I found the exchange between Orthodox parents of gay children and Hollywood screenwriter Robert J. Avrech to be a sad commentary on the times. It was in the letters section of Jewish Action Magazine. And I believe it to be a combination of misunderstanding on the one hand – and on the other – a reaction by those sympathetic to people that suffer the emotional pain of rejection that comes with being gay in the Orthodox world.
There is no question in my mind that the rejection is real. Orthodox Judaism rejects anal sex between 2 men as sinful. So that even if a gay person doesn’t engage in such behavior, they are nonetheless viewed as though they do. That can do great damage to the mental health of a gay man. There is an organization called Eshel whose mission is ‘to create community and acceptance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews and their families in Orthodox communities.’
One letter was written by a group of parents belonging to that organization saying that Avrech’s article deeply offended them. Another was written by freelance writer Tova Ross who wrote:
Reading Avrech’s article, with its underlying implication that anything other than married heterosexual parents and heterosexual children should be grouped into some deviant category, was not only extremely hurtful but frankly, surprising to see in your publication that reaches such a wide Jewish audience and, surely, a wide array of different kinds of genuine families.
Avrech’s offending paragraph in his original article appears to be the following:
There are several shows in development about married lesbians and married gays, plus a sitcom about an adorable soldier who just happens to be transgendered. Each of these shows is designed to condition a young generation of viewers, Skinner-box style, to a new version of family, redefining deviance as something to be celebrated.
First let me make one thing perfectly clear – which is something I have said many times. Gay Jews are not to be rejected. No one should ever be rejected because of who they are attracted to. Gay Jews deserve the same level of respect as any other Jew. It is the character of the individual that counts, not his sexual preferences.
It should however be noted that Avrech’s article was not about sexual identity per se. It was about how far Hollywood has sunk in matters dealing with the sexual mores in this country. A point well taken.
When my own children were growing up, the worst offender of this type was probably a show called Three’s Company. It was a sitcom about a straight man pretending to be gay so that he could share an apartment with 2 single women. There were a lot of double entendre jokes about that situation which went right over the heads of my children. But there was no nudity or anything remotely comparable, no profanity, and no overt sexual situations on that show. The rest of TV fare in those days was even more harmless. Contrast that with today where one can see both straight and gay lovemaking right on broadcast TV which – unlike cable – is supposed to have decency standards. The standards of acceptable dress for women on many programs is practically non-existent – leaving little to the imagination.
Avrech’s point was that that Hollywood has a leftist agenda that seeks to take sex out of the moral equation. And an accompanying agenda of equating all manner of consensual sex as morally neutral. Married couples with well adjusted families and decent good old fashioned American values are no longer depicted as the norm. No more Father Knows Best or Seventh Heaven. Now it’s shows like Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy where sexual situations (both heterosexual and gay) dominate their plot lines; and depict their show’s characters as glamorous people with high moral values
I think Avrech is right. Hollywood has lost any semblance of decency when it comes to sexual mores. Instead they promote amorality. For Hollywood, the sexual revolution of sixties with its slogan of ‘If it feels good, do it’ guides them. Sexual mores are irrelevant and have no place in one’s moral compass.
Avrech’s article was not about devaluing gay people. It is about trying to stop Hollywood’s agenda to wipe the sexual mores of the bible off the map. Promoting them as values neutral.
As to how Avech’s approach affects gay Jews, I have said many times here in the past, hate the sin, love the sinner. One must acknowledge that gay men have Halachic challenges that most straight men do not. We should admire those among us that are gay and try to be Orthodox. We should in fact encourage them. But at the same time we cannot say that gay relationship is the same as a straight relationship. It is not. It is a fact that unlike heterosexuals, gay men have no Halachic way of satisfying sexual needs. Which is not something to celebrate.
And yet, that is exactly what Hollywood is selling these days. And they are succeeding in spades. I note that Hillary Clinton’s recent video announcing her candidacy for President has images promoting gay marriage in glorious tones.
Here is how Avrech puts it in his response to those letter writers:
The point of my article was not to devalue these families but rather to underscore the power of the media’s value system. Hollywood chooses, very carefully, which cultural trends it highlights and romanticizes, and which it treats with contempt.
Thus, leftists are almost always viewed as cool, attractive and virtuous, whereas Republicans are seen as narrow-minded bigots. Atheists are depicted as intellectual giants, but pious people of faith are seen as superstitious dolts. The point being that Hollywood products not only reflect, but impose a super-commentary that is stealth propaganda for leftist ideology.
He’s right. And he ought to know. As a successful Hollywood screenwriter, he sees it up close and personal.