camberwell Woman (person?) view of ABC drama is inclined to the libs, if anything. And the socially less pretentious versions on commercial television are still sucking on the same sentimental straw.

What is more, the commercial shows can demonstrate very clearly they are giving the audience what it wants. It might prefer better (we hope so anyway) but it is not resentful of the pitch.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

Actually, I don’t have any problem with a media outlet showing bias. There are a multiplicity of media outlets these days, and there would be a lot more if the government didn’t continue with ridiculous restrictions on the number of outlets that could barely justified in the fifties when airspace was genuinely a scarce resource. The only reason that these restrictions continue is for patronage purposes (pork barrelling, boondoggling, etc).

But it’s obscene that an unaccountable cabal of staff members have control over hundreds of millions of dollars of funding “supervised” by an ineffectual board and a government that is totally unable to represent the electorate in this case because the ABC staff effectively has “independence.”

Independence from elected governments is something that properly belongs to the judiciary only. No group of “public servants” ought to be able to claim independence from our elected representatives.

Ron
Ron
15 years ago

“it is easy to forget what happens in the ABC when the ALP is in power”

Exactly, David. Because the ABC has a tendency to be more critical (via news, current affairs or puppets) of the government of the day, it can have the appearance of too much bias. Because commercial stations don’t have programmes like ‘Lateline’ and ‘The 7.30 Report’, we don’t really get see this critical examination of the govt by them.

Next time the ALP is in power (will I live that long?), then we will hear cries of anti-ALP bias at the ABC just as we did during the Hawke/Keating years.

Talking of ABC bias, surely the Murdoch programme ‘The Insiders’ on Sunday mornings must keep the right happy?

See it’s all in the eyes of the beholder.

Ron
Ron
15 years ago

Goebbels would have agreed with you completely, whyisitso.

The whole point of the ABC is that it cannot be an arm of the govt of the day otherwise it would be just an extension of the govt’s already bloated and obscene advertising spending (I can’t say budget here because there seems to be no limit to how much its willing to spend).

It’s an entertainment not a govt propanda dept.

David Tiley
15 years ago

The question of the board is a familiar argument. After ten years of power, the Liberal appointed ABC board has surely had time to clean up what the Right says is the mess, if it existed. They have had three managing directors to do it. The ABC has spent around six or seven billion dollars while the Libs held the purse strings.

The Liberal government has appointed well know strident public critics of bias – Kroger, Albrechtsen and Pearson – to the boards of its public broadcasters. None of these people have staggered away and resigned, claiming that the monsters are too powerful to control.

I am not an expert on this, but there does seem to be deep division inside the government on these questions. I have had a senior SBS person tell me repeatedly that he had met Robert Alston several times in the course of his work, and that each time Alston had encouraged him to think independently and be more provocative.

It is a matter of public record that the AFC was opposed to the FTA provisions about film and television. Not surprising since the AFC will be hobbled by this in the end. Kim Dalton as CEO went to Los Angeles to lobby on the matter. He was not a maverick public servant – he was supported by his board, also appointed during the Libs term of office.

Right now, on the AFC website, you can find David Kemp being effusive about Kim since he has left the organisation. If the Libs were being monolithic, you would expect Kemp to loathe Dalton, and that the ABC Board would not sign off on his appointment. Head of Television at the ABC.

As I keep on saying when this topic comes up, there’s a lot wrong with the ABC, but political bias as such ain’t the problem.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

I’m not maintaining that the bias is anti- of pro- any particular political party. The bias is ideological. The Lib-Lab thing is just a crap thing the left keeps making to divert attention to the deep ideological bias of the ABC.

Forget about Goebbels, Ron. I’d rather the government didn’t even own a media outlet, hardly something Goebbels would hardly agree with. Or perhaps he might, given that he controlled all media anyway, private or public.

The cleaning-up of the ABC by the ineffectual board was shelved as too hard after the Shier experience. They surrendered meekly then, being routed by the staff. They haven’t had the integrity to resign because their sinecures are too agreeable.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
15 years ago

“Ah James, that is interesting. I have a working assumption that a significant proportion of the entertainment industry vote liberal. I think it is close to the national average and for the same reasons. Mortgages, self preservation, unhappiness at ALP leadership.

I can tell you that the entertainment industry in general despises political drama. No one wants to be preached to, no one wants to be producing stiff, politically correct shows. We just want to have a good time.”

