If we learned anything from last month's fervor over The Interview, it's that in some part of the world, a head of state is convinced that Seth Rogen is so influential, his movies need to be stopped at all costs. But we also learned that, if audiences are led to believe that a film is so controversial that it can't even be released, they'll be chomping at the bit to see it. Hype sells. It got a poorly reviewed movie a ton of attention. And now it's doing the same for a new reality show.
Like the four men it features, TLC's My Husband's Not Gay has managed to offend people even though it has yet to come out. Set to debut this weekend, the program has already received protests from everyone from Christians to advocacy groups like the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)... and, in the process, a whole lot of publicity. The show's ability to upset such a diverse cross-section of America might suggest that it's doing something very wrong. In a world where TV ratings mean everything for cable networks, however, it is doing something very right.
Media outlets have already devoted a great deal of time and attention to the story this week. Whether it's the 80,000-plus people who have signed a Change.org online petition to block the show's debut, whether it's the statement issued by an inexplicably wounded GLAAD , whether it's openly gay ABC News personality Robin Roberts reacting to the program on air, people are talking. And when you're promoting a new show, any publicity is good publicity.
The fuss being made over My Husband's Not Gay hardly has the network shaking in its boots, as the uproar has done nothing but generate buzz over a show that otherwise would probably have fallen silently into the heap that is TLC's unspectacular, over-the-top reality programming. The best thing that opponents of this show could have done was keep quiet and not give it any attention at all. Instead, people will probably tune in to see what the hype was about.
Critics have already called the program everything from "harmful" and "dangerous" to "downright irresponsible," but it's hard to believe that anyone would care enough to even bother complaining about it. The 69-second trailer that TLC has posted on its web site shows a seemingly delusional cast, whether it's the self-questioning men ("I'm interested in men, I'm just not interested in men," one of them offers) or the women they've married ("I wouldn't change anything about him," says one about her husband). Even worse, one of the men featured is a bachelor, which begs the question of why the show's title contains a word that doesn't apply to a quarter of its cast. Sorry, but if your sons or daughters are being influenced by logic like this, perhaps their choice in TV programs isn't the biggest problem you're dealing with.
Plus, keep in mind that this program airs on a network that over the past several years has transitioned from respectable programming to offerings like 90 Day Fiancé, America's Worst Tattoos and Extreme Couponing. It airs multiple shows on wedding dresses, multiple shows on baking, multiple shows on gypsies. TLC provides viewers with a peek into the lives of polygamists, little people, the morbidly obese, and those living with compulsive behavior. And nearly 100,000 of us are worried that someone is actually going to take sociological cues from one of this network's programs?
Interestingly, those who oppose the show being aired are advocating the cancellation of a program they have not even seen, and quite frankly are wasting their efforts when other more pressing matters are on the table. Change.org is full of petitions dealing with legitimate human-rights concerns, yet many have received less support than one that has managed to actually bring more attention to the show, thus creating a demand and ironically reducing the likelihood of it being shelved.
If you want to learn about the identity struggles of those who question their sexual orientation, and the role that religion plays in efforts to "deprogram" them, do some research. Read a book. Watch a documentary. And let campy TLC programs do what they do best: entertain. Because when it comes to actually educating yourself on real-life issues, the only thing worse than forming an opinion after watching a reality show, of all things, is forming an opinion before watching one.