Saluting Change in Media Images

Mar 22, 2004  •  Post A Comment

A month after the Academy Awards, the red carpet will return to the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood-this time for the 15th Annual GLAAD Awards, which will begin its tri-city awards presentations March 27 in Los Angeles. On April 12 the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation will hold its New York ceremonies, and June 5 its San Francisco event.
Since their inauguration by the New York chapter of GLAAD in 1990, the awards have honored efforts in all media “for their presentation of fair, accurate, and inclusive representation of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.” This year 132 GLAAD nominees will be recognized in 33 categories, including for the first time separate categories for Spanish-language achievement.
“GLAAD is in the visibility business,” said Joan Garry, the organization’s executive director, who is based in New York.
“We operate under the notion that visibility drives understanding and understanding drives acceptance,” she said. “The religious right tries to paint us with abstractions. We choose to honor those programs that humanize us, and more and more when it comes to TV, these humanizing images are among the wide spectrum of both cable and broadcast as well as on the Spanish-language networks.”
With 18 nominations, cable and pay-cable channels edge out the 16 nominations on broadcast networks and TV stations. ABC leads all networks with five nominations for its programming. HBO is second with four nominations, including one for “Angels in America.”
In the Spanish-language categories, Univision has five nominations and Telemundo four.
Besides crossing language barriers, this year GLAAD has added a category for reality programming, counting the much-publicized “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” among the nominees.
Highlights of this year’s event in Los Angeles will include special awards to actor-director Antonio Banderas and writer-director John Waters. Before the ceremonies begin, the Favorite Out Image of 2003, voted on by the total GLAAD membership, will be announced. At press time, characters portrayed by Gale Harold and Randy Harrison on Showtime’s “Queer as Folk” were leading the voting in that category.
The first GLAAD Awards in New York in 1990 had a mere 306 attendees. But this year’s Los Angeles presentation is expected to be standing room only. The organization’s entertainment media director, Stephen Macias, said, “The Kodak Theatre will be filled to capacity, and we have the usual awards show red carpet with a full media contingent and a press room for the winners to be interviewed after the event.”
Mr. Macias and Jason Burlingame, the New York-based director of special events, expect the other two GLAAD ceremonies to attract similar levels of media attention. TV programs including “Entertainment Tonight” and “Access Hollywood” have indicated they will cover them.
There was never an intention to give out awards in three cities; it just evolved that way. Mr. Burlingame said GLAAD was founded in New York in 1985 as “a chapter-based organization, rather than a national one. The New York chapter decided to give out awards in 1990, and the Los Angeles chapter followed suit the next year. It just seemed a natural thing, with New York being the news media center and L.A. the entertainment center.”
GLAAD became a national organization in 1994, and in 2000, Mr. Burlingame said, an award ceremony was created for San Francisco, partly to coincide with the city’s growth during the dot-com explosion.
Ms. Garry said the organization has sought to have the awards ceremonies televised, but no deal has been reached for this year’s event. Still, she said, with ticket sales and 100 corporate sponsors-Absolut Vodka is the presenting sponsor-the ceremonies will bring in $2.5 million in revenues, helping fund GLAAD’s $6.5 million total operating budget for the year.
GLAAD Awards are given for achievement during the 12-month period from Dec. 1, 2002, to Nov. 30, 2003, except in the category of television movies, which follows a January-December calendar year. This year more than 1,000 media projects were considered with nominations being decided by 80 volunteers serving on 14 juries. More than 700 GLAAD voters chose the winners via online voting.