ABC OK with a man who beat a woman, not OK with a man who kissed a man

Last week ABC canceled Adam Lambert’s scheduled appearance on Good Morning America after he *shock* *gasp* kissed another man during his 11pm performance at the American Music Awards. But the network is going ahead with an interview with Chris Brown, who beat his then-girlfriend Rihanna (the link is to a New York Post story – the publication has a terrible track record on a lot of issues, and even they seem bothered by this move).
Does ABC understand the statement this choice makes? Their actions say that a man who is known to have abused a woman deserves a chance to tell his story, but a man who who has kissed another man and received simulated oral sex from a man in a theatrical performance does not. Basically, this programming decision suggests the network thinks it’s worse for them to be associated with gay male sexuality than with a straight male perpetrator of relationship violence.
Regarding the cancellation of Adam Lambert’s appearance, an ABC insider told the New York Post:

“He was not canceled over a gay kiss. He showed himself to be unpredictable on live TV.”

I’m particularly disgusted by the explanation for why ABC is giving Chris Brown access to such a public platform:

The top ABC insider added: “Chris Brown’s interview was booked way before Adam Lambert took to the stage. It is to give him a chance to respond to Rihanna’s interview…”

Talk about taking the media obsession with giving two opposing views on a story way too far. I’m pretty sure I got more of Chris Brown’s story than I needed to hear from his public “apology.” No, I don’t think a man who beat a woman should be given a “chance to respond” after she is brave enough to tell her story. I have no interest in another pseudo-apology as part of the ongoing campaign to save Chris Brown’s career.
ABC has at least decided they will not give Chris Brown the chance to perform a song. Of course, a performance would have just been the most obvious way the appearance served as an advertisement for Chris Brown’s music. He still gets the platform of an interview on a major network, which will now also be shown on 20/20, to put himself in the public eye.
Adam Lambert, on the other hand, lost his chance to promote his career on ABC the moment he locked lips with another man during his AMA performance. Lambert actually has some valuable things to say to a mainstream TV audience about reaction to his performance. His voice should be heard in this moment, but ABC is more comfortable tacitly supporting the homophobes who want Adam Lambert silenced.
You can contact ABC to let them know how you feel about this decision here.
Since ABC won’t give him the chance to speak on their network, let alone perform again, I’m including the music video for Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment” after the jump (hey, isn’t that the guy he kissed at the AMAs rubbing up on Glambert toward the end of the video?)

Lyrics can be found here.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • msmaddy

    I’m just SO relieved that CBS decided to blur out the kiss during the clip it showed during the interview.
    I think what people’s biggest problem with the performance is how it constituted the audience. When people see Britney and Madonna kissing, they understand that the implied lesbianism isn’t real and that it is still intended for a straight, male gaze. As surveyors with a straight, male gaze, they are non-threatened by such antics because it is presumably FOR THEM.
    When people see Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” video, they see the supposedly sexually empowered Xtina dancing a fool, but this pseudo-feminism of the phallic girl is still oriented towards straight males.
    A gay man kissing a man tells the audience, “Hey, this is for you, too” and I believe THAT’S what’s scary, that a performance would imply to homophobes that homosexuality is not only acceptable as an idea but as a performance in a space normally reserved for heteronormative, male-oriented performances.

  • Claire

    Complaints should actually go to ABC news, not ABC general. Here is the correct link:

  • Jos

    Thanks Claire! I’ve fixed the link in the post.

  • Toni

    On a similar note, the new hit series on ABC, Modern Family, features a gay couple but we have yet to see them kiss. It’s fine for them to adopt a kid but not okay for them to kiss? But we have barely seen the heterosexual couples kiss either.
    I love the show, I’m even proud (Eric Stonestreet went to my high school) but this is just more celibate TV gays.

