Regarding Anti-Gay Imagery in Children’s Shows

June 9, 2007

Imagine my surprise when I was watching a movie on Nickelodeon with my kids, and the characters were insinuating that gay relationships were something worth being bullied/beaten up over.  Imagine my horror when that happened not once, but over and over again.  Terrible.  And rooted in the flawed theology that we are not equal.  My open letter to Viacom is below.  Write your own, if you want; you can find their email addresses here.

An open letter to Viacom, owner of Nickelodeon Networks

I own several mutual funds that hold shares of Viacom in their portfolio.

As an indirect owner of Viacom, I am usually proud to allow my children to watch the Nickelodeon networks.  Spongebob is one of our favorite programs.

This evening, however, we did not have a positive experience with your network.

The much-hyped movie, Shrederman Rules, contained repeated use of homophobic and heterosexist imagery and references.  The lead character was repeatedly chastised for being perceived as gay.  A few examples:  the definition of loser included the word “pansy.” Next, he was embarrassed when his parents wanted to show him a video of his best male friend proposing marriage to him at five years old.  Then, the bully character planted signs saying that the lead character was in love with him (thus apparently intending to humiliate him), demeaning gay relationships.  I finally turned off the show, for fear that the continual bombardment of anti-gay themed images would be too detrimental on my children.

I am a proud gay parent of two wonderful children.  I take very careful steps in monitoring what my children watch to ensure that the hatred and bigotry present in so much of the world does not carry into my home.  In what I thought was a safe place, Nickelodeon, you violated that trust by demeaning me, my relationship with my children’s other father, and reinforced to children everywhere that gay men and lesbians everywhere are second class citizens and that it is ok to treat us poorly.  You undermined what I am teaching my children about the relationship between their two dads, and made them question whether or not it is really ok to be gay.

Shame on you.  It is not ok to legitimize such acts of discrimination for children.  If you had done so by using negative racial overtones or by demeaning women you would never have aired such offensive programming.  I expect you to hold yourselves to the same standard for us.

I am in seminary in the Episcopal church in order to become a priest.  Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people have been the butt of jokes for too long.  I certainly hope that the value of minority discrimination is not something that your network thinks is so funny that it should teach our children that it is ok to continue such oppressive and dehumanizing behavior.

Jeff Martinhauk
Shredderman Rules

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