The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation threw its support Wednesday behind a petition — started by a 20-year-old gay Eagle Scout — to get NatGeo to slap a disclaimer onto the start of each “Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?” episode.
The show is being used to market Boy Scouts to young viewers and drive up membership, which makes NatGeo a “strategic business partner of the BSA,” GLAAD said.
NatGeo gave The TV Column the same statement that it gave GLAAD on the subject, saying that the cable net is an equal-opportunity employer and that it does “not discriminate in any capacity.”
As for the show, NatGeo said: “We certainly appreciate all points of view on the topic, but when people see our show, they will realize it has nothing to do with this debate [over the Boy Scouts’ LGBT policy], and is in fact a competition series between individual scouts and civilians.”
“Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?” — which is slated to debut in March — is being produced for NatGeo by Thomas Beers, the guy behind “Deadliest Catch” and “Ice Road Truckers.”
One year ago, NatGeo Channel President Howard Owens told TV critics that the network had started production on the reality series, in which “weekend warriors, who believe they’re at the top of their game, will compete with the country’s best and brightest Boy Scouts of America” for merit badges in various challenges based on the Scouts’ century-old guidebook.
Beers said that the show would provide guys like himself, who had come within three badges of achieving Eagle Scout status, a second chance, adding: “Frankly, who doesn’t love the Boy Scouts?”
Well, GLAAD, for one. Its president, Herndon Graddick, said in a statement Wednesday that the fact “that National Geographic would brush aside countless gay teens’ suffering at the hands of the BSA, shrugging off injustice as just another ‘point of view,’ is irresponsible.”
Not coincidentally, GLAAD has jumped into this controversy on the eve of a BSA webinar that will teach organization leaders how to use the show to drive local recruitment and fundraising.
In its fall progress report, the Boy Scouts of America anticipated that the show would “generate between 3 [million] and 4 million viewers per episode.”
“It’s all too clear that this show is just a marketing ploy, crafted by the BSA to boost dwindling membership and distract Americans from the Scouts’ long history of discrimination,” GLAAD’s Graddick said.
“National Geographic Channel is the means to that end and must therefore make it clear where the network stands.”