This week is is a real pleasure to celebrate an entertainment executive who really understands the power of her industry to influence society — for better or for worse.
Amy Pascal is the co-chair of Sony Pictures and the chair of its Columbia TriStar division. She has been recognized as one of the most important women in entertainment by the Hollywood Reporter and one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes. She recently spoke at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center’s Gala and took her industry to task for the way it treats the LGBT community.
Brokeback Mountain, Milk, Boys Don’t Cry, Philadelphia, The Hours, Gods and Monsters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Single Man, My Own Private Idaho, Cloud Atlas – in all these movies, the main character is murdered or martyred or commits suicide or just dies unhappily. And there are far more pernicious and dangerous images that confront gay kids and their parents: the lesbian murderer, the psychotic transvestite, the queen who is humiliated and sometimes tossed off a ship or a ledge.
Pascal takes that analysis one important step further and asks two important questions. First, what is the impact of these messages?
The most benign stereotypes would have a gay kid believe that they will end up being the asexual, witty best friend of the pretty girl, or a drag queen, or a swishy hairdresser. The list goes on… Not every gay character needs to be defined by his or her sexuality. Can’t being gay be one stitch in the fabric of someone’s life? Can’t we depict men and women who just so happen to be gay – perhaps a lawyer or soldier or business executive or scientist or engineer?
More importantly, she issues a challenge to her peers.
We need to create an atmosphere that encourages people to speak up, so we get this right. How about next time, when any of us are reading a script and it says words like fag, or faggot – homo – dyke – take a pencil and just cross it out. Just don’t do it.
How perfectly put. Like it or not, movies, television, webcasts, video games, and the whole of pop culture have a significant influence on our lives and can help shape attitudes. We need more people like Amy Pascal to insist that this power be used for good.