BROOKE GLADSTONE: Speaking of trends, media outlets ranging from Reuters to the New York Times have declared this to be The Gay Summer of Ought-Three. Bill Powers wrote about the gay summer phenomenon in his National Journal column this month, and he joins us from his home in Cape Cod to discuss it. Bill, welcome back to the show!
BILL POWERS: Thanks, Brooke. Good to be here.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So-- we saw the wave gathering much earlier this summer when the Times used the term "metrosexual." I think it was used first here last year by Salon and of course it's been used quite a lot abroad, and it refers to straight urban men who embrace their feminine sides by getting manicures and dying their hair and so on. But you suggest that the metrosexual is not so much a cultural phenomenon as a media creation.
BILL POWERS: Yes. Well, it had the feeling to me from the beginning of a kind of a synthetic trend that the media were running with because it coincided nicely or helped fire up a larger story which is the gay marriage, gay rights story that we've been following. Media people realize that they have to have a pop culture angle to make a political story fly, even if it's a very important one like the gay rights one.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:So you're saying that we wouldn't have had as much coverage of the legalization of gay marriage in Canada, the Supreme Court's striking down anti-sodomy laws and the ordination of a gay bishop and so on if it weren't for the fact that Boy Meets Boy and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy exist?
BILL POWERS: Exactly. I mean it's sort of a cynical point, but I meant it seriously -- that this pop culture angle has become crucial in selling every major story.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:You write that when the media are writing a giant story like this one, they can be relied on to "throw caution to the wind and start buying in to pure silliness." What do you mean by that?
BILL POWERS: Well there was one example I gave. I've seen a few of these, but the one main one that I used is a New York Times health columnist wrote a column about new research data which she said showed that gay parents are not just as good as straight parents but actually better. They had to work harder to have them and they're more aware of diversity issues than straights are. Now when you look at the broad variety of people who could be parents, both straight and gay -- and in my opinion when you acknowledge the fact that it all depends on the individual - it's not about sexuality - I thought her buying in to this claim of this data was--kind of irresponsible. That at the very least if she's going to present this study as a columnist she should have a somewhat skeptical eye about it, but she just presented it virtually as fact. And to me this was an example of taking a trend and really gilding the lily -- going overboard and buying into questionable data and, and putting it in the newspaper.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Bill, do you notice as we head towards Labor Day that there seems to be something of a backlash? There was a, a Gallup poll recently that showed a big drop in the percentage of Americans "who support legalized homosexual relations." That's actually bucking the trend of increasing percentages of Americans who seem to have no problem with it.
BILL POWERS: Yeah, it was very surprising, and in fact there has been some coverage of this question -- news stories that basically asked how in a time where we're paying so much attention to gay people and the rights questions and so forth, and where they seem to be more accepted in pop culture, could there be this downward trend of acceptance of gay marriage? I mean literally that Gallup poll showed that fewer people support gay marriage now than did -- I think it was even 6 months ago or a year ago. I mean a very recent drop. But I basically wondered if maybe the extent to which we hype a story like this, with all these pop culture framings and allusions and all this kind of data that swirls around, might turn off the public, and they might develop some skepticism and say wait a minute -- the media are kind of stuffing this down our throats here. We need a break.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Okay! Thanks a lot!
BILL POWERS: Thank you. Good to be here.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Bill Powers is a columnist for the National Journal, and he'll be no doubt relieved to hear that after much deliberation this week we've decided not to follow the lead of Fox and sue him for calling his column "On the Media." [LAUGHTER]