The country would be a much more pleasant place if we could all learn to take a moment and thank each other. Someone holds the door for you? Thank them. Someone lets you merge into traffic? Thank them. In that generous spirit, I need to thank the crusading One Million Moms.
Perhaps you heard last week that the conservative Moms, whose organization is part of the super conservative American Family Association, persuaded the Hallmark Channel to drop an ad featuring a lesbian kiss. That ad, for wedding registry and planning website Zola, shows two women taking vows while extolling the ease of using the website. Before the Million Moms drew attention to the commercial, I had never heard of Zola.
But now the Moms have really outdone themselves. They’ve taught Hallmark a valuable lesson: Bigotry doesn’t pay. On Sunday night, Hallmark Cards CEO Mike Perry apologized and said in a statement that the Hallmark Channel will reinstate the lesbian wedding ad, complete with the kiss. Thanks, Moms! You may have intended to make the world a more close-minded place. Instead, you helped educate a major corporation that homophobia has no place in America.
In fact, the Moms’ brave crusading is probably better (and cheaper) advertising than Zola would have gotten by showing its ads during the Hallmark Channel’s syrupy-sweet, made-for-TV, nonstop, formulaic yuletide film fest.
Despite the apology, I’m not ready to let Hallmark off the hook. The reversal was smart, but the decision to pull the ad in the first place was just cowardly and duplicitous. It shouldn’t take a threatened boycott and a lot of angry celebrities on Twitter to convince a company to do the right thing.
Hallmark is engaging in some blatantly hypocritical business practices. Hallmark Cards, Inc. owns the Hallmark Channel, and the two brands are sending two different messages. While the channel deemed a gay wedding and kiss unfit for television, it has no problem pulling in revenue by selling — get this — gay wedding cards.
Two years ago, Hallmark even featured a gay male couple in an ad for its Keepsake Ornaments. Although they didn’t kiss, so maybe that made it OK.
On its website, Hallmark has an entire page devoted to cards for the LGBTQ community. It lists 80 of them. There are drag queen cards, gay Father’s Day cards, and the “Big Hairy Guy” thinking-of-you card.
“Your identity is who you are,” its website reads. “Wear it proudly, celebrate it with loved ones, and love out loud. During Pride Month and year-round, celebrate equality and inclusivity for all your special moments.”
But for some reason they found celebrating it with a lesbian wedding kiss in a television ad was unacceptable. One more thing, Hallmark. Why is it OK to produce gay cards celebrating the LGBTQ community, but still no Hallmark Channel Christmas movie with gay leading characters? An advertisement and original programing are two very different things. So far, in the hundreds of holiday movies it has produced, Hallmark has never given us a single gay Christmas romance. Before we thank the company for running an advertisement, we need to ask where is the fair representation. The folks at Lifetime have churned out plenty of Christmas movies with gay characters. It can be done.
Despite the the fact that they’ll air the lesbian wedding ad again, I’m not planning on buying any Hallmark cards in the near future. I suspect One Million Moms might bypass the card aisle as well, angry that the company did not kowtow to its homophobia for more than a couple of days. Also that it makes Mother’s Day cards for kids who have two mommies.
I’ll confess that I’ve never actually sat through an entire Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, despite the fact that many of them star Candace Cameron Bure, who is regarded by many as the Meryl Streep of made-for-TV holiday movies. I tried to sit through one, but it was so distractingly bad I decided to vacuum instead. However, I know plenty of people who do watch them. These people don’t like their cinematic eggnog spiked with prejudice, so I suspect they may now flip the channel.
For the sake of context, the Hallmark Channel’s big Saturday night Christmas movie premieres pull in about 3.5 million viewers each week during December. One Million Moms produced an online petition with 27,000 digital signatures. A little math tells me that less than 1 percent of viewers were offended by the Zola ad.
Way to stand up for equal rights, Hallmark.
It gets even worse. A month before the Zola fracas, Bill Abbott, CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, Hallmark’s parent company, said the network was “open” to the idea of making one of its many annual Christmas movies gay. I applaud the sentiment, Mr. Abbott, but you can’t have your bûche de noël and eat it, too. Tell me you’re making a gay Hallmark holiday movie and I will start popping the corn now (sorry, One Million Moms, I don’t have enough popcorn for all of you), but at the moment I don’t think you have the spine to go through with it. Make the movie, and I’ll start buying the cards again.
I’ll make it easy for you. I have ideas you can use, for free. How about “Don’s Gay Apparel”? The heart-warming tale of big city fashion designer Don (Neil Patrick Harris) who begrudgingly comes home to his small town for Christmas and falls in love with a sartorially-challenged landscaper (Cheyenne Jackson)?
Or, there’s “Make the Yuletide Gay.” The tale of a big city ad executive (Wanda Sykes) who realizes there’s more to life than money when she returns to her small hometown and falls in love with a sassy barista (Jane Lynch). If these movies come to pass on the Hallmark Channel, I will hold viewing parties. Big ones.
I honestly believe that someday the Hallmark Channel will air Christmas movies with LGBTQ characters in leading roles. It won’t happen this year or next. But in a decade, maybe less, it will. I also think the One Million Moms will help make this happen.
When the One Million Moms demanded that JCPenney fire Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson in 2012, because, you know, she’s gay, JCPenney stood by its woman. You can’t come after America’s lesbian sweetheart and expect a positive outcome. The One Million Moms backed off JCPenney, and JCPenney came away a winner. I hadn’t been in JCPenney since I was 11, but I went to JCPenney that year and bought some pillows to show my support.
Thanks, One Million Moms, for reminding me I needed throw pillows.
At some point Hallmark Channel execs will get on board with their card-making colleagues and stop the small-minded, cowardly, and hypocritical thinking. It’s time for an LGBTQ holiday movie. The One Million Moms will raise a stink. I’m counting on the Million Moms to raise a ruckus so people will know when “Homo for the Holidays,” or whatever the eventual movie is called, is airing. Let’s all thank One Million Moms in advance for helping the ratings of this hypothetical LGBTQ Christmas film. When it airs, the controversy will send ratings through the roof.