I'm not a liberal. Really. Truly. Actually, I'm not exactly sure what I am, politically speaking. I usually choose the wishy-washy term "moderate," although I once called myself a "civil libertarian conservative" when forced to give a definitive answer. (Not 100 percent accurate, though.)
I suppose I could say that I'm a "classic liberal," but these days everyone from Ralph Nader to Pat Buchanan claims to be a classic liberal. Somehow, though, the label "liberal" just feels... wrong.
But there are times that I feel very liberal. When I read Jesse Helms' latest comments, for example. (mmm. By his logic, do people who smoke Carolina tobacco deserve lung cancer?) Or when Bob Dole starts ranting about violence in Hollywood. Or when Senator Exon starts pontificating about the dangers of Internet porn. You know. The times when some conservative person or group says or does something utterly idiotic.
Reading a list recently compiled by the Media Research Center of Alexandria, Va. was one of those liberal moments. the Media Research Center, despite its objective-sounding name, is a conservative watchdog group. Earlier this month, they put out a Top 10 list of, to quote a Arkansas Democrat-Gazette media columnist, "the most egregiously offensive liberal series and [television] movies of the 1994-95 season."
In terms of humor value, the list ranks right up there with David Letterman's better compilations. Of course, the Media Research Center wasn't intending to be funny. In gratitude for the many laughs the list has provided, however, I feel obliged to spread word of it far and wide. So here goes.
10. "The George Wendt Show." About: Two brothers who own a garage and host a car talk show. Digging in my memory, I manage to dredge up a shadow of a mention of this show. Reasons it made the list: characters bashed the Catholic Church and associated clergy, and gay lifestyles and lesbian kisses were flaunted. Now, I'm Catholic and don't particularly appreciate people trashing my religion. But since when did Catholic-bashing become liberal? Last time I looked, slurs of any sort were very politically incorrect. As for the gay lifestyles--I keep up with entertainment news, and I don't remember this show ever being promoted as a gay-friendly series.
How many people have actually heard of this sitcom? "Melrose Place," on the other hand, has a gay character and is known about by almost everyone in America. Yet it's not on the list. Hmmm. One gets the feeling that these people don't watch television that much.
9. "My So-Called Life." About: Life as viewed by a 15-year-old girl. Criticisms: the lifestyle of a bisexual was treated "approvingly," teen sex of both types was driving force behind the show. Gee, how completely inaccurate. Teens these days never think about sex. Uh-uh. All those teen pregnancies? Made up to scare us. The Media Research Center made a big error in its assessment of the show, incidentally--according to the Center, on the show "abstinence was not a choice." Wrong. The main character--the one everyone knew, identified with, turned in to see--chose not to sleep with her boyfriend. She made this decision under great pressure from her boyfriend. He dumped her as a result ... and, gasp, her life went on! And they got back together in the end. I'd call this presenting abstinence as a viable option. What, you don't think that the actions of just one character can have any moral force? Then stop whining about Murphy Brown already.
8. "Choices of the Heart: The Margaret Sanger Story." About: Birth-control activist. No, no, it didn't come under fire merely because it mentioned contraceptives. The Center blasted this movie because it "equates yesteryear's pro-contraception crusade with today's pro-abortion movement." Gee. Don't know where the movie makers got that one from. No antiabortion group these days would ever lump contraception and abortion together. Never. Given that Margaret Sanger, the first major birth-control activist, founded Planned Parenthood, the birth-control/abortion link seems like a fairly logical progression from either a conservative or liberal stance--especially considering that both used similar arguments about women's health, right to control their bodies, quality of life, etc. But it seems to me here that the Center is attempting to say that the birth-control movement wasn't inherently liberal, that it's being inaccurately linked with a liberal abortion-rights movement. Sorry. I balk at trying to describe the Sanger movement as conservative.
7. "The X-Files." Yes, you are seeing that correctly. You didn't somehow skip to another piece about weird science fiction shows. Just to make sure you're following, I'll repeat it: 7. "The X-Files." About: Two FBI agents who investigate strange phenomena occasionally involving aliens and/or lies told by the government. Seeing this show on the list provided me with was by far the biggest laugh I got out of all this. Scully and Mulder liberal? Sheesh. I have yet to hear either conservative or political thinking advocated by anyone on this show. Hate to tell you this, folks, but Director Skinner has those portraits of Clinton and Reno around because they are, respectively, the president and attorney general, not because Skinner's a rabid Democrat. Are we to assume that the aliens who stole Mulder's sister were also responsible for Clinton's victory? Is Hillary secretly a clone? Were the frogs dropping from the sky really DNC members?
