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Hallmark Apologizes After Pulling Same-Sex Wedding Ad

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  • Hallmark said it would reinstate several ads featuring a same-sex couple kissing at their wedding after pulling the plug on those commercials last week. 
  • A spokesperson also said Hallmark has a policy to “not to air overt public displays of affection” in ads, yet the company whose ads were banned said Hallmark continued to run similar ads featuring straight couples.
  • In a statement on Sunday, Hallmark apologized for removing the ads and said it would affirm its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Hallmark Brings Back Same-Sex Ad

After facing heavy criticism, the Hallmark Channel reversed a decision to remove several ads featuring same-sex couples at their wedding.

Crown Media Family Networks, which runs the channel known for its campy Christmas movies, pulled four out six ads for the wedding registry company Zola on Thursday.

The ad in question depicts two female brides at the altar while discussing how they could have better organized their wedding using the online wedding planner. The couple then shares a kiss and leave the chapel hand in hand. 

“We are not allowed to accept creatives that are deemed controversial,” a Hallmark representative said in an email to Zola.

“The decision not to air overt public displays of affection in our sponsored advertisement, regardless of the participants, is in line with our current policy, which includes not featuring political advertisements, offensive language, R-rated movie content and many other categories,” the email went on to say. 

As Zola pointed out, however, Hallmark decided to continue to run two of its other commercials which depict straight couples. One of those commercials shows a bride and groom passionately kissing.

In a statement to several news outlets on Friday, a Hallmark spokesperson tried to clarify the decision.

“Crown Media Family Networks made the decision to pull the commercials,” the spokesperson said. “The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value.”

Reactions to the Ad Being Pulled

Even before the same-sex ads were pulled, the conservative group One Million Moms protested the network’s inclusion of lesbian characters, saying they went against the channel’s “family-friendly roots.” 

The group then launched a petition that saw over 30,000 signatures and viewed Hallmark’s decision to remove those ads as a victory.

In an interview with the CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, Bill Abbott, the group said he told them that the ad had reportedly “aired in error.”

Many LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, however, condemned the move and called it a step backward for representation on Hallmark. For those groups and LGBTQ+ individuals in general, some fear Hallmark’s decision to originally remove the ads could affect their chances of eventually being represented on the network.

While Hallmark has never featured LGBTQ+ leads, it is reportedly looking at pitches for LGBTQ movies. The president of Hallmark Cards, Inc. also told The Hollywood Reporter in November that the network is open to potentially casting gay leads in the future. 

On the note inclusion, Saturday evening, the Netflix Twitter account seemingly took a jab at Hallmark by promoting two of its shows with lesbian characters.

The Schitt’s Creek account then replied with a similar tweet about two of its queer characters, David Rose and Patrick Brewer.

Billy Eichner also replied to Netflix’s tweet with a long-memed rallying cry from his show, Billy on the Street.

In her own post, Ellen Degeneres asked Abbott to explain the decision.

LGBTQ+ Groups Cheer Hallmark’s Decision to Reinstate Ads

In a statement apologizing for removing the ads, Mike Perry, the president of Hallmark Cards, Inc., said the company has a track record proving it is an inclusive company. 

“The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused,” he said. “Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision. Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions, and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused.”

The statement then goes on to say that Hallmark is and has always been committed to diversity and inclusion, adding that it never intended to be controversial.

Many LGBTQ+ advocacy groups like GLAAD hailed the decision, saying the channel reversed a “discriminatory” and “hypocritical” move.

“The Hallmark Channel’s decision to correct its mistake sends an important message to LGBTQ people and represents a major loss for fringe organizations, like One Million Moms, whose sole purpose is to hurt families like mine,” Sarah Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said.

Other stars like Jane Lynch also hailed the decision, with Lynch writing, “Love wins!” on Twitter.

Not unexpectedly, however, some conservative voices criticized Hallmark for going back on its decision, including, Franklin Graham, son of the late televangelist Billy Graham.

“We can change the channel,” Graham said. “That’s what I’ll do if I’m watching @HallmarkChannel & an ad w/gay people kissing comes on. My family—& many, many others—have appreciated their wholesome content. But the LGBTQ agenda bullies everybody—including them.” 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CBS News)

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Disney May Have Halted Lizzie McGuire Reboot Over Adult Themes

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  • A new report from Variety alleges that production of the Lizzie McGuire revival came to a halt because star Hilary Duff and showrunner Terri Minsky wanted to include adult themes, while Disney wanted to keep it family-friendly.
  • Minsky was fired from the production over a month ago, with Disney citing creative differences. She told Variety she wants people to see what Lizzie is up to now and hinted that she wanted the project to move to Hulu, where more mature content is allowed.
  • Duff did not comment on the matter but did make a potential jab in her Instagram story. The show Love, Victor was just switched from Disney+ to Hulu because of family-friendly content issues. She shared a headline and said, “sounds familiar.”

