Friday, August 8, 2008

News: Tyra Banks Show?

I learned from the Announcements section of AVEN that the Tyra Banks Show (that's a daytime talk show headed by that lady from America's Next Top Model) wants to do a feature on asexuality.

My immediate gut reaction was, "NOOO, MONTEL! NOOO!"

But my eternally hopeful self is thinking that maybe this won't be so bad. Although I've always found Tyra kind of forced as a host, her show did win an Emmy this year. She's had shows dealing with race that seem fairly controversial for daytime TV, and I respect her for doing that. She also did a show (although I didn't see it) about transwomen that was sympathetic. However, the transwomen profiled were from the film Trantasia, in which these women are competing in a pageant in order to get a gig as a Vegas showgirl. So while Tyra may have been supportive of these particular outsiders, they come from a common background of participation in entertainment sold by beauty and sex appeal. Modeling, which was and is Tyra's major avocation, is all about using sexuality to enhance the image of products. Will she really relate to people who eschew sex althogether?

Maybe I'm overemphasizing Tyra's involvement in this, and she's just reading cue cards written by a crack team of Anthony Bogaert's research minions. I really don't know, and I remain highly skeptical of any publicity that isn't controlled by asexuals themselves. I think that we have to be careful of letting people with no stake in our issues write our stories, which is why I'm adamant about generating all this content here.

If it hasn't become painfully apparent, I'm not a member of the "any press is good press" school. But if a major TV show wants to cover you, how are you supposed to say "no" without looking like you're afraid or have nothing to talk about? And even though we've gotten national press, most people still have no idea what asexuality is (or worse, they have major misconceptions). Would it even be wise to say no? Mass media is the best way to educate large numbers of people quickly-- if it's done right. Once we're known, we can't be unknown. But myths and stereotypes seem harder to undo than blank slates. If the only thing you knew about asexuality was the Montel show, would you have a negative impression? I honestly can't say, because I can't imagine not knowing what I now know. But I'm pretty sure it would leave you with more questions than answers.

So, what do you think? Will Tyra's attempt be better than others have been?


pretzelboy said...

With TV visibility, there seem to be two very difference audiences that we are aiming to do visibility at. On the one hand, there are asexuals who have never heard about asexuality. They see the show and then go online and google 'asexual.' Montel was helpful for a lot of people in this way. The other groups is non-asexuals that we want to educate about asexuality. They're probably not going to google us or do anything to get a more balanced/nuanced view (Things on AVEN are not as black and white as they are on TV.) I don't really know how that group would take it. It probably depends on the person. Those sympathetic towards us would have empathy with the asexuals that spoke about their lives. Those who aren't would feel justified in their doubt by the "authoritative view" of the sex therapist. (People hear what they want.) We could try to make demands like, "We'll do a show with a research psychologist or an MD at a university, but not with some sex therapist who has no university connection." I find that the people with university connection seem to have more favorable opinions of us.

Ily said...

I agree-- I'd have a MUCH more favorable view of the process if we could choose whoever appeared with us on the show. But, is that even possible?

Anonymous said...

Well, I would hope that it would at least be more sympathetic than The View ended up being. I felt really bad for David Jay when I saw that...he couldn't seem to get a word in edgewise! And I agree with you about not agreeing with the "all press is good press" or whatever; that just seems like a problem waiting to happen. But who knows. Maybe it'll end up being pretty okay.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, interesting. My sister loves Tyra, I never found her all that interesting but she's not terrible either. The impression I get is that she kind of has a reputation for being nice and sympathetic to protect, so she would probably present asexuality in a better light than Montel or the girls on The View. She tries to be a positive role model for young girls, she likes to encourage them to resist peer pressure from what I gather, and I would hope that also includes the pressure to be sexual. Although she is part of an industry that profits from sexuality and beauty, she tends to promote non-traditional models (plus-sized for example), and tries to expand the (pretty narrow) ideal cultural image of beauty. I think it would make sense for her to also be inclusive of non-traditional sexual identities, and honestly, I would be surprised if she presented us in a very bad light. Plus, isn't she on Lifetime now? That network tends to be more geared towards trying to evoke empathy from its viewers, and stay away from schadenfreude.

So, I want to see her try it, but if she does, she will either make or break my opinion of her.

Anne said...

AVEN's got a lot of members, so if anyone really wants to do that kind of press, it's going to happen. Personally, while I'm very into asexual visibility, I wouldn't want to do something like this, partly because of my discomfort with big media corporations. If I generally try not to support, for example, Fox, by not purchasing Fox-related things or signing up for a myspace account or whatever, it wouldn't seem right to me to take part in an interview either - I'd feel like I'd be aligning myself with them.

I realize most people would probably disagree with me, because of the "any press is good press" way of thinking, or even the idea that I'm condoning/aligning myself with these corporations by doing an interview in the interest of increasing asexual visiibility, but... Oh well! Whoever ends up appearing on the show, I do wish them the best, and I know that it will do some good because it'll bring new people to the site.

Ily said...

Anne, good point. As someone who had a nightmare about ClearChannel once (aaah, FearChannel!), I can't say I blame you for not wanting to support major media.

Eric said...

i see this as really positive, its getting the word out and getting people to go online like pretzel said and google to learn more. also tyra has been sensitive of gay and trans issues and i think she will prob be like that with asexuals (i hope)

Mayda said...

Good words.