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Hats off to The Gay FCC
By Fay Funk
On Feb. 23, Alec Baldwin published an essay in New York Magazine entitled “I Give Up” announcing his retirement from public life. Following a violent altercation with the paparazzi, in which Baldwin called the man a “cocksucking fag” and referring to a tabloid reporter as a “toxic little queen” after a tweeting scandal involving Baldwin’s wife, Alec Baldwin faced massive amounts of criticism from the press and LGBTQ organizations. He lost a job as an MSNBC talk show host, likely because of the homophobic outbursts. The backlash prompted Baldwin to pen the essay in which he quits his public life, though he is continuing to act in movies and on TV. It’s always saddening and enraging when an actor I like reveals homophobic tendencies, but I see Baldwin’s display with as much bemusement as anger. He has become a parody, an example of life imitating art, and I don’t think he even realizes it.
Alec Baldwin starred on one of my favorite shows, 30 Rock, as Jack Donaghy, the impossibly rich and successful Vice President of NBC who serves as Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, mentor. He’s the perfect parody of a white man, clueless as to the difficulties of his subordinates, claiming in one episode that, as the decision makers, white men have it much harder than women or African-Americans. He is so privileged he can never really face the consequences of his actions, though of course he doesn’t see it that way. Jack Donaghy’s idea of a failure is not making as many millions of dollars in a day as he had hoped, or being forced to ask the Obama Administration for bailout money for his company. And yet despite his fortune and his power, Jack Donaghy sees criticism and attacks at every turn, from Democrats, from business rivals, and sometimes from his own staff.
Tina Fey wrote in Bossypants that she always pictured Alec Baldwin in the role, saying “I liked the idea of writing Alec Baldwin as a powerful conservative, having him articulate passionately the opposite of everything he believed in real life.” I think that was part of the beauty of the character, the disconnect between the deeply-held beliefs of Jack Donaghy and Alec Baldwin. Baldwin has been vocal about his political beliefs throughout his career, and is strongly liberal. He was in on the joke. He was aware that rich white men like him were very fortunate and very mockable, and was happy to twist the knife. That’s why it was so funny. Only someone who understood exactly why what he was saying was so wrong could convey such obtuse ideas so hilariously.
Somewhere along the line it seems Alec Baldwin stopped getting the joke, and he became the person he so gleefully ridiculed on TV. It’s clear on the surface-level of his essay. In the first paragraph he refers to Andrew Sullivan, Anderson Cooper, and other members of the media as the “Gay Department of Justice” and a few paragraphs later refers to a transman he meets as and “F-to-M tranny,” then tells him he wants to “learn about what is hurtful speech in your community.” The absurdity and misplaced drama of his statements are things you don’t see much outside of, well, a TV show. After reading this part I thought to myself that Tina Fey must be kicking herself, because it’s the perfect premise for a 30 Rock episode. Jack Donaghy is taken to trial by the Gay Department of Justice, a new government institution under the Obama Administration, and attempts to manipulate them by pretending to be sympathetic, unknowingly throwing out homophobic and transphobic slurs at every turn, thus satirically showing how little straight white men know about LGBT people, despite believing they have superior knowledge of everything. Things still work out for him at the end of the episode.
There is more behind his inflammatory writing, a deeper sense of victimhood, one that only someone who has never really been a victim can think is legitimate. Alec Baldwin lost his job as a talk show host for the liberal-oriented channel MSNBC because of his homophobic outbursts, a fitting consequence, in my opinion. This is what happens to people who are openly hateful, or at least it’s what should happen more often. They should face actual consequences. And it is barely a consequence, because even though Alec Baldwin will not be a talk show host movie, television, theater, and commercial acting jobs are all still readily available to him. Most people never have the chance to do any of those things. But to Alec Baldwin this is an unjust punishment, something he did not deserve. He will be making fewer millions than expected. His face will not be on TV as much as he had hoped. The Gay FCC must have it out for him.
His reaction reminds me of when I was a child, and stubbing my toe was worthy of a full-on sobbing meltdown. It’s the reaction of someone who has never experienced real pain. Anything that bursts their bubble, that reveals that not everything in the world is designed for them is a travesty. As an adult if I stub my toe on something I barely react, and I realize I probably should not have left that object on the floor. But as a child I would have thrown that object across the room to teach it a lesson. That’s what Alec Baldwin is doing by retiring. He is trying to punish us, the public, pointing out the things he did wrong. We hurt him by criticizing his language. We insulted him by suggesting that he should apologize, maybe take a deeper look at himself. Grow as a human.
It can be hard to face the fact that you hold deep prejudice. I have had to do it. It’s not easy to look at something so ugly about yourself and face it head-on. And it’s a shock when you did not think you had that ugliness in you, because you have gay friends and coworkers, because you have donated money to LGBTQ charities, because you have never punched a gay person for being gay. All of these things are true about Alec Baldwin. But prejudice goes deeper than that. It’s hard to deal with, but the right move is to face it and change, not reject the idea. And it’s not anywhere near as hard as been the victim of homophobia.
But rather than change, Alec Baldwin is choosing to punish us, the public, by seeing to it that we have less Alec Baldwin in our lives. OK, I guess that’s another way to handle criticism, besides growing from it. There’s no way that plan could backfire on Alec Baldwin, the man with a career that relies on public recognition. It’s inconceivable some people, like, say, LGBTQ people who have been victims of slurs, might prefer a bigot to exit from public life. There’s no way the public might actually not care one way or the other about Alec Baldwin. No, it’s a punishment for us. This would make one hell of a 30 Rock episode.
#AlecBaldwin #Homophobia #LGBTQ #TinaFey