An open letter to MTV Lebanon

Posted on February 24, 2012

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Dear MTV Lebanon,

Your popular TV show Ktir Salbeh has recently been airing skits that ridicule a number of minorities, be they domestic workers, Palestinians, or gay people. In an episode that aired February 22, 2012, you featured a stereotypically gay man singing a love song to another man in a mocking way.

I understand that, as a TV station, your main aim is to increase viewership. But, as a TV station, you have a responsibility to your viewers, and to the country, to not spread hate. While you may think that your skits are only meant to make people laugh, they are part of a much bigger system of hate and oppression.

***

Growing up, I had my fair share of bullying.

I was teased constantly, called a fag (or its French or Arabic equivalent), made fun of, etc.

I was once beaten up, not that badly, but it scared the shit out of me.

I spent one night in jail for some gay work I was doing.

I was “dick-slapped” twice (for some reason, “dick-slapping” was a big thing when I was growing up. It basically consists of a bunch of “straight” guys going up to a gay guy, holding him down, and slapping his face with their dicks.)

Thankfully, that kind of bullying has stopped for me.

But the bullying never stops.

It just takes on different forms.

There seems to be a trend nowadays where people dismiss the hardships that gay people (or minorities) go through, or at least dismiss the impact that some things may have on someone who is gay (or part of a minority).

What bothers me about this is the fact that these examples of blatant homophobia are always taken as isolated events, as opposed to positioning them within the greater, very troubling, forces that manage to continuously create a sense of fear, insecurity, hatred, and ignorance.

When a TV show decides to make fun of a man just for being feminine or gay, it’s bullying.

When people laugh at this TV show, it is bullying.

When people dismiss the concerns of activists that highlight the homophobia in such a show, it is bullying.

Every comment, post, tweet, joke, statement, status, or message addressing this TV show that fails to listen to the voices of gay people is bullying.

Every single one of these actions is responsible for the more damaging kind of bullying, similar to what I experienced when I was younger.

I’ve been discussing this issue all day with various people, and the comment I got the most was “Why can’t you take a joke?”

The answer to that is easy. A joke loses its humor when it takes advantage of someone’s weakened position. You don’t kick someone who is down. Every kick manages to keep them down longer. What may seem like an innocent joke to some actually reinforces the homophobia that is already rampant. When you put things into context, then you realize the impact of such actions.

I waited until I had calmed down before writing all of this. The video itself, and the discussions that it sparked have shocked me and angered me.

That anger was the result of bullying.

I initially wrote this piece as a blog post. I have now transformed it into an open letter, in hopes of reaching the producers, directors, writers, and actors working on this TV show, or, (one can dream) the heads of all TV stations in Lebanon.

***

I saw two tweets today that are particularly poignant here, from people completely out of the discussion that was taking place.

The first helped me to define bullying:

“If you’ve ever been in a situation where you couldn’t be yourself, you’ve been bullied.” (Unfortunately, I don’t remember who it was that tweeted that)

The second sums up everything above in a brilliant way:

“The boys throw stones at frogs in jest. But the frogs die in earnest.” (by @sachkii)

That pretty much says it all.

I hope you will take this letter as a platform for discussion. There are so many things to make fun of out there. Here’s hoping the humor that is perpetrated doesn’t also lead to oppression.

Thank you,

Raja Farah

NEW: Click here to read MTV’s initial response. 

NEW: Click here to help me come up with ideas for change to present to MTV.

A quick note: MTV Lebanon is in no way affiliated with the international TV station MTV (Music Television). MTV Lebanon is a local chain that is owned by a man named Gaby Murr (I think) and therefore, it is actually MurrTV. I appreciate the readers outside Lebanon who suggested contacting Music Television, but I don’t think that would help much. :)