Monday, November 22, 2010

What Would You Do?

It's 2010. Wouldn't you expect people to be a lot less disrespectful/downright hateful of gays by now? Maybe I'm overestimating the altruism and compassion of the human race but I would think that most people have learned to keep anti-gay comments, especially ones directed at gay people/gay couples (to their faces!), to themselves. What is truly surprising though is the fact that, although
Hate crime laws exist both federally and at the state level to protect victims of crimes based on gender, religion and race, only 31 states include statutes for victims of sexual orientation bias and there is no federal legislation that protects them. Hate crime laws allow the FBI to intervene in these incidents and also enable the prosecution of these crimes to be more severe... so what, gay people just don't count?
I bring this up because of the airing of the ABC News show entitled "What Would You Do?", which stages scenarios usually with a victim and a perpetrator, with actors in public places and hidden cameras and which aims to see what ordinary people would do in situations that may require them to step in and help the victim. In this particular episode, which aired in March of 2009, was about gay bashing at a sports bar, and sought to find out whether people in the bar would help out a gay couple who were getting bashed loudly and to their faces. The youtube clip is posted above, as well as Anneke Foster's write up for the episode (posted right below).
So basically, two actors who pose as an affectionate gay couple in a New Jersey sports bar get harassed both behind their backs and to their faces by another actor... at first. After the basher makes various comments like "Is this common for the area?" and "After a while, you lose your appetite you know?", it becomes clear both how many people agree and how many find his comments disgusting. At first, a few men around the "gay-basher" seem to agree with him, and one even remarks "I've been here a lot of times. First for me." Later on in the clip, a man remarks that what he sees "disgusts him".

Just when you think no one will come to the gay couple's defense, a man near the gay-basher tells him, very loudly, to "I'm getting tired of hearing you, shut up!" Even later on, when the owner of the bar asks the gay couple to "tone it down" (having been asked to by ABC for the sake of the scenario), a woman confronts both the actor gay-basher and a the real gay-basher who had remarked "it disgusts me", defends the gay couple, and emotionally storms out of the bar.

The two aspects of this scenario that I find really interesting are the following:

1.They also put two heterosexual actors at the other side of the room, showing the SAME kind of affection towards one another. Did anyone complain about that? Nope.

2.The two actors who pose as the gay couple really ARE a gay couple. They disclose to us that they're used to having to "tone down" their affection for each other in public places due to others' reactions.

In a way, the light through the tunnel is visible; despite the disgusting comments that the few people made, there were a lot of people who came to the couple's defense and I'd like to think I would do the same... What would you do?

1 comment:

  1. Oh! And another thing I wanted to point out.. the fact that the straight men that made anti-gay comments had to make it obvious to the public that they were in fact anti-gay makes it clear that they are not very secure about how their sexuality, their "manliness" comes off to everyone else. By announcing that they were anti-gay, these men tried to make themselves seem more "straight". Typical...put down someone else to make yourself look "better". That being said, it seems obvious to me that those men who stood up for the gay couple were very comfortable with their sexuality and how they were perceived by others. Stepping in for the couple did not mean they were at all gay, or identified with queerness, they simply recognized that bashing gays was wrong and stepped up.