The Trouble With the Unintentional: Why We Should Care About What Carson Daly Says

by: Bobby Crowley 

On March 28th, another celebrity was added to the long list of people afflicted with the very serious foot-in-the-mouth syndrome. Did I say celebrity? My apologies, it was Carson Daly.

On the air of his daily Daly radio show, Carson discussed Jet Blue Flight 191 in which the pilot had a meltdown while controlling the plane. In an attempt to be funny, Daly explained his own bad luck, commenting that if he were on the plane it would be full of passengers going to the Pride parade in San Francisco or “headed down to Vegas for the floral convention” leading to his inevitable demise.

Complete with judgmental stereotypes, wild assumptions, and a nicely added lilt in his voice, Carson Daly opened himself up to a whole mess of conflict. GLAAD and other activist groups attacked Daly for his insensitivity and blatant generalizations, but they weren’t the only ones.

Mark Bingham’s mother fought against Daly as well, talking to TMZ and other news sources explaining that her son, “known for… charging unarmed down the aisle of a doomed Boeing 757 to face knife-wielding Islamist thugs in a hijacked cockpit,” was never called into question for being gay in the dangerous situation.  Needless to say, Daly apologized immediately via twitter.

The question is: how up in arms should the community get about this incident and incidents like it? When it comes down to this specific incident, I feel less is more. First of all, it’s Carson Daly. Second of all, who even knew he had a radio show? Third of all, it’s Carson Daly. I’m serious. The last time I thought of Carson Daly was when Eminem was blaring through my headphones, wondering if it was Carson Daly or Fred Durst who got some hot Aguilera head first. What else do you think of when you hear the name Carson Daly? The Voice? TRL? Maybe. But, I don’t think so. I think you think about the moment in Eminem’s video when the real Fred Durst and a fake Carson Daly fight over a rubber doll with a blonde wig. Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Daly’s momentary ignorant slip of socially embedded prejudice might have done more good than bad. If anything, the people keeping track of Carson Daly are doing so in order to learn what not to do with their lives. No offense to Daly, I just don’t see people throwing their panties at him on the street that often. The less than famous The Voice host is certainly not setting any trends any time soon. I was, personally, unaffected by Daly’s comment. I certainly didn’t think less of myself because Carson Daly said something ignorant on a radio show I hadn’t even heard of until an article about the indiscretion popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. However, I was more than a little worried when I heard about his apology.

In a society that turned the word “gay” into a phenomenally fast-spreading slang word for insulting the quality of something or someone, it is no surprise to learn that homophobia and prejudice are socially embedded into the brains of more than a few people out there. However, in his initial apology by way of twitter, Daly claimed to have been attempting to make fun of himself and only accidentally led to the hurt feelings of others. I’m sorry, what? What in his comment about gay passengers not being man enough (whatever that means) to stop a plane crash leads you to believe he was making fun of himself?

Daly, later through his rep, said that he was “truly saddened that [his] words suggested” that the LGBTQ community lacked the courage that he felt they used every day to “stand up to bullying and find equality.” Daly claims he has been a supporter of the LGBTQ community for a long time, “An ally of the LGBT community” who “will continue to fight with them.” He says the homophobic nature of his comments was entirely “unintentional.” What worries me about his apology is that he claims to be an ally, a supporter of the LGBTQ community. Yet, he creates an entire scenario that paints homosexual men in a stereotypical and harmful light and laughs at it, on the radio. If our allies are making comments like this, how can we expect respect from non-allies? How can we expect anything other than ridicule, unintentional or not?

This word unintentional also worries me, because through it the power of our traditional values and social norms becomes clear. I am the first person to look on the “brighter side” of things. I see the coffee mug half full. I think the grass around me is pretty damn green. All that jazz. I will be the first to say that while we have very far to evolve as a society, the strides we’ve taken should still be looked on with pride and positivity.

However, the more I hear people accidentally say, “That’s gay… Oh. Sorry, Barb” or ignore the pronoun use of a friend, the more I lose faith that we are actually getting anywhere. We live in an age in which we can send our words from our fingertips to outer space and back to the fingertips of another in less than a minute. Yet, somehow, we haven’t figured out a way to avoid ridiculing other people for skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, class, or any other social identifier.

What I keep learning from incidents like this one, is that we are still stuck in an ignorant, fearful, and hatred-fueled society. The worst part is that we don’t even realize it, until it’s too late. Once major damage has been done, we open our eyes momentarily to the truth. Then, we cozy back into our comfortably stationary existence. We must get past “insignificant” comments on random radio broadcasts and “accidental” slurs thrown out into the street like pebbles. We must move forward and realize our true potential as human beings who respect each other and share compassion for one another.

Until that happens, things like throwaway comments from Carson Daly are going to get major reactions. And they should.  Whether I was personally affected by his comment or not, I realize it is individuals like him who make up society. Every individual whose eyes are opened to their deeply embedded prejudice, as unintentional as it may be, is another step closer to our evolution as a society.

Bobby Crowley is a Queer woman with a love for all that is fabulous. She is currently working on her Creative Writing degree at Loyola University where she is also on the board of Advocate and a writer for the alt. magazine LUChameleon. She is in love with Andrea Gibson, her labradaniel puppies, and singing loudly in the shower.

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