  • Auriane

    I don’t think I’ve watched an ABC show in almost a decade. After Roseanne and Grace Under Fire (two GREAT sitcoms that have yet to be matched by the network since) ended in the late 1990s, ABC hit the ropes and stayed there as far as I was concerned.
    With all of the programming on cable dedicated to great — or at least interesting — women (Mad Men is a perfect example), network TV is becoming ever more irrelevant. Every time they turn down a great show later picked up by cable, they show exactly why they’re trailing in the ratings games.

  • Comrade Kevin

    They must have demographic data that claims that people will watch the man who beat up his girlfriend rather than the gay entertainer who dared kiss another man on stage. As others have said, the networks are clinging to the lowest common denominator, and those would find the former more compelling greater outnumber the latter.

  • theology_nerd

    I absolutely agree that the network was being extremely hypocritical in the making of this decision. However, while I think that Lambert’s same-sex smoochies were morally neutral (as opposed to Brown’s reprehensible partner abuse) I honestly don’t think that EITHER of these men deserve the airtime…and no, this has nothing to do with Lambert’s sexual orientation.
    While nothing in Lambert’s performance was offensive to me (I actually think that certain elements of bondage and domination are quite hot!), it was not the right time or place for such a sexually-charged musical number. If it was on at a later hour (it was only 8:00 on the west coast) or on a cable/premium channel (MTV, VH1, HBO, etc.), then it would have been fine. But because it was during a primetime awards show on ABC, I really do question his judgment, and I can’t help but conclude that he did this just to spark controversy (thus boosting his fame and reputation.) Additionally, I don’t think he was being very creative, since as many people have pointed out, the BDSM thing has done countless times before. C’mon, Adam…there are ways for an artist to be creative and edgy without resorting to the “Ooh, look at me with my naughty sex and leather!” cliche.
    And as for Chris Brown…ick. That man shouldn’t EVER be allowed to promote himself again. The only thing he should be doing is expressing his sincere remorse and contrition.

  • DBinMD

    I see this as false equivalence. Assuming this isn’t a puff piece, I don’t have a problem with interviews with almost anyone. I want to see exposure for people who do bad things. I have watched interviews with Castro (repsonsible for God knows how many political prisoners), Randall Terry, Ahmadinejad, and others. I don’t see anything wrong with interviewing people, if they could get Kim Jung Il for an interview I’d want to see that.
    Lambert’s “act” was trashy and they canceled his appearance. I don’t see how that has anything to do with an interview with another person.

  • Evrybdy44

    I think the problem is not that they are allowing an interview with him(which I don’t like, but. . . )The fact that they deem appropriate to allow a violent offender on the show but not a homosexual man who was not hurting ANYONE is what is absurd and offensive.

  • Becca B

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like everyone accusing ABC of being wrong for canceling Lambert’s appearence on GMA brings up the kiss. Did we forget he also ground a dancer’s face into his crotch and mimed fingering another dancer?
    I haven’t really been paying that much attention, but it seems it was the explicitly sexual parts of his performance that upset people rather than the kiss.
    Feel free to let me know if I’m wrong on this.

  • LalaReina

    You’re not wrong but that part is indefensible so ignored.

  • LalaReina

    I know this won’t be printed but how about we not pretend Chris Brown is the only person that had these type of troubles and equally spread the contempt around? How about Josh Brolin, Christain Bale…

  • marie123

    I did appreciate how they made a joke about how Mitchell’s father (Mitchell is one of the gay characters) always announces himself before he comes into the room because he’s afraid of seeing them kiss. So no, they haven’t shown them kissing (and I don’t think they’ve shown the heterosexual couples kiss either), but they have highlighted the fact that it’s ridiculous for people to be afraid of seeing two men be intimate.

  • miss.shantra9

    So when you are a man, it is more acceptable to be violent towards a woman than to be intimate towards another man?
    What the fuck kind of message is ABC trying to promote here? That male homosexuality is unacceptable, but they will tolerate misogyny?
    And keep in mind that said male-on-male intimacy was part of an act, part of a performance, and not some type of literal “fucking on the dance floor” type thing… but Chris Brown’s violence towards his own girlfriend was for real, charged as criminal, and documented by law enforcement.
    WOW, go ABC! You fucking pricks >=/

  • Nyphi

    I’m disgusted by this. This isn’t the sort of message I want my kids to learn about. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Shanti

    Oh, snap.

