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Some people were calling Super Bowl XLVI "the gayest Super Bowl ever" the moment Madonna was announced as the half-time performer, and maybe they're right — though I'm not sure if Madge's presence was the only reason. (If we want to talk about stereotypically gay performances, XXVI had Gloria Estefan and figure skating.) No, what tipped me off was the total lack of homophobia in the highly scrutinized commercials; generally you can count on a beer, car, or candy company to throw in some kind of gay-panic humor or swishy lisper into at least one commercial. Instead, one ad — part of Toyota Camry's "Reinvented" campaign — side-stepped what in any other year would have been the most obvious moment of cheap homophobic humor, and another, for H&M, was made up of lingering shots of David Beckham's underwear-clad body. (Lookin' good, Becks.)
Does that mean that GLAAD finally got a year off from writing an angry rant the day after the big game? Of course not — the organization just had to look a little further for the outrage. And they found it in the tweets of CNN contributor Roland S. Martin, who took the above H&M ad to task:
Martin tweeted “Ain’t no real bruhs going to H&M to buy some damn David Beckham underwear!
#superbowl,” “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl,” and “I bet soccer fan @piersmorgan will be in line at H&M in the morning to get his hands on David Bechman’s [sic] underwear line! LOL #superbowl.“
Some Twitter followers immediately called Martin out on what looked like some straight-up schoolyard gay jokes; Martin responded that his real motivation was making fun of people who like soccer. And then, because they can't not, GLAAD got involved. And I mean really involved: they've started an online petition to get Martin fired from CNN, citing not just the tweets he wrote last night but also other statements he's made in his career.
Let me be clear: I think it's great that GLAAD is willing to tirelessly call out homophobia in advertising and media, even when it starts to annoy people. Believe me, there's still more of it out there than you might imagine and someone has to raise some hell about it. And GLAAD's not wrong; Martin's jokes carried implicit notions of homophobia, even if Martin himself didn't realize it as he was making them. (And I bet he really thinks they're not.) The group's also not wrong when they point out that Martin's wife's work "counsel[ing] many men and women to walk away from the gay lifestyle" and his support of that work is hands-down gross. But I think this petition is simply the wrong way to handle the situation.
Why? Well, for one thing, a lot of people won't get why Martin's jokes are so offensive; "it's just a joke" is still, to many, a get-out-of-jail-free card; the call to fire Martin probably won't win them over. Hold Martin accountable for his remarks, yes — ask for an apology, ask CNN to reprimand him, make some big noise about how his jokes are both homophobic and not funny to boot. But I think the more important work to be done here is getting people to understand why those tweets were inappropriate. Now's a good time to talk about how just because a joke didn't use the word "fag" doesn't mean it's a-okay. How you might make a homophobic joke even if you consider yourself LGBT-friendly because, hey, our society is homophobic and there will be things you don't even question — until someone tells you that you should.
And you know what? Maybe we should have Martin's voice on CNN, just so we can debate him and prove him wrong. Enough people believe in conversion therapy that it's an issue we should confront head-on. We have homophobes running for president; at least TV pundits get called out on their bullshit once in a while. He did something stupid, yes. People should hear about how dumb it was. But give him an earful, see if he responds, and then just leave him behind. Move on to the bigger, harder job of educating people about underlying homophobia that is still so invisible to those who have never felt its sting. (To paraphrase the cliché, don't miss the forest for the homophobic trees.) I'd much rather spend time doing that then getting this guy canned.
After all, Martin's only on CNN. Do people even watch that station anymore?