Topic: Sports & Entertainment

Hair-do Ethics on "The View"
(5/5/2006)

In a game of TV roulette, Rosie O'Donnell is joining ABC's "The View" to replace Meredith Viera, who is joining the "Today Show" to replace Katie Couric, who is joining the "CBS Evening News" to replace Bob Schieffer, who is tired of replacing Dan Rather. This is fun and all, but the producers of "The View," it was reported, have made Rosie sign a contract requiring her to avoid getting short haircuts so that she would "look as glamorous as possible," as one source put it. Either the source was joshing or the producers were being disingenuous. Glamour has nothing to do with it: the producers clearly think that the butch-cut O'Donnell adopted shortly after coming "out" as a gay woman was too blatant a badge of sexual orientation for "The View's" mainstream middle-class audience.

It's hard to determine whether this is hypocrisy, deception, cowardice or stupidity, but it certainly isn't right. O'Donnell re-invented herself as a an openly gay performer when she dropped her cute and cuddly "I have a crush on all those cute actors" persona that was her talk-show hostess calling card, and bravely proclaimed that she was willing to pay the price…the alienation of the portion of the audience that is uncomfortable with gays…in order to be "herself." Now she has agreed to aid and abet the (silly and futile) attempt by ABC to limit how much of "herself" she can reveal on "The View."

Okay, Rosie has to make a living. Sometimes courage has to take a back seat to reality: she has a family to support, and her career hasn't exactly been in high gear since the butch-cut. But how far beyond compromising on hair-do's is Rosie willing to go? Has she agreed not to talk about gay issues? Is she going to wear a dress? At what point does her capitulation to the network's accommodation of anti-gay bias send a message to gay women that they have a social obligation to play hetero in the workplace?

"The View's" producers are the villains here. It would be admirable if O'Donnell had the gumption and the determination to tell them that she has the right to wear her hair any damn way she wants to, and that if they want to hire Rosie, they're going to get Gay Rosie, not "Doing Her Best To Keep Homophobes Watching" Rosie, but they never should have put her in O'Donnell in the position of having to choose between integrity or employment.

Shame on them.

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