  • DBinMD

    The homosexual man who was not hurting anyone also did imitations of some very, very explicit sexual contact. I think the possibility that he would do something way over the line on GMA influenced the decision. I sincerely doubt that they would have canceled over the kiss only.

  • LalaReina

    Question: when are we going to talk about Tiger Woods getting his ass kicked by his wife? I think how that subject is handled is interesting because it seems he walked away from a fight and is a national joke because of it.

  • Rachael

    Here’s the comment I left for ABC this morning– feel free to adapt and use it in your own feedback, if you’d like. (There is a 500 character limit.)
    “To Whom It May Concern:
    I would like to express my extreme displeasure with ABC over the decision to cancel the engagement with Adam Lambert. I believe that this decision is based upon nothing less than a homophobic reaction to Lambert’s televised embrace with another man. If your news network is truly dedicated to fair and diverse programming, the network will also need to challenge heteronormative standards on television.”

  • madcat

    What kind of message is he sending to kids when he is simulating oral sex/domination on stage?
    Gay or not gay,I think the public’s reaction would have been similar.
    As for ABC, they are not saying it is ok to abuse women just because they have a Chris Brown interview. ABC scheduled him in, big deal. It has very little to do with Gay vs. Straight airtime. and everything to do with public demand, ratings, and predictability. The public wants to hear him. ABC thinks their ratings will go up. BUT,if Chris Brown simulated abuse towards women on stage, do you think he would get a morning performance?
    Heck no.
    Does he really deserve the chance to speak? no. But we are giving it to him because we have to wait until Lambert does something controversial THEN compare it to Chris Brown.
    ABC would not give him the time of day if there was no demand for it.
    Whose problem is that? Hint: not ABC
    Back to Lambert:
    Its not the kiss. Its not because he is gay. It was the simulated oral sex/domination that was inappropriate.
    If we say that this behavior is ok during prime time, What’s next?

  • HKLS

    Hmmm…I have a different take on this…why should such provocative content be forced upon an audience which is not likely to be filled to the majority with Adam Lambert fans, or, fans of such provocative material? I think to condemn ABC’s decision is very narrow minded. And, the Chris Brown discussion is separate and should be argued as such. For the record (one that might not care) I was totally offended by Adam Lambert’s presentation of a song which I otherwise enjoyed. But my offense was not taken at his man to man kiss, but in the overt sexuality of the entire performance. And, to state boldly that this was a picture of gay relationships is to offend many who live a gay lifestyle. An argument has always been that gay love is not synonymous with deviant or even extreme sexuality. Besides, since when are oral sex and S&M connected solely to the gay lifestyle? Thought is needed here…if you become so open in a society that you toss out all norms and all boundaries, you will end up without a society and find yourself/ves searching for a way to rein in that which is out of control. Adam is talented. Agreed. His shock value needs to be purveyed with more knowledge of his present public attending or watching an event. He will find a more broad audience when he uses the maturity of such selectivity in presentation.

  • Shyva

    If it was on at a later hour (it was only 8:00 on the west coast)
    His performance closed the show after all the awards were given out and aired at 11pm on both coasts, since the West always gets tape delay of such ceremonies. Because of that, part of the performance was actually edited out, though not the kiss.

  • TigerLily

    He also dragged his female dancer around on a leash and gave the audience the finger. I like Adam, but he was making a deliberate effort to offend people. (Looks like he succeeded, too.)

  • TigerLily

    It’s also important to note that no one knows if ABC is going to be fined by the FCC yet. Considering the fact that CBS is still waging legal battles about the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident nearly 6 years later, ABC was probably just protecting their bottom line.