Disney at Odds With ‘Lizzie McGuire’ Creator

When fans learned that Disney would be bringing back Lizzie McGuire, they thought it was what dreams are made of. Now, it seems like this picture-perfect plan is in limbo.

Production for the nostalgic revival came to a halt in January when showrunner and original creator Terri Minsky was fired after just two episodes were filmed. Disney cited the need “to move in a different creative direction” at the time. The original Lizzie McGuire series aired on the Disney Channel between 2001 and 2004. Disney+ was set to be the home of the new revival, which would show the character living in New York at the age of 30. The show has not resumed production or found a new showrunner since.

A Wednesday report from Variety alleges that the “creative direction” in question was the exploration of mature themes on the show. They say that Minsky, along with the show’s star, Hilary Duff, wanted to do an adult version of Lizzie, while Disney wanted to keep it family-friendly like the original.

According to Variety, this dispute has put the show’s fate in jeopardy. Duff is reportedly upset with the dismissal of Minsky. While Disney is working to find a new showrunner to replace her, sources close to the matter believe that finding someone who can balance both the desires of Duff and Disney is becoming “increasingly unlikely.” Variety says many in the industry have speculated that “the revival will not move forward” because of the clashing plan on how to approach Lizzie’s new adult life. 

Disney+ and Family-Friendly Content

Disney wanting to keep its streaming service squeaky clean is nothing new. On Monday, they announced their original show Love, Victor, an adaptation of the movie Love, Simon, would be switching from Disney+ to Hulu when it makes its debut in June. The show follows a gay teenager in high school, and many cited it not being “family-friendly” as a reason for the move. 

The character’s sexuality, however, was likely not the factor behind this. Deadline reported that the show also shows alcohol use and marital issues on top of sexual exploration. Becky Albertalli, who wrote the book that Love, Simon and Love, Victor are based on, also said the decision was based on other content in the show.

“For what it’s worth, it’s not based on the show featuring a gay teen love story. Disney knew what it was when they got it,” she wrote on Twitter. 

Many ran away with the issue of family-friendliness, and the news got a lot of attention. It caught the eye of Duff, who posted an article on her Instagram story highlighting a headline that mentioned this and said, “sounds familiar.

Many interpreted this as Duff breaking her silence on the seemingly mysterious pause in the making of the Lizzie McGuire reboot. She had previously been vocally excited about the show, promoting it at various events and sharing photos of production on Instagram. 

Duff did not speak to Variety for their report, but Minsky did. The former showrunner expressed that she wanted fans to see the new Lizzie. She also said that she wished the revival might follow the path of Love, Victor and find Hulu as a home.

“I am so proud of the two episodes we did. Hilary has a grasp of Lizzie McGuire at 30 that needs to be seen. It’s a wonderful thing to watch,” she told the outlet. “I would love the show to exist, but ideally I would love it if it could be given that treatment of going to Hulu and doing the show that we were doing. That’s the part where I am completely in the dark. It’s important to me that this show was important to people. I felt like I wanted to do a show that was worthy of that kind of devotion.”

Disney maintains that this does not mean the reboot is dead in the water. 

“We paused production on ‘Lizzie McGuire’ a few weeks ago to allow time for some creative re-development,” the entertainment giant said in a statement to Variety. “Our goal is to resume production and to tell an authentic story that connects to the millions who are emotionally invested in the character, and a new generation of viewers too.” 

Fan Reactions

When the reboot was initially announced, fans were ecstatic to see what Lizzie was up to over 15 years later. Much of the show’s core audience is now in their 20’s and 30’s, and they were excited to see one of their favorite childhood characters all grown up. 

“Lizzie has also grown up, she’s older, she’s wiser, she has a much bigger shoe budget,” Duff said about Lizzie’s growth at D23 in August. “She has her dream job, the perfect life right now working as an apprentice to a fancy New York City decorator. She has the perfect man, who owns a fancy restaurant. She’s getting ready to celebrate her 30th birthday.”

Now, many online were outraged that the revival is in danger. Some called for it to move to Hulu like Love, Victor so that adult themes could be appropriately explored. 

Others maintained that the new Lizzie McGuire should not have to be family-friendly since kids today do not have any familiarity with the character. They think it should be geared towards the adults who watched it when they were young.

Some don’t see why Disney+ can’t make room for the reboot, seeing as they already have shows like The Simpsons that contain mature content.

