This past Sunday on CBS’ There Goes the Neighborhood, a friendly game of Scrabble became uncomfortable when one family used the word ‘queer’ and another added an ‘s’ to make the word ‘queers.’ The Mullennix family is headed by Chris and her partner, Renee.
The show immediately cut to a reaction shot of Chris Mullennix. On Monday morning, GLAAD received emails from community members asking how CBS could allow the producers of the show to display the word "queers" and to ridicule the Mullennix family based on their sexual orientation. The Twitter community responded with outcries such as: “Cannot believe the families just went homophobic on There Goes The Neighborhood and CBS allowed them to do it..."
The Mullennix Family
While not universally accepted, GLAAD doesn’t consider the use of the word a slur. "Queer" has traditionally been a pejorative term but has been appropriated by some LGBT people to describe themselves and many value the term for its sense of defiance. Yet in this instance, the word seemed to have been used as an insult given previous conflict between the Mullennixes and the Nelsons, the family that played the "s" to create "queers." This was especially evident in the laughter that ensued among the Nelsons. GLAAD stands in objection to that use.
As the episode continued, however, CBS used the conflict as a basis for telling Chris’ story of feeling like an outsider and to demonstrate the conflict between the families that would emerge later. Chris is portrayed as a mother and partner concerned about how her family will survive financially if they don’t win the show’s $250,000 prize. This portrayal represents the reality for many LGBT families struggling in tough economic times. We hope that in the future CBS will focus more on the personal stories of the Mullennix family and dramatizing how they, like many American families, are working together to ensure a stable financial future.
CBS recently received a Failing grade in the GLAAD Network Responsibility Index. Since the NRI’s release, GLAAD’s Entertainment Program has lobbied CBS for an audience with programming executives to offer suggestions on how it can diversify its programming to better include the lives of LBGT people. At the Television Critics Association meeting, CBS President Nina Tassler was reported as saying, “we certainly have to include [LGBT characters] in our scripted programming.”
Last week, GLAAD received an initial positive response to our requests. GLAAD thanks its members for voicing their concerns about CBS. Readers can stay tuned to this blog or follow us on Twitter for updates on GLAAD’s ongoing conversations with that network.