MINOT, N.D. — Hallmark is a cheesy greeting card company which has, over the years, morphed into a purveyor of even cheesier television programming.
I'm not saying that pejoratively.
Sometimes a schmaltzy card, or a treacly movie, is just what a person needs.
The company finds itself earning unwanted scrutiny, and anger, this holiday season over the decision to air a commercial that portrays a homosexual marriage.
Here's the ad in question, which is from a wedding planning service called Zola:
Hallmark pulled this ad after a campaign opposing it from a political group calling itself One Million Moms. Their mission, per their website, is to combat "filth" and "negative influences" in television and movies.
Reflect on that for a moment. This influential political group believes the depiction of two women getting married is so filthy it shouldn't be portrayed on television.
Are you surprised those attitudes still exist in America in 2019?
“The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value,” Hallmark said in a statement after pulling the ad.
The company has since reversed track, deciding after blowback from gay rights groups — and, I imagine, lots of Americans bewildered as to what's so objectionable about two nice ladies tying the knot — the decision to pull the ad wasn't a good one:
Crown Media Family Networks apologizes for the decision to remove an ad featuring a same-sex couple. "We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused," said Mike Perry President & CEO, Hallmark Cards Inc. Full statement here: https://t.co/bpyOss0tmu
Crown Media Family Networks apologizes for the decision to remove an ad featuring a same-sex couple. "We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused," said Mike Perry President & CEO, Hallmark Cards Inc. Full statement here: https://t.co/bpyOss0tmu— Hallmark Channel (@hallmarkchannel) December 16, 2019
That's the right outcome, but how many of you are wondering how this happened? After all, the view we get of our society through the lens of the news media and pop culture would lead you to believe that the debate over gay marriage is over.
Unfortunately, that's not accurate.
Public sentiment about gay rights has shifted, dramatically, in recent years. Still, we should remember the Supreme Court ruling which made gay marriage bans unconstitutional was handed only in 2015. That decision, too, wasn't the product of democracy but rather judicial fiat.
Which is to say, it's an outcome dictated by legal interpretation not the will of the people.
Former President Barack Obama didn't publicly back gay marriage until 2012.
It was just a decade and a half ago that a landslide majority of North Dakotans — voters in a state with an all-Democratic congressional delegation at the time — added a gay marriage ban to the state constitution.
For many Americans, gay marriage is still a taboo.
That might be better understood if conservative points of view were better represented in America's national news media and pop culture. They aren't often present, and when they are, they're typically cast as villainous.
I'm probably choosing the wrong example of this — we're talking about a socially conservative group out to censor a commercial, after all — but I can't help but wonder if some of the acrimonies around issues like gay rights might be tamped down a bit if the folks in charge of so much of what we see on our television screens, and read in our books, and view on the internet were a bit more inclusive.
In part, conservatives do this to themselves. We ghettoize ourselves, retreating to friendly enclaves like Fox News and bemoaning the "mainstream" media as if conservative viewpoints aren't mainstream. But we also can't ignore that this retreat is a reaction to conservative viewpoints, increasingly, not being all that welcome in the media in the first place.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.