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Manford & The One Show – Better to be gay

November 19, 2010

I may make myself look like a twat with this post. The point is worth a punt however.

Jason Manford has left his job as presenter of The One Show (Was he pushed? Did he jump? Do we really care?) over the ‘web sex shame’ reported by the press.

If you’re not up to speed, married father Mr Manford exchanged tweets with a ‘lady’. The tweets got a bit fruity. Everybody was very embarrassed. His wife was probably annoyed. He almost certainly felt like a fool.

But I can’t help wondering whether the whole thing – the story and his departure – would have been such a hot potato if the man had been gay. Indeed, I’m not convinced it would have been reported at all. And here’s why.

Gay life is a complex thing to report on in some respects. Put simply, there is no ‘typical’ gay lifestyle and no ‘typical’ gay man.

For example, for every monogamous ‘traditional’ relationship, you can find an open relationship where both partners agree to ‘play away from home’. In those cases, agreement is usually reached between both partners about the rules of the game. The rules differ from partner to partner. So too the way in which ‘an open relationship’ is interpreted. There is no ‘typical’ set up.

Online meet-up service Gaydar and social networking app Grindr meet the need. Plenty of my friends bemoan how hey fail to find suitable boyfriend material on Gaydar. That’s because – I’m aware I’m making a sweeping generalization here – like the geo-location app, it’s a way of finding sex, in some cases with no-strings attached. It’s like some aspects of the scene … but online. You may not subscribe to the activate, but it’s part of the culture and – really and truly – that’s OK. Judging people participating in it would be like dragging the gay community back 50 years.

And what reporter would dare to do that unless they’ve been living in a dark, soundproofed cave for 100 years? Even then it would be a shaky defence.

Imagine if Jason Manford was gay. Imagine too if he was in a long-term relationship with a chap with two adopted children? Imagine he’d been seen on Gaydar or Grindr looking for sex in the middle of the night – or indeed during rehearsals for The One Show? Would it be reported on? I’d wager it would be a slightly more difficult story to get assimilated by readers.

Of course, the neat summary to all of this is that there might be someone somewhere in a newsroom saying ‘that’s what those gay men do’, in itself a stereotype no one would dare pedal nowadays anyway (although some do).

But to report using an assumption like ‘a typical gay relationship’ only succeeds in showing the reporter’s ignorance and alienating vast swathes of your audience. I acknowledge that it still goes on. I’m just saying that enlightened people know otherwise.

Maybe it would have helped Manford’s cause if he was a gay dad in an open relationship finding it difficult to turn his back on a regular Friday night down at the Vauxhall Tavern – or whatever the equivalent is in Yorkshire.

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One Comment
  1. Gareth permalink

    The likes of the Mail wouldn’t see it that way I suspect: just have filed it under “further reasons gays are undermining society”

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