Happy New Year everyone. I had my chilled spumante at the ready to welcome in 2014, and like many millions here in America and even abroad I planned to catch the Pasadena Rose Parade after I got up. Not watch live, thank you—I haven’t done that since the advent of VCRs (though I have seen the parade a couple times very live on the spot, as a kid while living down in California back in the 1960s—and you have to get up really early to stake out a good spot if that is your plan).
For many years now I have caught the parade broadcast on HGTV, since they alone show it without commercial interruption (thank you Miracle-Gro). With more than a half hour of ads over the run of the parade, commercial stations inevitably leave out some of the parade (usually some of the floats, since every band might have a ready made block of angry letter writers on hand should any of their family members be denied their glory moment on the TV screen).
This year I had occasion to do something I wouldn’t normally do: record more than one version of the parade. And I did this because of an email I got on New Year’s Eve, from James Dobson’s Family Talk (“not affiliated with” James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, the email assured me with completely straight face). Dobson had heard a terrible thing about the upcoming parade: the AIDS Healthcare Foundation had a float in the parade, and was signaling the sea change in matters of public moment by having a gay couple get married during the parade atop their wedding cake shaped float.
Dobson disapproved: “the Rose Parade is a traditional family-oriented activity” and “By going forward with this decision, families (especially children) are being exposed to a lifestyle which is not approved by the majority of Californians or even Americans. Because this is a divisive issue, a certain ideology should not be allowed to dictate to others.”
No, that job of dictating “a certain ideology” is already filled, by Jeremiahs like Dobson’s Family Talk (“not affiliated with” James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, remember).
Dobson appealed to his cadres to protest this impending cultural calamity, and so I adjusted my DVR recording plans by adding ABC’s coverage of the event to see whether any of the brouhaha made it into the various color commentary. Come the afternoon of New Year’s Day and I put on the HGTV version, nicely realistic in its Dolby Digital sound and HD picture, where red uniforms can be very red and the sounds of the parade come through nice and clear, including the reaction of the spectators.
There were all sorts of things happening in this 2014 fest that might have come across as rather scandalous in earlier times. Why, there was a float of 8 surviving WWII women air corps fliers (reminding us of how far we have come, and may still need to go, in the way of allowing each American’s skills to flower and thrive without the filter of prejudice). And there were lots of interracial bands in the parade—imagine, blacks and whites performing together right out where you can see them (try that in the 1940s). Natalie Cole even performed without any sign of public concern on eHarmony’s float. Imagine that!
Several floats later the gay union glided by to audible cheers in the crowd (and no boos, at least as far as I could tell from that sharp surround track) along with a completely nonjudgmental reference to the float and its occupants by the HGTV commentators. The float was awarded the Isabella Coleman Trophy, given for the best presentation of color and color harmony (verdant green tendrils flowing over a white background, including the rotating “LOVE” cube at the front), and the parade continued to its conclusion, no fissures opening up to swallow them, or disapproving fireballs from on high.
Which piqued my curiosity as to how Disney-owned ABC would handle things. It was something of a shock to jump into commercial coverage after so many years. Whoever was the sound mixer on it evidently decided what a parade packed to the gunnels with the natural ambiance of marching bands and spontaneous crowd excitement really needed was an intrusive underscoring of irrelevant orchestral music running at so high a volume that it threatened to literally drown out their own color commentary. I am not usually in favor of capital punishment, but in this instance I might be open to making an exception.
Now I mentioned how the commercial versions naturally lop off some of the floats because they are running ads. And guess what, just as that AIDS Healthcare Foundation float slipped into view as the float ahead turned the corner—off to commercials! And never was it seen again, except as a fleeting unidentified edit showing the float’s spinning “LOVE” cube for about a second in a post-parade montage where they included some images left out of the parade due to all those ads.
Interestingly, ABC had earlier taken far more time than the Dobson-offending float had taken to cross camera coverage on HGTV to interview eHarmony’s founder, Neil Clark Warren, thus giving him what amounted to some free commercial time. So on ABC at least, commercial family values retained their traditional pride of placement.