Gosh David you are lucky to feel that way because my perception of bias in the arts industry gives me ulcers (actually it doesn’t according our Nobel laureates but you get my drift). I work in the industry, in a vague way.

I think the Hawke/Keating govts were attacked by the ABC from the left so “we got stuck into Labor govts too” doesn’t count.

I think that the entertainment industry despises other peoples political drama but they fail to feel the same way about their own.

There is something a tad cowardly and repressed about Australian writing and the writing of performing arts. There is a real reluctance to run the orange light or swim outside the flags. We can do quirky (sometimes) and pretty much stuff all else.

The OC eats Secret Life Of US and Headland. Eats it. I watch Big Brother Uncut because those drongos are at least real and they are getting their gear off. In drama I am not getting even that simple truth. Carnivale. I saw the ads and vomitted. Wankers.

I am not looking for a right wing comedian or a right wing script writer – they’d be even worse I think – I want one who gloriously and least profressionally does not give a flying root for asylum seekers/gays/trees/whales. I want one who does not even read the papers or blogs. Aspergically unaware of Society. In short David Marr in his class to writers last year or the year before was 100% wrong. John Doyle, that wonderful talented dry funny writer prattling on about a Law Student and some Burka Girl. What a travesty.

Bono says on the cover of Rolling Stone “Iam sick of Bono, and I AM Bono”. Very nice but it doesn’t shut him up, does it, the tosser.

David Tiley
15 years ago

“There is something a tad cowardly and repressed about Australian writing and the writing of performing arts. There is a real reluctance to run the orange light or swim outside the flags. We can do quirky (sometimes) and pretty much stuff all else.”

Aha! I would say a lot of smug mediocrity, dignified by the undoubted struggle to survive. That is one reason why industry events so often start by talking about content and ending up on money.

I don’t think I am quite as critical as you are, but I certainly don’t believe Australian screen people can often raise the defence of genius.

But we don’t agree about the cause – I think an interest in ideology, politics or causes is independent of imagination and empathy.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
15 years ago

“There is something a tad cowardly and repressed about Australian writing and the writing of performing arts. There is a real reluctance to run the orange light or swim outside the flags. We can do quirky (sometimes) and pretty much stuff all else.”

Gummo Trotsky
15 years ago

Wasn’t Gray’s complaint that the all-male snog on Spicks and Specks was running his orange light and swimming outside his set of flags?

The OC might eat Secret Lives. but that little gem The Surgeon on Channel 10 last year ate every US medical series ever produced. Shows what you can do with a small budget and tight scripting. Hearsay has it that even a few medicos are impressed with its accuracy.

Yobbo
Yobbo
15 years ago

“And we all know that lesbians, like lefties, are humourless and never have any fun.”

Actually I think the point he was making is that girls weren’t actually lesbians. The reporter interviewed one of their boyfriends.

If you’ve been inside a nightclub in the last 15 years you’d probably know there’s a fair bit of fake lesbianism around – it’s a sure fire way to get the attention of all the guys.

“Here’s one for James Hamilton – where’s the outrage at the (shock horror) lesbian kissing on The OC? Or doesn’t Channel 10 have a similar mandate to “defend the values of Australian civilisation”

Tiny Tyrant
15 years ago

Expecting the ABC to shoot itself in the foot and reflect the attitudes of a minority is ridiculous.

The bulk of the ABC’s programmes reflect Australian’s attitudes, generally. Unfortunately, for some, it is the majority. If the right-wingers (or whatever they are) don’t like it they can either leave the country or, get off their arses and change Australia. Then they’ll see what they want on the national broadcaster.

Yobbo
Yobbo
15 years ago

“The bulk of the ABC’s programmes reflect Australian’s attitudes, generally. Unfortunately, for some, it is the majority. If the right-wingers (or whatever they are) don’t like it they can either leave the country or, get off their arses and change Australia.”

If the ABC’s view is the majority, then why has the right won the last 3 elections?

Or did you mean “the majority view amongst the important people and the rednecks who voted for Howard don’t count”?

ABC supporters sure will leave no lie untold in their quest to rob Australian taxpayers….

Gummo Trotsky
15 years ago

Shorter Yobbo:

The ABC doesn’t reflect my attitudes, so it must be biased.

Mark Bahnisch
15 years ago
Barfenzie
15 years ago

But did they kiss under the mistletoe?