But in instances where the TV does not provide good moral and role models for the teenagers then it is just to say that the TV programs are the major contributing factor towards homophobic tendencies among the society members. The lack of positive role modeling is also being viewed on the side of lesbians, gays and bisexual youth Kielwasser AP and Wolf MA ( 378)
. Most gays and lesbians in the society are brought up in a straight community with few gays and lesbians role models; thus they are specifically vulnerable to the portrayals of gay people in the mass media (Ryan & Futterman, 124).
The mainstream media has treated the sexual minorities as if they are not part of the human race, as if they do not exist. In addition, it was observed that the gay people of whichever age are rarely portrayed, and mostly the little portrayal they are given is normally negative. Gays and lesbians feel more vulnerable when they are growing up, at almost adolescence they are usually confused about their sexuality because there is no one to help them get through, and they can only rely on the few characters they get to view on TV Battles K. And Morrow-Hilton W ( 92)
. This little or no information about their sexuality that results to them isolating from the rest of the society because the society has only majored on heterosexuals leaving behind the non-heterosexuals hence instilling phobia on the majority (heterosexuals) who are not used to such sexual orientation.
Many programs hardly incorporate any aspect of gaiety in their script, and when they are shown, they are normally brought out in an asexual content. An example is the Matt Fielding in the series Melrose Place, where his sexual orientation was only prominently shown in promotions right before the actual show's premiere and thereafter, hardly featured in the program Wyatt DA ( 102)
. But recently, there are two actors with gay personality were openly features on NBC's popular prime-time series; Will and Jack, will and grace. In this series, there has been strong argument that they are reinforcing stereotypes about homosexuals traits, which include flamboyant, gays being feminine, and promiscuous Battles K. And Morrow-Hilton W ( 95)
According to the cultivation theory Gerbner G. et al.( 23)
, which says "watching television might influence viewers' attitude and beliefs through a process whereby the world as portrayed by the media comes to be perceived by viewers particularly those high volume viewers, as an accurate reflection of the reality." This implies that failure by the TV to recognize the non-heterosexual community sends a clear message that homosexuality is creepy, abnormal and extremely rare. In addition, Gerbner (57) adds that television is a major influence on the assumption the community has about the sexual minorities such as the bisexuals, gays and lesbians. This is because the community does not have experience with such people.
Although we are now seeing gays and lesbians portrayed in the mass media with greater frequency than ever before, as yet we know little about the effect of these portrayals on general public with largely negative attitudes towards homosexuals. The few experiments examining effects of media portrayals of homosexuals have shown some promising results. For example, Riggle et al.( 45)
had participants view a documentary film depicting events surrounding the life and death of a prominent gay politician. Those participants viewing the film had a significant positive change in attitudes toward homosexuals. Similarly, Walters (93) had two groups of participants' complete measures of homophobia and empathy for homosexuals at the beginning and end of a school term. One group of participants was exposed to lectures on homophobia and homosexuality along with slides and video scenarios to demonstrate how gays and lesbians are stereotyped in the media. At the end of the term, this group of participants showed an increase in empathy for homosexuals and a decrease in homophobia, whereas the group denied such experiences showed no changes in attitudes Walter ( 94)
Such research investigating the influence of the media on attitudes toward homosexuals is important because gays and lesbians are the target of considerable prejudice manifested in a wide range of behaviors from verbal attacks to violent physical attacks. For example it was found that due to their sexuality: (1) 90% of gay men and 75% of lesbians have been verbally harassed, (2) almost 50% of gay men and more than 33% of lesbians had been threatened with physical violence, and (3) 20% of gay men and 10% of lesbians had been physically assaulted United States Department of Justice ( 1)
. In addition, the FBI reported that 13% of all hate crimes in 1995 were motivated by sexual orientation bias United States Department of Justice ( 1)
. Even on college campuses, lesbian and gay male undergraduates report being verbally insulted, chased or followed, and physically assaulted D'Augelli ( 388)
Counterargument that television is just entertainment
The degree to which gays are being negatively publicized has nothing to do with entertainment. Even though entertainment is part and parcel of our daily lives, they still bare some great influence on the masses, since people derive some of their attitudes, morals and behavior from such programs because they do not have the opportunity to experience them in real life. Therefore, it is not right to joke about another person's sexuality on the expense of having fun.
Gays and lesbians are human being a just like anybody else, and so they deserve to be treated right. Most of them are even more scared about their sexuality, and they need role models and guidance from an individual who have a positive attitude than those who think of it as entertaining. To gays and lesbians, they gain a lot from watching characters on TV who exhibit the same sexual orientation as them and they do not view them as entertainers, but they view them as role models because those are the only persons they can relate to Ryan C. And Futterman D ( 111)
Television cannot be for entertainment if the gays and lesbians are being given secluded programs dedicated to them and not being factored-in in the regular mainstream airing. For instance, the mainstream broadcaster Channel 4, dedicate the evening to the lesbians through airing of the programs under the name "Dyke TV." Even though this is a good gesture to this sexual minority group, they are still not entertained because this has made them feel as if they have been totally removed from the mainstream society since they are termed different Wyatt DA ( 132)
Repercussions of the negative media exposure of gays and lesbians
The issue of negative publicity of the gay and lesbian societies on TV has created a huge barrier between the majority heterosexuals and the minority homosexuals. With continued negligence of the fact that, gay and lesbians are part of the society, there are high chances of there being a separated society. With this continued negative exposure, this group is likely to be eroded away, and most of them will have to hide in secrecy all their lives Hedges ( 743)
Those young people, especially in the adolescence who are beginning to discover their sexuality may end up becoming disillusioned and suicidal since they will not be able to get a role model who may help them understand their sexual orientation. Since the world has given heterosexuality a priority more than any other sexual orientation, the gays and the lesbians will be faced with pressures from the community who are against their sexuality, thus driving them to drug abuse and other immoral behavior since there is no one to accept and guide them.
Gays and lesbians are human being just like us and they also need to be given their freedom to interact freely as required by the law of nature. Just like a normal person, they need guidance, acceptance and love, which cannot be given to them if there will still be negative publicity of the gay and lesbian communities. The media should start playing a vital role in giving them their lives back. Through positive coverage and involvement of the gays with the heterosexuals, this may foster more understanding and acceptance among them. Therefore change should start with the media since it has a major influence of its viewers.
Bandura a. "Social Cognitive Theory of Mass Communication." Media Psychology 3 (2001): 265 -- 99. Print.
Battles K, and Morrow-Hilton W. "Gay Characters in Conventional Spaces: Will and Grace and the Situation Comedy Genre." Critical Studies in Mass Communication 19.1 (2002): 87 -- 105. Print.
D'Augelli, a.R. "Lesbian and Gay Male Undergraduates' Experiences of Harassment and Fear on Campus." Journal of International Violence 7.383-395 (1992). Print.
David P. Pierson. "Hey, They're Just Like Us!" Representations of the Animal World in the…