Michael Crawford

More to Life Than Britney

Filed By Michael Crawford | September 15, 2007 9:32 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media
Tags: Britney Spears, HIV/AIDS, media, pop culture

A new study is showing an increase in HIV infections among young gay men in NYC, but thank God much of the traditional media has ignored this story in favor of Britney's disastrous performance at the VMAs. I mean seriously, the Britney story has it all: a fading pop starlet who at 25 years old is desperate for a career comeback, a bad weave, a more unfortunate wardrobe malfunction than Janet's nip slip, alcohol, a diva hairstylist and the worst job of lipsynching since Milli Vanilli. The HIV story is only about a disease that has infected some 40 million people, its increase among younger gay men and the limits of current educational strategies and preventive technologies.

I get that to some people the lives of gay men are not nearly as important as the ins and outs of the latest celebrity train wreck and that talking about homosex is icky unless it involves toe-tapping, wide stances and cute undercover cops, but one would think that the gatekeepers of the traditional media would at least pretend to care about the lives of potentially millions of men. Amongst the endless chatter about whether or not Britney is too fat it should be possible for editors and producers to spare a few column inches or seconds of airtime to report that they number of infections among gay and bisexual NYC men under 30 has increased since 2001 and that much of that increase is among Black and Latino men. Right?

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I wonder how much of that is from the media not wanting to seem as if they're saying HIV is a gay disease?

To sort of add to what Bill just wrote... here's a hypothetical, yet probable reaction that stems from such reporting... I'll use my father, because his likely reaction to a nightly news report that HIV is on the rise in gay men under thirty... "the gays are nothing but a bunch of sex addicts spreading AIDS! They'll sleep with any guy they leave the bar with!"

And so on, and so on... in fact without the media attention, he screams this shit... and its tiresome debating this with him. A person like my father, and I'm certain there are plenty of them out there, would only use a report like this to fuel their argument.

So, I'm left to ask... is there a way to present this issue, that needs attention, in a way that doesn't come with this type of backlash?

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | September 15, 2007 5:05 PM

The traditional media did not hesitate to run salacious stories giving the impression that its normal for gay men to cruise public bathrooms for sex after the Larry Craig scandal broke, so I doubt that they are worried about hinting that AIDS is a gay disease. Besides, the issue is to important not to focus on. It shows that we need more effective prevention strategies for people of all sexual orientations.

No matter what information we put out some people are going to believe whatever stereotypes about gay men that they want to believe. We should worry less about what the think and focus on what we need to do to strengthen our community and take care of each other.

I doubt that this sort of thing is a favor from the media to queers. They've never cared about us as people as long as they could sell papers. Just like Michael said, all you have to look at is the coverage of Larry Craig or Jim McGreevey to see that. Most of the time homophobia hurts their bottom line, but if they can cloud their gay bashing as "covering a scandal", they are fine with just going right at it.

I think this has more to do with the fact that the story would start with "a new study says...." Those aren't very sexy words, especially when the study doesn't reveal anything about college students at Ivy league schools, the differences between men and women, or something cat and dog related. That and the fact that few people really wants to do anything to solve this, so it's just too depressing.

This underscores the reason why we need an engaged and active community media. The mainstream isn't going to report this because it's not sexy enough. It doesn't have the kind of human interest Britney does.

It's those of us on the front lines, seeing to it that these stories make it out there for public consumption, who are helping to ensure that these kinds of issues aren't swept under the rug.