Carpet munchers and fudge packers, Canadian Tire feels your pain. Leave it to the boycotting homo-haters to turn a major corporation into a major martyr-bashed, harassed and shunned by tens of religious zealots simply because they dared to get in bed with a reality TV show about same-sex marriage.
The TV show in question is David Paperny’s new series, My Fabulous Gay Wedding, which premiered earlier this month on Global.
Paperny, of BC’s Paperny Films, has directed or produced the Oscar-nominated The Broadcast Tapes of Dr Peter and the fetish cable series Kink. His head of business affairs, Trevor Hodgson, has produced documentaries about Joe Average and road rage. So who better to tackle a reality TV show about gay weddings?
“I have gay friends who think marriage is the beginning and end of gay culture,” Paperny says. “They think they become straightified when they marry, but the gay community isn’t homogeneous; not every gay couple is the same.
“The gay friends I have want the option to marry. They don’t want society to tell them what to do.”
In the show’s six hour-long episodes, “wedding fairy” Scott Thompson and his team of abused wedding planners, designers, stylists and caterers have only two short weeks to create a fabulous wedding for a lucky gay or lesbian couple.
As with most reality TV shows the human element drives the story. In one episode two lesbians nearly have their fabulous gay wedding ruined by a bride’s homophobic parents and ex-husband, who refuse to let her own kids attend; in another, one of the grooms has been HIV-positive for over a decade.
Paperny watched the show’s first episode at the PumpJack Pub and was heartened by the community’s response. When Rob and Greg were finally married, he recalls, “there was a huge, unified burst of applause.”
What makes this festivus for the rest of us particularly satisfying is its dignified approach to an exploitative genre. Playing it Straight and Boy Meets Boy used sexual orientation for deceit; something to be hidden or you wouldn’t win the game.
“Will & Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy still have gays as straight people’s poodles: helpers or pets who amuse them or pick out the right blouses for them,” says Daniel Gelfant, the director, writer and co-creator of My Fabulous Gay Wedding.
He says his show depicts gays and lesbians who have “full lives: they touch, they kiss, they cry together, laugh together, pay mortgages and rent and deal with friends and family.
“Many gay people are mainstream,” he continues, “and their values and lives need to be reflected just as anyone else’s.”
Paperny remembers the early 1990s protests over The Broadcast Tapes of Dr Peter coming not from the public but from the suits doing the broadcasting.
“There was a lot of debate about giving a platform for homosexuals-whether we should let him talk about whatever he wanted,” Paperny recalls. “But the public fell in love with him [and] today we have the Dr Peter Centre.”
Paperny says he hasn’t received any complaints about Kink and defines the extent of Canadian Tire’s involvement with My Fabulous Gay Wedding as simply showing two excited fiancés in an aisle shopping for wedding gifts.
Gelfant, however, says Canadian Tire is one of the show’s many sponsors. Both are correct.
According to Canadian Tire, they first got involved with the show as “part of an overall marketing and advertising plan aimed at promoting our new gift registry service to engaged couples.”
Since being invited to the wedding, however, LifeSiteNews.com reported that Canadian Tire has been “showered” with angry “calls, emails and faxes”.
Despite early reports that the store would stand behind its sponsorship, Susan Rogers, its senior VP of Corporate Affairs, now says Canadian Tire “is not a sponsor of this program in any way, shape or form. Our involvement was to allow the producers of this series to shoot one segment in a Canadian Tire store.”
But that’s apparently not good enough for the Canadian Family Action Coalition (CFAC). In a posting on familyaction.org it insisted that Canadian Tire was “in fact involved, regardless of terminology.
“Since they received no compensation for the use of their store for the filming… this ‘in kind’ generous offer helped the production of the series,” the site says.
CFAC is advising its followers to rethink whether they want to support Canadian Tire. “It seems like rather bad management and bad business sense to advertise in a way that offends most of one’s customers,” it says on its website. “Canadian Tire management have heard from you, the people, and will now have to make further decisions about their marketing and advertising strategies.”
LifeSiteNews also reported that “Rogers said she was not certain how rigorous the consideration of the request to film the pro-gay ‘marriage’ show in the store was but she added, ‘I can tell you we’ll be much more diligent in the future.'”
Rogers reportedly explained to LifeSite that Canadian Tire understands that same-sex marriage is “a sensitive and emotional issue for many Canadians and there are many conflicting ideas on what constitutes a ‘traditional Canadian family’.
“Canadian Tire does not define what constitutes a family; we feel we should leave that to policy makers and the government.”
“I don’t expect politicians to change people’s minds, I don’t expect Supreme Court judges to change people’s minds,” Paperny has reportedly said in the past. “I think the way to do it is through programs like [My Fabulous Gay Wedding] where we present real gay and lesbian couples to other Canadians.”
“You can’t generalize about any marriage, gay or straight,” says Gelfant. “However, anyone gay getting married probably has to think more about it than straight people right now because it’s not an expected path to take and, even for apolitical people, the act of getting married now if you are gay is a political statement as well as just a declaration of love.”
So while Gelfant understands that “the orthodox gay movement and the rightwing might have problems with the show-it isn’t aimed to them. It’s a show for mainstream people. We’re not debating whether gay marriage is a good thing; we’re just putting it out there as a reality.”
As one groom on My Fabulous Gay Wedding so poignantly puts it about himself and his husband-to-be: “When this is all over we’ll wake up, it’ll just be the two us and the dog-and we’ll be married.”