The exceptionally handwringy Media Research Center—a conservative organization devoted to being professionally shocked, just shocked—is already exceptionally upset about The Real O’Neals, a forthcoming ABC show loosely based on sex columnist Dan Savage’s childhood. I’m sorry: sex columnist and “pro-gay bully Dan Savage,” as the MRC calls him, who’s perpetually out to make the baby Jesus cry buckets.
The Real O’Neals is a comedy about a gay kid in a Catholic family. His parents are divorcing, his older brother has an eating disorder, his little sister might be a moderate klepto, but from this trailer, it’s all seemingly presented in a kind of breezy way, as you might expect from network TV:
The MRC sees it as something a bit more sinister, embarking in April on a campaign to get the show canceled before it even got green-lit. They circulated a petition calling Savage “one of the cruelest, most vile political activists in America,” and, with the Family Research Council, wrote a letter to Disney, ABC’s parent company, protesting Savage’s “over-the-top obscenity, radical hate speech, and his venomous anti-Christian bigotry.”
This stuff gets said by the far-right about Savage often, and it’s frankly pretty shitty: Savage’s father was a Catholic deacon, his mother a lay minister. He’s written movingly about his wish to see his mom again in Heaven, just as often as he’s denounced the Catholic Church’s shameful history of covering up child abuse and attacking gay people. From a book review he wrote in 2013, about why he left the church:
I was in church every Sunday for the first 15 years of my life. Now I spend my Sundays on my bike, on my snowboard or on my husband. I haven’t spent my post-Catholic decades in a sulk, wishing the church would come around on the issue of homosexuality so that I could start attending Mass again. I didn’t abandon my faith. I saw through it. The conflict between my faith and my sexuality set that process in motion, but the conclusions I reached at the end of that process — there are no gods, religion is man-made, faith can be a force for good or evil — improved my life. I’m grateful that my sexuality prompted me to think critically about faith. Pushed out? No. I walked out.
But nuance is not the MRC’s strong suit, especially not when dealing with horrifying societal ills like a sitcom about a gay kid. Today, Matt Philbin, the MRC’s Culture Editor, wrote an essay calling the trailer “anti-Catholic” and “anti-family.” Philbin declares himself just super-bored with all the “vaginas and condoms” in the trailer.
Supposedly based on Savage’s early life, The Real O’Neals is all pretty standard religious-people-are-hypocrites lefty stuff. There are shots at Catholic theology and iconography (“I can’t come out. Have you ever met my mom? She put a statue of the Virgin Mary over the toilet so we’d remember to put the seat down.”) and lots of talk about vaginas and condoms. And it appears the whole plot comes to a very public boil at the parish bingo night.
Frankly, there’s nothing new and it doesn’t look very funny, so ABC’s determination to go ahead with developing the show in the face of protest from the MRC and a host of religious groups and leaders looks like a cultural thumb in the eye.
There’s no guarantee, of course, than we’d actually watch The Real O’Neals. It looks... fine, if not necessarily something to clear my evening for. But clearly it’s really pissing off some really terrible people, and who doesn’t enjoy watching that?
Image via ABC