Queers 1, Kennywood 0.
As we reported last week, Kennywood, the bastion of local family fun, was producing a pirate themed show that featured homophobic content … lispy voice, gay kissing panic, you know the drill. In response to a complaint, Kennywood General Manager Jerome Gibis said he didn't find the content offensive and wasn't going to change the content without more complaints.
Intrepid Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force employee, Mary Hawk, brought the issue to the attention of Pittsburgh's gay community via email. Word spread like wildfire. And the complaints commenced. No numbers are available, but apparently the threshhold for “a lot” was surpassed by Saturday afternoon.
Mary received a call from Mr. Gibis, informing her that the offensive lines were removed. She shared the good news by email:
“I wanted to let you know that I just got a
call from Jerome Gibis at Kennywood, who said they had removed the
remarks we were concerned about from the dive show. Apparently, he
got quite a few phone calls yesterday and today. Thank you all for
forwarding the message, and to those of you who made calls.”
Local queer advocate Ehrrin Keenan, owner the queer-events email list, got involved and sent me a transcript of her telephone conversation with Mr. Gibis:
> JG: Hi, I'm returning your call regarding your concern with the
> content of our of our shows.
> EK: Yes, hello. Thank you for calling.
> JG: Can I ask how you heard about this?
> EK: Sure. I received an email that was forwarded from an email that
> Mary Hawk sent out to her co-workers after her conversation with you
> about the homophobic content in the “Pirates of Kenny Cove” show.
> JG: Yeah, I guess Mary told a lot of people.
> EK: Yep. And, lots of other people told their friends, and friends
> of friends, etc. You told Mary that you required “additional
> comments” before you'd consider removing that content from the
> show. I, and many others, wanted to make sure you received the
> comments you needed.
> JG: Well, it really was only about three words. I mean, it's
> entertainment, and everyone has a different idea about what's
> funny, so we can't change everything just because one person
> doesn't like it
.> EK: I think Mary explain pretty thoroughly that it had nothing to do
> with whether she “liked it” or not. It had to do with a particular
> scene that was homophobia parading as comedy. She also explained
> exactly why it was offensive, and who it could harm, and how it could
> harm them.
> JG: Well, everyone has a different idea of what's funny.
> EK: Indeed. Some people find homophobia funny. Some people find
> racism funny, too, but we generally recognize that those things
> aren't acceptable, and in fact, can be very, very harmful.
> JG: We removed it, so that was all I was calling to say.> So, yeah. He didn't remove it because it was the right thing to
> do, or because he saw the point when someone brought it up to him,
> but because he got too many calls and emails and wanted it to stop
I wonder if Jerome listened to Don Imus? Because he comes across like an ignorant oaf. I mean seriously, dude, how can you not recognize that a prancing, lisping gay pirate offering to perform mouth mouth resucitation is homophobic? The whole point of the “joke” is to mock homosexuals. I fail to see how a man bright enough to run an amusement park could miss that point. Obviously, Kennywood needs to work on their cultural sensitivity training. Or their management training.
Ehrrin makes an excellent point about the motivation for the change — nothing to do with righting a wrong or addressing homophobia. Rather, it was simply a matter of appearsing a vocal minority. Kennywood doesn't give a damn about inciting gay bashing; they just want the homos to stop calling.
Nonetheless, the queer community should be very proud of this small success. Stamping out offensive language that could potentially harm our children (and the children of straight folks) is an important thing and kudos to everyone who took the time to make those phone calls.
Good job, gay people!
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