Those who fail to learn from Duck Dynasty are doomed to repeat it. In an interview Friday night, ABC’s current Bachelor, Juan Pablo Galavis, told The TV Page’s Sean Daly that it would be a bad idea to do a season of the show with a gay Bachelor. “I don’t think it’s a good example for kids,” he said, adding that the situation would be “confusing” and that gay people are “more pervert in a sense.” (You can listen to his whole answer here.)
I’m going to assume most of us never considered a show where a guy chooses from a harem of strange women to necessarily be a shining model for impressionable children. (This current season, some of the women on the show posed nude, strategically covered by shelter puppies. It, um, teaches kids the importance of caring for animals!) And this leaves ABC in an obviously tough PR position; it could be criticized if it does nothing, but unlike A&E it doesn’t have the option of giving its star a fig-leaf “suspension” before the show goes on the air.
All that will play out, and, who knows, maybe it will end up with someone organizing Bachelor viewing parties at Chick-Fil-A. What strikes me, though, is Galavis’ constant use of the refrain “respect,” five times in a less than two minute answer (“I respect them, but…” “…and I respect that 100%…”).
To paraphrase Otis Redding, what does r-e-s-p-e-c-t mean to him? I respect you, but it’s bad for kids to see the way you live? I respect you, but you’re a pervert?
I don’t pretend to know Galavis or to read his mind. He may be sincerely wrestling with the question; in the middle of the answer, he pointed out a gay friend of his (whom he “respects,” of course). It may be that he got tripped up in his answer, or is trying to reconcile an ingrained belief with a life experience (meeting actual gay people) that contradicts it.
Regardless, it does seem that Galavis is using the term “respect” as kind of a talisman, something that we know you’re supposed to say about any group of people even if you have issues with them. He’s hardly the first person in the world to do this, and much more practiced public speakers than him have made “I respect you but…” a reflex. And sure–you can respect people and disagree with them politically or religiously, you can respect people but not feel they’re doing their jobs well, and so on. For that matter Galavis could respect gay people and answer, say, that regardless of his opinion ABC is probably not going to rush out and do a gay Bachelor because of the controversy and ratings risk.
But “respect” isn’t just a magic word that you can apply to any statement to neutralize it. At some point, it has to actually correspond to your actions, and to the way you believe people should be treated in the real world, or it’s just empty rhetoric. You can, say, respectfully disagree with a group of people yet recognize that they should have the same opportunities–under the law or on TV–as you. But can you say that someone’s very way of being is a bad example to children, and perverted, and still respect them?
Respectfully, I would disagree.