And why is the show liberal? Because it showcases government conspiracy theories. Last time I looked, government conspiracy theories were pretty popular among the rabid right. I'm not saying that leftists haven't come up with some pretty wacky conspiracy theories in their time. But I think those Michigan Militia members would not be happy at being termed liberal.
6. "Cosmic Slop." About: spiritual and cultural differences. It's an HBO anthology. All right. I've never seen nor heard of this show. No one I know has ever seen or heard of this show. Where do these people find these things? For all I know, it could be as egregiously liberal as hell, or it could just be slop.
5. "Roseanne." About: I just told you. Well, this one didn't exactly surprise me. Yep, those shows about abortion and erections and masturbation made sure this show brought down conservative fire once again. There was one reason for its censure that really got to me though--the expansion of a gay character's role. Oh, I see.
Bad enough that the gay character's there, but expanding the role, that's just crossing the line, bub. Y'know, it seems to me that conservatives would love "Roseanne." It emphasizes the importance of family and the problems that a lack of a strong family causes. It promotes fidelity. And, for heaven's sake, its unwed pregnant woman not only decided to have her baby, but also married its father. Oh, well. This all matters for naught in light of the expansion of the role of the gay character. Onwards.
4. "TV Nation." Michael Moore's semi-spoof newsmagazine. Well, can't deny the liberal slant here. Moore, after all, is the guy who filmed a movie blasting the CEO and corporate mentality of GM. And with the show, as one of my co-workers puts it, Moore "wears his politics on his sleeve."
But how many people really watched it, besides television critics and really rabid journalists? Not many. Which brings me to one of my main criticisms of this list--where are the influential shows? The ones with large audiences that are influencing lots of people? C'mon, 90210 and "Melrose Place" advocate casual sex, teen sex, infidelity, homosexuality and just about everything else. Lots of people watch those shows, but apparently not members of the Media Research Center.
3. "Dennis Miller Live." About: Talk show with stand-up comedy. Oh, come now. With Rush Limbaugh on the air and Alan Keyes and G. Gordon Liddy on the radio conservatives begrudge one measly cable, little-watched liberal talk show? Plus, the criticisms of Miller for "crossing the lines of fairness and decency" with his attacks on Gingrich & Co. show their extremely thin conservative skin. What's the fun of fair and decent political reflection? Calling people "feminazis" would be absolutely forbidden.
2. "Sisters." About: The trials and tribulations of four grown sisters." Okay. I'll grant the Center the claim that "Sisters" has a liberal twist. The sisters and their friends and offspring sleep around. They have gay friends. They support Clinton and his ilk. They're liberals, all of them.
But, for God's sake, they're also idiots! Alex is a ditz, Georgie cheated on her wonderful husband because she fell for a slimy shrink, Teddy uses sex to feel loved and Frankie married her sister's ex-husband. Newly-found half-sister Charlie has been reasonably sane so far, but just give her time. Nothing any of these women have done could possibly inspire anyone with half a brain to emulate them. Fans of the show watch them to feel better about their own lives, not to decide political stances.
And... 1. "Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story." About: Lesbian nurse fights to stay in the Army; based on real-life person. As you can probably tell, this was not a Pat Robertson/Strom Thurmond production. But I should probably go down the list of no-nos anyway: implied opposition to gays in the military (and in general) stems from bigotry, ignores good reasons for keeping ban on gays in military, includes a passionate lesbian kiss. The center presented the last one as though it was a completely radical element included just to freak the audience out.
Hmmm. Let's see. A woman is involved in a relationship that threatens her career and necessitates a costly legal battle. But heaven forbid this relationship should be commemorated with one--one!--onscreen kiss.
I'd mock the other reasons, but there's really no need. I think, however, that Barry Goldwater would be amused at having his views classified as "liberal," and he's been around a bit longer than the Center. What makes this choice funny, though, is one of the choices for the "good" shows, the ones "aggressively promoting traditional values"--"The Commish." Guess the Center televisionwatchers missed that episode about the gay cop, the one in which opposition to gays is definitely equated with bigotry. (That show may have been from the previous season, but my point remains the same.) Whoever came up with this list really needs to watch a lot. more television before attempting to slam "liberal" shows.
The other "traditional" shows are more or less what could be expected: "Christy," "ABC Family Movie," "Home Improvement," "Touched by an Angel," "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" and "Me and the Boys." But no one ever defines the term "traditional." What does it mean? And why is it inherently conservative somehow? The welfare system has become a tradition, and I don't see anyone rushing to claim it. Traditional values can mean anything from racism to stay-at-home mothers.
Well, I think that's enough wallowing in liberalism. Time for me to go find some horror story about government bureaucracy or a new P.J. O'Rourke article or something. After all, the Center may start branching out with its Top 10 liberal lists, and I have no desire to be included on one. Given their track record with television, I shudder to think what they'd do with a description of me.