A Super Bowl ad too far? Straights can take it
On Sunday, as I hunker down with family and friends for the Super Bowl, I can rest easy knowing that CBS is working hard to defend my heterosexual sensitivities. On the surface, heterosexuality doesn't seem like a particularly distinctive trait or one in need of broad institutional protections, but many seem to believe that we heterosexuals are delicate souls.
The media, the government, the military -- all are ready to head off potential sightings of gay people.
In the case of the Super Bowl, CBS has refused to broadcast an ad by the gay dating Web site ManCrunch. The ad opens with two men watching a football game, one wearing a Vikings jersey, the other a Packers jersey. It starts out like a typical red-blooded football commercial, with the Vikings guy taunting his buddy and yelling, "You suck!" They simultaneously reach for the bowl of chips. Their hands touch. They look at each other. And then . . . they make out.
It's a pretty funny ad. A little juvenile, but certainly no more so than your average Super Bowl commercial fare. It's not the slightest bit racy -- the whole thing has a nod-and-wink, stage-kiss quality to it. And as The Post's Jonathan Capehart noted, given the utter dearth of meaningful political messages, it may not be worthy of cause célèbre status.
On the other hand, it's the very inanity of the commercial that makes its blacklisting so glaring. If we can't handle this, what can we handle?
CBS didn't bother to offer a real explanation for the ban, saying simply, "the creative is not within the network's broadcast standards for Super Bowl Sunday." Let's review those standards. In 2007, the last time CBS broadcast the Super Bowl, it ran a Snickers commercial featuring an inadvertent heterosexual man-on-man kiss. The second-to-last time, in 2004, the esteemed network shared Janet Jackson's nipple with the country.
So what is so offensive about the ManCrunch ad? I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's the gay part. Apparently, we can't have our Super Bowl disrupted by gayness, particularly in high-def on the big screen. Heterosexuality has never felt so fragile.
On an issue of much greater significance, Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate on Tuesday that the military's cynical and disingenuous "don't ask, don't tell" policy raises institutional integrity concerns. Colin Powell, one of the original champions of the policy, later joined in saying that the policy's time has passed.
But just when you thought no one would stand up for straight people's right to stick their heads in the sand, Senate Republicans came forward with one last bigoted defense. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) was famous for attacking the patriotism of triple-amputee veteran Max Cleland during their 2002 Senate race. Now you can remember Chambliss as the guy who fought valiantly to keep an estimated 65,000 gay members of the military in the closet.
In Chambliss's view, two things will happen if service members start admitting they are gay. First, morale, order and discipline will suffer. Second: locusts. Okay, he didn't say locusts. But he did say that "alcohol use, adultery, fraternization and body art" would soon follow. I find this assertion particularly shocking, since I have never heard of people in the military drinking beer or getting tattoos.
There is no better exemplar of the schizophrenia of the "don't ask, don't tell" culture than the positions of John and Cindy McCain. In Tuesday's hearing, John McCain rose to defend current military policy, claiming potential damage to "unit cohesion." Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, his wife recently joined a publicity campaign in support of gay marriage. And here's the crazy thing: These two positions are not mutually exclusive in modern America. You can support gay people's right to get married and still insist they don't talk about it.
The District, barring last-minute congressional intervention, will soon join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont in legally recognizing same-sex marriages. This sets up a rather awkward situation where legally married military service members would be forced to deny the existence of their spouses.
CBS is comfortable reporting about gay people and noting that sometimes they even get married. It just doesn't want you to think about how they move down the path from single to married. (Wait: it involves dating? And kissing?)
"Don't ask, don't tell" has encouraged the NIMBYing of the gay community. When the government says to its largest group of employees, "We think gay people are fine, we just think they should keep the gay part to themselves," it's not shocking that this message carries over to other sectors.
The vast majority of Americans now say they have a close friend or relative who is gay or lesbian. This may be a radical proposition, but maybe it's time for our cultural institutions to go ahead and let people out of the closet. Somehow, I suspect the heterosexual community will survive.
The writer won The Post's America's Next Great Pundit contest.