December 9, 2012

With SCOTUS To Rule on Prop 8, Checking in on Visual Media and Gay Innuendo

Olson Boies Prop 8 embrace

When I saw this photo published widely after the California Prop 8 court victory, I thought it was pretty petty. My take at the time (August 2010) was that it worked like a playground joke exploiting the innuendo that Boies and Olson, the super-lawyers who guided the overturning of the ban, were somehow hot for each other. (The first line of the Getty caption, if perfectly literal, read: Lawyers David Boies (L) kisses Theodore Olson during a rally to celebrate the ruling to overturn Proposition 8 on August 4, 2010 in West Hollywood, California.)

Boies Olson Kimberly White Reuters

If not sexually suggestive, here is the photo the NYT ran this week reporting the news the Supreme Court would be taking up the Prop 8 case. (Screen shot.) Given the truly intimate quality of the embrace (and also the sense, from Olson’s body language, of being physically dependent, emotionally overcome or just giving his all), this plays even more to the sense of a couple. By the way, the NYT went with the same photo for its own Prop 8 court victory story two years ago.

What’s interesting, however, is how much things have shifted culturally and perceptually since then — so much so that I don’t think the pictures carry as much charge as double entendré. With breakthrough after breakthrough in gay rights and gay marriage over the past two years have come picture after picture in the media of gay couples outwardly expressing their love. That these scenes become more familiar and even “run-of-the-mill” makes it only natural that images of male and female affection becomes less stigmatized and less tagged as outlying, or even “gay” or “lesbian.” That’s not to say that we’re all the way home, though, and that photo editors won’t still choose out photos like these (and photogs won’t still shoot them) as long as there’s mileage still to be gotten from the innuendo. That said however, I think these photos of the two esteemed, groundbreaking (and hetero) lawyers might be starting to look just like two men joyously celebrating a major civil rights victory.

(photo 1: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images via Zimbio slideshow. caption: Lawyers David Boies (L) kisses Theodore Olson during a rally to celebrate the ruling to overturn Proposition 8 on August 4, 2010 in West Hollywood, California. A federal judge overturned California’s Proposition 8, a same-sex marriage ban, finding it unconstitutional. The voter approved measure denies same-sex couples the right to marry in the State of California. photo 2: Kimberly White/Reuters caption: Theodore B. Olson, left, and David Boies in June. Antagonists in Bush v. Gore, they are united in the California marriage case.)

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Michael Shaw
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