Monday, February 23, 2009

Current Events Round-up: Chasing Harveys

Apparently, anti-gay rights activists protested Sunday's Academy Awards. We only know this because the reporters interviewing Sean Penn after his receiving the Best Actor Award for his portrayal of Harvey Milk told us so. One of the signs even read, "Heath is in Hell," undoubtedly referring to the late actor's role as a homosexual cowboy in Brokeback Mountain, another fact revealed to the world by a clamoring media outlet desperate for a juicy soundbyte to call their own. I have a heads-up for this and every reporter that talked about that protest on the news.

You've just conveyed that group's message better than they ever could.

Take it from a guy that has gone out of his way to be on the news, more than once. Many of those protesters care more about getting an opinion out there than they do about having one in the first place -- they want to be relevant by any means necessary. A few different friends and I attended protests in downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood at the height of the criticism against former President Bush's War on Terror, and we stood on either side of the street just to see and hear what the mob was saying. Sure enough, the point was less on what was yelled, and more on how loud it was yelled. Whoever could attract the news cameras first was the victor. Last night, despite Sean Penn's best intentions (and his answer to the reporter that these opinions are best left unanswered, thus moot), the anti-gay rights crowd won.

Don't get me wrong. I love being on the news, and I love valiant efforts to garner media attention. The war protests were brilliant echoes of the '60s (and I reckon some of the people we encountered still hadn't showered since then), and I even self-published a zine of photographs from a few years' worth of these demonstrations. The difference between this and the Prop 8 controversy is the vitriol hate asserted against an entire group of people. Okay, let's say God really exists and condemns homosexuality. Would Jesus stand in the street with a "Heath is in Hell" sign? His scriptural example actually dictates that those against gay rights dwell among the homosexual community and develop meaningful relationships with individuals, tackling the issue one supposed sinner at a time. It's like playing the football game 500 as opposed to plain old catch; when you throw it out there for a crowd, you're really just throwing it blindly. When you toss it to one person, your aim is more accurate, and someone might actually catch it.

But I digress. These thoughts congealed when I heard Harvey Levin on KROQ this morning, advocating TMZ's release of the now infamous Rihanna post-beating photograph. Harvey has achieved celebrity by exploiting celebrity, plain and simple . . . and brilliant. See, in this new twenty-four hour news cycle world, networks scramble to fill that time with anything juicy or meaningful, and protesters know that. Harvey realized that celebrities love to be in front of the camera anyway, and they often do things off camera that the rest of us would love to see. I'm not advocating ntrusive paparazzi that lay in wait outside of an actor's home; however, if Miley Cyrus is strolling out of Neiman Marcus and can shed some light on that photo of her making stretchy eyes, so be it. Get it on tape. Sign it. Share it with the world. Your name becomes a footnote in the epic celebrity that is Miley, and for some, that's the most we can hope for.

So, Prop 8 protests vs. TMZ. One exploits people that stand out from the common man already. The other attacks people for just wanting to be like everybody else. Both of them are in our collective face every day, and the question is, do we want to be a part of these stories, or do we just want them to have happy endings? The real question is, is there any reason we can't have both?

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