Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Nickelodeon will air a TV show that portrays homosexuality in a positive light.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2002]
Origins: In early May 2002 incitements to sign a petition opposing a proposed gaycentric segment of Nick News began to percolate through the online community. The segment is a reality and is being planned as a news special described as "engag[ing] children in a discussion over gay parenting and discrimination against homosexuals." To Nickelodeon, it's about addressing issues kids typically face, as many of them have schoolmates who hail from same-sex households. To the Traditional Values Coalition, the group pushing the petition drive, the focus of the segment amounts to an airing of "the homosexual
How one views this topic and the uproar over it will depend in great part upon that person's personal views about homosexuality, as tempered by his or her assessment of the impressionability of children. The petitions intended to drum support for the anti-gay side are often inflammatory, however, so those leaning towards that view will have to do a bit of judicious filtering prior to giving this a real think-over. (The example quoted above is of the milder variety. Other versions we've seen claim gays "are aggressively targeting children for homosexual recruitment!" and the proposed show "will promote homosexual sodomy." Nickelodeon spokesman David Bittler said the show is not about sexuality, but it does offer a chance for children to talk about different family structures, including gay and straight parenting. To us that doesn't sound like the recruitment drive for the bathhouses some of the petitions are making it out to be.)
The Nick News segment in question, "My Family Is Different" (produced by newswoman Linda Ellerbee) will air on Tuesday,
Both sides have expressed their stances on the appropriateness of Nickelodeon's programming. Producer Linda Ellerbee said of the show:
[It's] about families, diversity, respect and tolerance.Jerry Falwell opined:
If we're saying gay people deserve tolerance and respect, we're also saying that people are entitled to their own opinions. This is not a show about how one knows her or she is gay; it's not about sex and it does not tell you what to think.
I'm not naive. Having Rosie on tells me that the idea is to sell the children something they shouldn't be selling.However, most of the major television reviewers who've actually viewed the finished program seem to feel the advance criticism was overblown. The Washington Post's Tom Shales wrote:
I personally think that since Rosie O'Donnell is participating
It is unthinkable that Nick would open its airwaves for the promotion of a lifestyle that most people of faith do not approve of and certainly to take advantage of the minds of little children who trust Nickelodeon.
Seldom has a milder-mannered television program caused a more inappropriate hullabaloo than Linda Ellerbee's "Nick News" special about children who have gay parents. The half-hour report, airing tonight at 9 on Nickelodeon, has been the object of outrage and rebuke ever since its topic was announcedAnd Howard Rosenberg of the Los Angeles Times weighed in with:
All Ellerbee does on the special — part of a series of Nick News reports on the theme "My Family Is Different" — is interview children roughly 10 to
The show itself is, like most Nick News programs, straightforward and diligent, allowing more than one side of the issue to be examined and mercifully refraining from politically correct preachiness. What's scary about the kind of protest that has been mounted is that it seeks to suppress all debate rather than merely put forth a viewpoint; the protesters are saying that merely by acknowledging the existence of same-sex living arrangements, the producers are automatically encouraging them or advocating acceptance of them.
Ellerbee, longtime host and producer of "Nick News," keeps the promise she makes here not to tell kids "what to think" about homosexuality. Instead, in addition to Falwell, there's a short film about the pressures schoolmates put on a 12-year-old girl because she has "two moms." And Ellerbee — as always approaching her subject from a young perspective without talking down — explores the hate issue with youngsters in the studio, all of whom appear to be among the most thoughtful kids on the planet.So, something along the lines of what the Traditional Values Coalition has been decrying will air (although Nickelodeon "would not confirm whether the special would be converted into a classroom lesson plan like Ellerbee's other Nick News projects"). Whether the end result will be a "show promoting homosexuality to little children" remains to be seen.
As the host mostly just listens, three say they have at least one gay parent, and three say they believe homosexuality to be "wrong." Several represent minorities historically victimized in the United States by the same kind of hate and prejudice inflicted on gays.
"It's against our religion," a Muslim girl says of homosexuality. "But it's also against our religion to discriminate." A strong message, another strong Ellerbee show — one that parents should join their kids in watching.
Barbara "nick knack" Mikkelson
Last updated: 5 January 2008
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