Academics who study popular culture marvel at how Hollywood has used its propagandistic powers to sell social issues. This normally means persuading by any dramatic means necessary that traditional values are not only wrong but archaic, even dangerous. It's not enough to disagree with a conservative position. Hollywood must demonize it, suggest that conservatism is not just unworkable, but dark. When failure comes, they imagine some fraudulent conservative's going to lash out in rage and kill.
On perhaps no issue is there more built-in cultural politics -- and manifest hyperbole -- than homosexuality. Beginning in the mid-1970s, homosexuals regularly have been presented on television as positive characters often treated in shabbily negative (read: bigoted) ways. In 1979, professor Michael Robinson wrote that prime time's "favorite innocent victim ... was clearly the misunderstood, harassed homosexual."
Hollywood's pro-gay attitudes run very strong. Researchers Stanley Rothman and Amy Black found in 1995 that Hollywood elites were even more strongly liberal than the news media elites: Not only did 79 percent agree that homosexuality is as acceptable a lifestyle as heterosexuality, but 51 percent "strongly agreed."
The product echoes the mindset. For the November sweeps, several crime dramas have attempted to goose their ratings (and, presumably, feel good about themselves simultaneously) by focusing on plots of "anti-gay" violence. On CBS's Sunday night drama "Cold Case," which airs at 8 p.m., Eastern time, lead character Lilly Rush reopens the case of a 1964 murder of a gay baseball player. (The episode, titled "A Time to Hate," was written by lesbian writer-producer Jan Oxenberg.)
The police learn that not only did the local neighborhood thugs love to brutalize men coming out of a gay bar, but that back then, the cops had a unit called "Russo's Raiders" that would raid the bar and beat up the clientele. "Those kinda raids was open season on fags," explained one witness. Then the detectives interview "Tinkerbell," a cross-dresser who was beaten and who knew the abusers. That leads them to the killer, a man named Tim. We learn in black-and-white flashbacks that the cops were there and walked away as Tim and his friends used the gay man's head for batting practice until he was dead.
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