Last season, the hit CBS sitcom “Mike and Molly” went astray with two jokes about transgender women, specifically using the slur “shemale.” That very same weekend, a movie starring Melissa McCarthy used another slur, “tranny.” Trish provided some brilliant insight into exactly why these terms are slurs and not fodder for humor, especially on CBS sitcoms.
CBS officials met with GLAAD and I had hoped things would get better. GLAAD was also concerned about the depiction of transgender characters on the various procedural shows.
So I was literally stunned into silence last night when we tuned in to the second episode of the season. I had heard that the writers were planning to turn Molly more into the assorted hard-ass woman movie characters McCarthy plays in her successful movies, so I expected the show to be a bit more coarse.
Ha. In the first 15 minutes, I counted:
- lesbian prison bitch joke
- lesbian prison rape joke
- “straight men perceived as gay” meme aka homophobia
- soap on a rope in the locker room joke
- Carl kissed a transwoman ha ha ha joke
- misgendering said transwoman who was sitting right there, multiple times
- asking transwoman how she manages her genitals followed by a joke
Lousette and Carl in the episode in question
That’s when I turned off the television.
None of this was the actual plot – it was all filler and jokes. So I assume the writers are basically telling the LGBTQ community to fuck off and that we’ll laugh at what they want us to laugh about. No one tells Billy and Melissa how to be funny, gay or not. They are STARS. She’s a movie star! He’s from Pittsburgh! They also mock fat people, old people, drug users, lonely people and so forth. All of those things that are just like being gay or transgender. Right? Oh, wait …
Here’s the thing CBS. This happens to be Transgender Awareness Week, leading up to the Trans Day of Remembrance. A few facts to note:
- In 2012, 53% of LGBTQ victims of murder were transgender women.
- In 2013, Cemia (CeCe) Acoff of Cleveland and Diamond Williams of Philadelphia were both brutally murdered and then further harassed in death by the media coverage of their identities. They are just two among many, but the two closest to Pittsburgh.
- 73.1% of anti-LGBTQ homicides were people of color
- Another fun fact about Pittsburgh – MC Hammer teamed up with Clear Channel and I Heart Radio for the annual “Trannies and Grannies” event.
These people’s lives are not jokes. Right here in Pittsburgh, we had three public criminal incidents – two assaults and a murder – that involved members of our community. It’s not funny, Billy, cause maybe you know their uncles or second cousins or something. Maybe you’ve been to that bar on the South Side. You might even know the perps – the murderers and the bashers - they might be fans! So might the survivors or the man who did not survive. Who knows?
And you and Melissa just reinforced all of that violence. For what end? To prove you are funny? A hit sitcom on a major network isn’t enough for you? Is it about art? Or free speech? I didn’t hear you call Carl the n-word. You don’t describe your sister-in-law as a the c-word. But you take potshots at my community to what end?
The truth is I’m not going to miss your show. I simply have too many alternatives thanks to other networks, cable and Netflix. No biggie. And to my pleasant surprise, quite a few people today seem to be googling for information on your homophobia and transphobia.
Let’s be clear, Billy and Melissa, this is on you as well as the network. You are both homophobes and transphobes, bigots and culpable for what people do with the hate you spew. I’d love if Billy has the decency to come down to the LGBTQ Community Center the next time he’s in Pittsburgh and talk with 14 year old trans and queer kids living on the streets because their parents rejected them. Or sit in a TransPitt meeting to talk with men and women in their 50s and 60s who are just now brave enough to be their true self. Or watch this video about the resources invested in helping these kids, one by one. But I’m sure he’s never going to do that. The only celebrities who do that are either under incredible duress for a major faux pas OR allies. He’s not either of those things.
CBS has demonstrated – from daytime to primetime – that they are not invested in fair and interesting portrayals of LGBTQ characters. We get a few bones tossed our way, but they continue to offer up the most vulnerable memes for the sake of ratings.
But there’s another message- if you find the idea that a woman was beaten to a pulp, tied up with chains and thrown into a body of water attached to concrete, why are you listening to I Heart Radio? Why are you supporting “Trannies and Grannies” by supporting that station? Because they are cool? As long as we create the marketplace for this garbage, someone is going to produce it.
So it really comes back to us to stand up and live our beliefs and values. “Trannies and Grannies” v Diamond being “hacked to death” and Cemia being tied to a cement block in a pond? It is your conscience, but their lives.