Being a culture-warrior must be exhausting

Being a culture-warrior must be exhausting February 3, 2012

Ellen DeGeneres is very funny. She’s also endearingly self-deprecating, kind, honest and just sort of all-around adorable.

Hiring her as a spokesperson is thus a smart move for JCPenney. And trying to whip up a culture-war tempest over that hiring is a really, really dumb move for the American Family Association.

I’ll link to the E!-News story on this, because that seems appropriate — “JCPenney Hires Ellen DeGeneres, Gets Heat From Anti-Gay Group“:

Ellen DeGeneres has won 16 Daytime Emmys and seven People’s Choice Awards, and is a TV and print spokeswoman for CoverGirl and American Express.

So no one batted an eye when she added JCPenney to her résumé, right?

Wrong, believe it or not.

“By jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon, JCPenney is attempting to gain a new target market and in the process will lose customers with traditional values that have been faithful to them over all these years,” read a statement from the American Family Associations’ One Million Moms, a conservative group that, per its website, seeks to abolish “the immorality, violence, vulgarity and profanity the entertainment media is throwing at your children.”

Well, none of the million should hold her breath, because JCPenney is standing strong behind DeGeneres.

Of course they are. Because JCPenney knows that “One Million Moms” doesn’t represent anything close to a million people. And they know that, regardless of the AFA’s bloviating, even most of the AFA’s fervent culture-war constituency still likes Ellen. Everybody pretty much does. Either they like her, or they don’t care one way or another, but trying to make her the frightening face of “immorality, vulgarity and profanity” just won’t work.

The culture war is fueled by fear and indignation. The fear is sometimes sincere, albeit misguided, but the indignation never is. The indignation has to be created.

Veterans of the culture war have worked for a long time to hone their ability to cultivate their fears and to conjure up indignation at the slightest pretense, but they still need something to work with. No matter how skilled you’ve become at terrifying yourself with imaginary bogeymen, it’s not going to be easy to imagine that Ellen DeGeneres is menacing. And even those who are capable of whipping themselves into an offended huff over any imagined sleight will have a hard time convincing even themselves that she’s a suitable pretext for striking the requisite pose of horrified indignation.

The AFA’s alarmist alert will arrive in the inboxes of the tens of thousands of voluntarily unhappy folks who subscribe to their “One Million Moms” list, the same inboxes in which they received and from which they forwarded that funny video of Ellen in her Hawaii Chair, and they won’t be able to follow the marching orders. The generals of the culture war will tell them to be offended and outraged and to declare, “That’s it! I’m never shopping at JCPenney again!” But instead they’ll think, “Oh, goodness, it’s almost three o’clock. I’ll read this later after Ellen.”

And then they’ll remind themselves to set the DVR because next week she’s going to have Sophia Grace and Rosie on again and those girls are just so sweet. …

See also: Timothy Kincaid: “AFA’s One Million Moms demonstrate real bigotry

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