The Bachelor star Juan Pablo Galavis made some horrible comments about gays on Friday that were arguably worse than those uttered by Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson. However, we haven’t seen the same type of media firestorm over Galavis’s statements. Why? In large part because Galavis, unlike Robertson, is neither a self-identified Bible-thumping conservative nor does he look like one.
So what did Galavis say? First, when asked if there should be a gay “Bachelor,” he responded, “No… I respect [gay people] but, honestly, I don’t think it’s a good example for kids …” (This coming from a guy on a reality show where he gets to pick one women to “marry” from a harem of 20.)
Second, Galavis expressed his discomfort with gay couples being depicted on TV as the parents of children: “You have to respect everybody’s desires, opinions, and way of living. But it would be too hard for TV.”
And then the former professional soccer player netted a hat trick of insensitive comments with the statement that gay people are “more ‘pervert’ in a sense. And to me the show would be too strong… too hard to watch.”
How can I say Galavis’s comments were more troubling than Robertson’s statement equating gays with those who rape animals (bestiality) as well as drunkards and terrorists? Robertson was expressing his moral philosophy about homosexuality predicated upon his understanding of the Bible. He wasn’t being hateful, just conservative. You may vehemently disagree with his close-minded outlook—as I did in my article in December, but Robertson wasn’t promoting discrimination against gays.
In contrast, Galavis is at least implicitly advocating that gays shouldn’t star on certain TV shows nor should gay couples be depicted on TV as parents, because “it is confusing in a sense.” And to me, that is far worse.
Galavis’s original response to the mini outcry included a statement on Facebook apologizing and offering the defense that English is his second language. The Bachelor star explained that what he meant by “pervert” “was that gay people are more affectionate and intense and for a segment of the TV audience this would be too racy to accept.”
True, Galavis was raised in Venezuela after being born in the U.S., but he did attend college for four years in Rochester, New York. Plus, he played professional soccer in the U.S. from 2006 through 2009 and has lived in the states for years. You can decide if his lack of English fluency is a valid defense, but many Spanish-speaking people indicated on Galavis’s Facebook page that they weren’t buying it.
The big question then is, why didn’t Galavis’s comments cause a massive media outcry like Phil Robertson’s did?
A few reasons:
1. Galavis doesn’t fit the caricature of a conservative as painted by the media. Galavis is not an angry, older white guy. He’s a 32-year-old, GQ looking, Latino former professional athlete. In contrast, Robertson is like a guy from central casting for the role of angry white guy—or for the part of a guitarist in a ZZ Top cover band. Plus Galavis didn’t cite the Bible for his comments, nor did he ever publicly self-identify as a conservative. Consequently, that reduced the motivation by potential detractors and supporters to join the battle.
2. People are numb to these comments because of the Phil Robertson uproar. So many have “cried wolf” over comments that we are collectively growing tired of being outraged. That’s truly unfortunate—not that I want to see another media crucifixion—because comments like Galavis’s signaling that’s its okay to discriminate against any minority group must be vehemently countered.
3. Politicians have not jumped in. In the case of Robertson, we had people like Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal stand up for Robertson, turning this issue into a political lightning rod. In Galavis’s case, the politicians on the right are either uncomfortable defending his comments or they haven’t figured out a way to profit from it.
While ABC, the network that airs The Bachelor, criticized Galavis’s remarks as “careless, thoughtless, and insensitive,” he wasn’t suspended from his show—even for a short time like Robertson. Galavis has since issued a more detailed apology in association with GLAAD and indicated that he will be meeting with the LGBT community later this week—something Robertson never did. This issue will likely pass with little fanfare.
So what is the takeaway from this incident? Hopefully, it’s that we don’t go ballistic every time a person utters a comment that anyone finds the least bit “offensive,” such as: “Is Santa Clause White?” Rather, we harness our powerful instant outrage to counter those people who are truly advocating discrimination or those who are demonizing people because of their race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. That is far more important in the long run for us as a people than creating and fueling media contrived firestorms.