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Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1997-APR-27, etc.

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Some interesting developments:

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bullet Thousands of house parties are being planned across America to celebrate the episode of the ABC TV program "Ellen" on MAY-30.
bullet Only one ABC affiliate (WBMA-TV in Birmingham AL) will not run the show. They also decided to censor the subsequent episodes in which Ellen was out of the closet.
bullet Robert Knight, a spokesperson for the Family Research Council said: "The problem is the show is portraying sex outside of marriage as something desirable, normal and healthy, when we know that it is causing social havoc...And it is part of a larger agenda to saturate prime-time television with homosexual-affirmative themes. Of course, they never tell you the downside of the gay lifestyle"
bullet Knight mentioned that there are almost 2 dozen openly homosexuals playing supporting roles in TV programs.
bullet Larry Gross, a University of Pennsylvania communications professor, compared the upcoming episode to the first inter-racial kiss on Star Trek or the TV special which some stations boycotted because Petula Clark touched Harry Belafonte's arm.
bullet The Media Research Center ran a full page ad in Variety saying that Ellen is a "slap in the face to America's families." It is a "blatant attempt by Disney, ABC and `Ellen' to promote homosexuality to America's families." The ad was signed by the main leaders of the Religious Right: Pat Robertson, Charles Colson, Phyllis Schlafly and Jerry Falwell. Implicit in this comment is the assumption that sexual orientation is something that one chooses.
bullet The Human Rights Campaign has mailed out more than 2,600 kits to help people organize house parties.
bullet The episode will be one hour long and will feature Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang, Demi Moore, Dwight Yokum, Billy Bob Thornton and Oprah Winfrey. Laura Dern is the person that Ellen becomes attracted to.
bullet Regular advertisers Chrysler, GM, Domino's Pizza, Burger King, Johnson & Johnson and J.C. Penney will not air commercials on the show. It is common for large companies to pull out of shows that are controversial. Other ads were found, and the show is fully sponsored. Rates were increased from $170,000 to $335,000 for a 30 second spot.
bullet A HRC commercial which promotes a federal law to ban job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation will not be shown by the network, but will appear on 31 ABC stations.
bullet A Christian minister from Beaumont TX has purchased all of the local ad time on KBMT-TV during the Ellen program. He will be airing his opinion on what the Biblical position on homosexuality is.

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Deb Price's column in the Detroit News for 1997-MAY-16 summarized the "coming out" episode and the two subsequent shows:

Over three weeks, as Ellen cast aside her "whatever" persona, we witnessed joyful reality triumphing over fear and hate-mongering:

We saw industry myths debunked: Straight viewers won't watch a show whose main character and/or actor is gay. (Fact: 42 million people saw Ellen kiss her closet good-bye). No one will advertise. (Fact: ABC jacked up rates for Episode 1 because ad time was in such demand.)

We watched Ellen DeGeneres raise the standard of what we who are gay should expect of our own. Not only did she handle herself with supreme grace throughout, but she also gamely showed the world an affectionate lesbian couple in appearances with her new love, actress Anne Heche. They casually touched even when chatting with President Clinton.

And we saw the religious right's leaders unmistakably exposed, through their "Ellen DeGenerate" attacks, as small-minded dinosaurs stuck in the primordial ooze and unable to evolve.

But thanks largely to Ellen, television is evolving, trying to keep pace with society. Yes, everyone does know about Ellen. And what we know is she's a national treasure.

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The show was broadcast again during summer re-runs during the week of 1997-AUG-30. TV station WMBA, the only ABC affiliate to prevent their viewers from watching the show, decided to broadcast the re-run.

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