Friday, July 6, 2012

“Not With a Bang, but a Whimper”


Out of Town and The Closet

“ The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.” So writes CNN anchor Anderson Cooper to his friend Andrew Sullivan, editor of “The Daily Beast” (http://The Daily Beast, 07/02/12 Anderson Cooper: "The Fact Is, I'm Gay.") last Monday. Cooper was asked by gay blogger Sullivan about the trend of casual “I’m gay” statements by public figures. 

Printed with Anderson’s permission, the pronouncement to Sullivan met with understated  reactions from Anderson’s followers, signaling the growing acceptance of gays in mainstream society as reflected on television.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Compare this to Ellen DeGeneres’s announcement fifteen years ago on television that she was gay. It sent shock waves on the Richter scale of ten throughout American television sets. Viewers buzzed about her orientation for months and her revelation made the cover of Time magazine on April 14, 1997 with the title “Yep, I’m gay.” Today, with her own television daytime show, Ellen is popular; her lesbianism has not been a handicap at all.

“The Most Prominent Openly Gay Journalist on American Television.” – New York Times

However, up until last Monday, Gloria Vanderbilt’s son Anderson did not want to be known as “the gay anchor.”  He is in fact the sixth cable news anchor who is openly gay. Out to his friends and colleagues, he wanted to keep his life private so he kept his orientation out of the limelight. “A journalist shouldn’t be the story,” he said. 

Cooper, a descendant of the railroad scion Vanderbilt family, has, as an anchorman with his own show “ Anderson Cooper 360,” achieved almost rock star fame for his reporting in war zones (many which abhor homosexuality) over the last decade. He also hosts a daytime talk show called “Anderson” and contributes to “60 Minutes

Why the Epiphany Last Monday?

Did people already know because of his association with Benjamin Maisani, a gay bar owner?  Did his fans read into all his extensive accounts of gay bullying and discrimination segments covered extensively on his television shows? Was his playing on celebrity “Jeopardy:  for the charity “Trevor Project,” a suicide hotline for gays and lesbians,” a dead giveaway?”

I do think visibility is important, more important than preserving my reporter’s shield of privacy.”  Anderson Cooper

Apparently, Anderson stated in his e-mail that he didn’t want others to think he was “hiding” his sexuality as if it were something to be ashamed of. Although he didn’t disclose who was “reminding him,” Cooper remarked that prominent gay people suggested that he “stand up and be counted” and make himself a role model for other gay people.

Cynics Believe Cooper Has Ulterior Motives

Some, like Star Jones, wonder if Anderson’s announcement was a ploy for rating.  Says Jones,
“I’ve been in daytime television for a long time. He’s a daytime talk show host and when the ratings slip in daytime, the hosts tend to tell you lots of things about them. I remember Oprah said she smoked crack. Oprah said she was pregnant at age 14 and considered suicide.  There were times that you generate information for ratings. Cooper won’t be the first or the last celebrity to use personal struggle as a connection point with their audiences. "

Ignacio Fuentes, a Chicago lesbian member of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, commented that Anderson should not have said anything. “ I am one who agrees that Anderson is turning back the gay movement. He should not have said anything. People know he is gay and it was great that Anderson didn’t make an issue out of it. By coming out now, his motives are very suspect.”

What Do You Think? Post a Comment Here
Should Anderson have kept quiet? Should a person’s sexual orientation be made public anyway? Was Anderson’s revelation inspirational or a public relations stunt? Does it matter?