There’s a saying about lies, damned lies and statistics. Television ratings are statistics, and they’re believed to be the barometer to indicate whether a show is a success.
On Monday, the miniseries “When We Rise,” which chronicles the rise of the LGBT movement, debuted on ABC. There were 2.94 million viewers who watched the program live, lower numbers than those who watched programs on other stations during the same time period.
A scene from the ABC mini-series “When We Rise.” (Photo by Eike Schroter/ABC)
In the view of Daniel Reynolds, an editor for The Advocate, the television ratings are a sign that the LGBT community has failed to show support for its rainbow brothers and sisters. Here’s what he had to say in a column titled “When We Fall in Ratings, We Fail Our Movement”:
“If you were watching Two Broke Girls instead of a groundbreaking depiction of our history then, well, you’re part of the problem. In an era when LGBT folks, people of color, and their rights are under attack, positive representations of us and our movement are more essential than ever to preserving progress. In our hearts, we understand this. This is why millions of people showed up at demonstrations like the Women’s March and as well as airports to protest Trump’s travel ban. It’s why people deleted Uber and shopped at Nordstrom. And it’s why countless more have committed to marching on Washington, D.C., this July in a mass demonstration of LGBT pride.
“Numbers matter, which is why Trump was so infuriated that the crowd from his inauguration looked tiny when juxtaposed with Obama’s and that of the Women’s March. So, why can we trek to the National Mall, ride Lyfts, and shop at a high-end department store, but we can’t turn on the television set to support productions that are supporting us? This is the easiest way to resist Donald Trump and his army of trolls. They also understand the power of numbers. It’s why they worked to ruin the all-female Ghostbusters film and campaigned to delete Netflix in response to the upcoming television production of Dear White People.”
Here’s what I say: Queen, get a grip.
Sorry to resort to the proverbial slap in the face of a panicking person, but when someone’s resorting to hysteria to shame the LGBT community, just clicking my tongue and wagging a finger doesn’t cut it. There are a number of things to consider about why every member of the community didn’t drop everything and watch something on television.
• Just because 2.94 million people watched it live, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t millions of other people who will watch it online or via digital video recording at a later time. When the ratings system was established decades ago, there was no internet. There was no digital system in place that would allow you to watch something on CBS while recording something on NBC, ABC, Logo, HGTV or the hundreds of other channels in existence.
• I was one of the almost 3 million viewers who watched it live. I had Monday night off. The next three installments today through Friday will be shown while I’m hard at work at a job that pays for the home I live in. Like Daniel Reynolds, I work in the journalism industry, and somehow I doubt that I’ll be able to tell the local news sources, “Hey, can you not do anything between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.? I have to watch an important television program.” I don’t think that’ll happen.
• You also have to keep in mind that many same-sex couples have children, and evenings tend to be family time. Keeping younger children up until 10 p.m. to watch “When We Rise” doesn’t seem like quality parenting, and given the choice of viewing the television or having fun with the kids, most parents will choose the kids. It doesn’t mean they’re uncaring about the struggle the movement has experienced over the last 40-plus years; it just means life isn’t going to be put on hold.
• Just because this miniseries was written by a notable member of the LGBT community, Dustin Lance Black, it does not automatically mean we have to watch it. Like I said, I tuned in Monday and found it to be a quality story. It doesn’t mean other gay men or others in the “community” would see it that way. If we were to apply that sort of logic, then the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people among the 2.94 million viewers should be getting their butts on Amazon right now and ordering my books, as they have same-sex protagonists (and a few antagonists), and most of them address LGBT issues in some form or fashion. If that were a rule, I’d be rich and able to quit my day job, which means I’d be able to watch “When We Rise” in the evenings.
Shaming the LGBT community is not the way to mobilize people on your side. It’ll mobilize people and bring them together, but more than likely they’ll team up to stand against what you’re pushing. We’ve already been shamed for decades by the religious community, Republicans and legions of hate groups, so shaming by someone in our own community is redundant. Perhaps Reynolds should try to encourage people to watch the rest of the miniseries by pointing out why it’s important to watch and what powerful television can do to shape society.
He didn’t do that, though. He argued that “if these television shows and films succeed, they have the power to change hearts and minds. Frankly, we can use all the hearts and minds we can get right now. We also much [sic] show Hollywood and the world the strength of our numbers, which have never been greater. We have power. We are a force to be reckoned with. We have risen.”
By that logic, it shouldn’t be the LGBT community tuning in. Many of us who are homosexual, bisexual and/or transgender know the long and difficult struggle we’ve had in gaining equal rights and the continued fights that are ahead. It should be heterosexual people who should be plopping in front of the television this week. Reynolds isn’t taking his frustration out on the households with a mommy and daddy. He’s taking it out on us. Wrong target, sir, and it’s the completely opposite message being portrayed on “When We Rise.”
I said it before and will say it again. I liked the first night of “When We Rise.” I’ll watch the rest of it when I can because I believe it’s important. Everyone reading this blog should see “When We Rise,” too, but if you don’t, that’s your call. Happy viewing.