For years, political comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were ranked among the most trusted and most admired news anchors for young Americans — and they’re not even news anchors!
Mainly, it’s because they’re funny and liberal, two necessities for reaching a younger audience less reliant on a 30-minute nightly newscast to ingest daily headlines.
Now that Colbert has left Comedy Central and Stewart has announced he’s on the way out, young progressives have found themselves tuning in to new Comedy Central personalities and, unfortunately, HBO’s Bill Maher.
“A lot of people watch this show to get the news,” Maher said at the top of his hour-long snarkfest March 27. “So I have to fill them in.”
Maher claims liberal credentials in large part because he’s enthusiastically anti-religion. But progressive gay people should stop watching his weekly show — let alone rely upon him as a news source — given his blatantly offensive commentary on LGBT people that’s undeniably out of step with the rest of the modern progressive community.
Let’s get specific. In his “New Rules” segment toward the end of the show, Maher went on a dangerously derogatory rant where he responded to comments made by gay Italian designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana about opposing gay adoptions.
Liberals everywhere have condemned their remarks, resulting in a boycott of their products. What did Bill do? Defend them.
“It’s easier to get all fake-outraged over the ‘hateful, anti-gay speech’ of two men who bedazzle codpieces for a living,” Maher sniped. “Really, you can’t sell handbags now if you only agree with Elton John almost all the time … How deeply stupid has the far left become when gay designers can’t get along with gay musicians?”
Comments like Maher’s downplay the harmful significance of hate speech. When young queer people hear Dolce and Gabbana — two gay men — sounding off about the “traditional” family and “chemical offsprings,” the unfortunate narrative is reinforced: There is something wrong with you.
LGBT people are told this, often implicitly, all the time. We don’t need gay people piling on as well. And we also don’t need comedians who purport to be LGBT supporters telling us to calm down, as if the LGBT teen depression resulting from such “humor” is funny.
Later, he said: “What is the point of attacking people who are 95 percent on your side?”
By shrugging off bigotry, Maher is part of the problem.
Evidently, Maher doesn’t get the implications of the joke. LGBT people are still a marginalized population, with suicide rates and homelessness rates far higher than their heterosexual counterparts. That means when damaging remarks are made, LGBT people and their allies have a responsibility to respond regardless of whether the offender is a Tea Party-ing conservative or a gay designer.
To boot, he had the gall to mock gays in front of his panel, comprised in part by actor Zachary Quinto and former congressman Barney Frank, both openly gay.
Granted, Maher’s whole end-of-show comedy bit was an attempt to call out liberals for uptight, politically correct attitudes which have dwindled our collective ability to laugh at a funny punchline, even if it takes a jab at one of our own.
He’s not totally wrong: Political correctness might sometimes suck the humor out of genuinely funny commentary. But gay people have historically been able to deftly carve out places for unabashedly irreverent comedy — see Joan Rivers and Kathy Griffin — while being abundantly clear about the detrimental social ramifications of cruelly mocking gays on TV.
Maher says liberals ought to stop the infighting: “Do you believe in a talking snake? Me neither. We’re on the same team.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in joining forces with someone who still thinks it’s acceptable to refer to transgender people as “the transgendered” repeatedly on national television.
Bill, enter the 21st Century. Then we can talk about whose team you’re on.
Justin Peligri is a student at George Washington University.