By Alessio Tummolillo
Disney’s Make Your Mark Campaign, which according to GLAAD aims to encourage children to make positive change in the world, recently aired a spot in which 14-year-old filmmaker Ben uses his creativity to join the fight against bullying. Ben’s message is to empower victims, which include himself and his friends, to have courage and seek the help of an adult if they need. However, his aim has been overlooked by some because of a certain detail of Ben’s life mentioned in the video - the fact that Ben has two moms.
Right wing media source NewsBusters, a Media Research Center project, has latched on to the fact that Ben has lesbian parents. Tim Graham, Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center, a company that proclaims itself “Leader in Documenting, Exposing and Neutralizing Liberal Media Bias,” has written a piece against the PSA, focusing on a blog article by Ed Kennedy for AfterElton.com, stating: “…the gays are thrilled by the channel’s ad campaign ‘Make Your Mark’ for featuring a 14-year-old named Ben, an aspiring filmmaker who made a film against bullying and ‘happens to have two moms.’”
Ed Kennedy writes in his piece: “At the 0:12 mark, when he's showing us a bit about his life, he shows us his moms. Plural, with their arms around each other. It's the briefest of moments in a remarkable enough story, but it stopped me cold... it's one of the few instances outside of DeGrassi that Disney Channel or Nickelodeon has shown that gay people exist in the world.”
Graham also seems to be saying that gay characters in television are not age appropriate for children between 6 and 14. He quotes Media Research Center (MRC) founder Brent Bozell’s column piece “The ‘Good News’ About Gay Teens,” in which Bozell claims “Disney Channel issued the magazine [Entertainment Weekly] a vague statement about their ‘responsibility to present age-appropriate programming for millions of kids age 6-14 around the world.’ ’Age-appropriate’ is not a term these activists recognize.”
This has sparked a response from Mediaite columnist Andrew Kirell, who states “MRC often provides valuable insight into how journalists who claim the mantle of ‘objectivity’ often let slide their liberal bias in their reporting; but oftentimes the site just complains about things they find icky.”
He goes on to say:
Christian conservatives have every right to lament what is portrayed in popular culture – consumer complaints and preferences are what drive the market for entertainment – but instead of perpetually being outraged by every single instance of homosexuality being 'glorified' (i.e., not treated like a defective product, as they see it), here's an easier solution for the anti-gay warriors: Turn off the channel, block your kids from watching Disney (it's called modern technology), and live your life the way you choose while letting others do the same. Easy as pie.
While many media outlets have commented on this controversy and the Public Service Announcement’s inclusion of Ben’s two moms, little has been said about the actual aim of the public service announcement itself: to stop bullying and give victims the courage to speak out, an issue which should hold precedence in our national discourse.