Thursday, January 27, 2005
A new low for homophobes
This was posted on Motomama's blog. It needs to be passed around.
Today the new Secretary of Education in her first act on the job, attacked a PBS children's program because it featured children of lesbian moms. Angelica Brisk directed this piece. Angelica is a terrific filmmaker and has one of the biggest hearts around. Please read her letter and take action. We can't just stand by.
Dear Friends, Family, Colleagues,
This is my urgent personal appeal for your support regarding a show I directed for WGBH's new children's series "Postcards From Buster," a spin-off of the popular children's show "Arthur."
Below you will see the actions you can take, but first I would like you to read.
Right at this moment, PBS stations around the country are deciding whether or not to air an episode filmed in Vermont called "Sugartime!" The controversy, which has made local and national news (articles from the Boston Globe and NY Times are pasted at the end of this email), has been pinned on the fact that two children featured have lesbian parents who appear in the background of the show.
Last night PBS decided to pull the national satellite feed after negative pressure from the new Secretary of Education. This is the first time in the history of WGBH, Boston's public television station and one of the largest producer of PBS programming (including Frontline, Nova, and American Experience), that a show has ever been rejected by PBS for distribution.
Calling your local PBS station and asking them to air it will help them make their decision. There are over 300 stations in the PBS system and all of them decide individually.
I realize this may not be a comfortable issue for some of you, but consider my point of view.
A quick primer on the series: The premise of the show is that Buster Baxter (who is an 8-year old bunny) is flying around the United States (and a few locations abroad, including Mexico and Canada) with his dad Bo, a pilot, who is taking around the Latin rock band Los Viajeros (translated as "The Travelers" from Spanish) on their 40-city tour. Buster films his adventures with his video camera and sends back "video postcards" to his friends in Elwood City. These "postcards" are documentary scenes of real kids in the context of their everyday lives, be it showing a pig at a local county fair in Indiana, doing Tai Chi in Seattle, or clogging in Kentucky. The 40 shows cover a plethora of ethnic backgrounds, religious traditions and a range of urban, suburban, rural neighborhoods as well as kids in different kinds of families: large extended families under one roof, single parents, tribal families.... and in my episode lesbian families. The kids in this episode are great.
The two families are great. Like all of the shows in the series the children guiding Buster around are children who are not often seen on television (and if they have been it's usually in the context of poverty, stereotypes or controversy.) Educators and reviewer of this particular episode who have seen "Sugartime" think it's a great show. As a producer interested in stories of diversity, as a mom raising children in a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual family, this series has been a gift. The rare opportunity to present diverse cultures and experiences in a non-threatening, non-didactic manner.
If WGBH and the producers of "Postcards of Buster" had said they could film all kinds of children in North America except 'those' kinds of children, then the purpose of the series would be lost.
I am very proud of WGBH, the series, and the team of producers. I am especially proud of this show. It represents the best use of my skills as a filmmaker.
The good news is that WGBH is airing the episode as planned on March 23. They are making it available for other PBS affiliate stations to broadcast the show as well, and as of today stations are getting onboard. Since local public television stations answer to YOU the VIEWER (and taxpayer), your contacting them will help them make their decision. Just in the way that the kids and families who participate in our show put themselves out there, I think it's important for voices supporting this, be it through the angle of non-censorship, non-discrimination, or simply that you love the show to be heard as well. Even though it's easy to say that this is "just" a children's show, it really does represent something greater.
Here are immediate actions you can take to help:
1. Call your local PBS station and ask them to air the program, or give them a thumbs for deciding to do it already. You can look up your local PBS station at: http://www.pbs.org/stationfinder/index.html
2. E-mail or call PBS and voice your dissent for their self-censorship. Go right to the top and email Pat Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org. And email the general PBS email at http://www.pbs.org/aboutsite/aboutsite_emailform.html.
3. Vote on an online poll at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6869976/.
4. Contact Margaret Spellings, the Secretary of Education. Call 1-800-872-5327, and press 5 for an operator to make a general comment.
5 Call or e-mail your Congressperson.
6. E-mail other people and ask them to voice their opinion!
7. Read more about "Postcards From Buster" at http://pbskids.org/buster.