Right now, it remains unclear what will happen next with the reboot. No release date had been set for the project. Original cast members were involved with the show, including Adam Lamberg who played Gordo; and Hallie Todd, Robert Carradine, and Jake Thomas, who played her parents and brother. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Vanity Fair) (Mashable)

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FCC Received Over 1,300 Complaints About J.LO and Shakira’s Super Bowl Halftime Show Performance

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  • The Federal Communications Commission shared a list of over 1,000 complaints it received about Shakira and Jennifer Lopez’s Super Bowl halftime performance.
  • Many cited that the performance was too sexual and used harsh phrasing. Some complaints compared the show to pornography, accused it of promoting sex trafficking, and said their eyes had been “molested.”
  • Last year, the FCC only received 58 complaints about Maroon 5’s performance, with most citing Adam Levine taking his top off. These are still far less than the 200,000 complaints received in the five days after the Janet Jackson incident in 2004. In general, the FCC receives a high volume of complaints about sex and nudity on television.

Complaints About Halftime Performance

When Shakira and Jennifer Lopez lit up the Super Bowl LIV stage for a lively halftime show, some audiences felt that their eyes were “molested”  and that they had witnessed “harm to our society,” according to over 1,300 complaints to the Federal Communications Commission.

The complaints were originally obtained by WFAA, a news station in Texas. The performance was broadcast to the over 102 million people who tuned in for the February 2 game. As it was happening, many praised it online as one of the best halftime shows they had seen but it seems that others watched in horror. 

The bulk of the complaints said that the show was too sexual and provocative, though many accused the routine of being far worse. Almost 400 of the complaints compared it to pornography.

“Completely inappropriate half time-show with simulated orgies, stripping, and borderline pornography. This is a family event during prime time and should never have happened.” – Fort Wayne, Indiana

“The performance during the half time show was raunchy, lewd and not at acceptable for all viewing audiences…The scantly clad butt shots of JLo, especially when she turned to the cameras and bent over, was nothing short of hard porn.” – Lexington, South Carolina 

Some tried to argue that the performance was especially bad for efforts to stop sex trafficking.

“In an era where sex trafficking is increasing such programs only tend to feed the problem. If I wanted to see this type of activity I would go to a strip club,”  Instead, my living room was invaded by this.” Southlake, Texas

“During a time when we are trying to stop Sex Trafficking and prevent Rapes why are we showing children women who are scantily clad during the half time show? Why was the camerman so obsessed with showing us Jlo’s crotch and anus? Why are we showing our children a stripper pole dance? Is your network encouraging more rapes and sexual assaults? Disgusting display of sex on tv. There wasn’t even a parental warning.” – North Las Vegas Nevada

People even threatened to boycott Pepsi and the NFL as a whole. Others encouraged the FCC to fine the league and those involved in the show. 

“From start to finish, both Shakira and JLo did nothing but cause harm to our society. If there is no consequences from the FCC, then there might as well not be one. And they will only get my outrageous.” – Fort Myers, Florida

Others used particularly bold language when lodging their concerns. 

“We expected to watch football and a quick concert but instead had our eyes molested. Shame on you all for allowing that to infiltrate our homes.” – Spring Hill, Tennessee

“No one wants to watch a bunch of whores dancing half naked on TV. This has to stop. Our children are watching. And women wanted to be respected? Bull crap.” – Larkspur, California

“The super bowl half time shows have GOT to be changed. No sex period. You are part of the problem with kids turning into horrible adults. Get your shit together.” – Kerrville, Texas

Previous Super Bowl Complaints

Complaints about Super Bowl halftime shows are nothing new for the FCC. Last year they also received complaints about indecent attire when Maroon 5’s lead singer Adam Levine took his top off. In total, however, the FCC only received 58 complaints about 2019’s show, just four percent of the amount they saw this year. 

These are both nothing in comparison to the 2004 incident with Janet Jackson, which brought in 200,000 complaints within the five days following the show. As time went on, some reports indicate that the number of complaints more than doubled that. 

The FCC did hit CBS with a $550,000 fine afterward. After years of legal back and forth, it was tossed out.

Sex on TV and the FCC

Sex and nudity are not the only things viewers complain to the FCC about. Beyonce’s 2016 halftime show brought in over 40 complaints, with many outraged that she paid homage to the Black Panthers. 

Complaints outside of the Super Bowl vary too. Over 100 people lamented that the 2016 presidential debates were often required a cable package or streaming subscription to be viewed. Game of Thrones saw concerns about sensational cruelty, Stephen Colbert has been hit for mocking the bible, and plenty of shows have been hit for language.

Still, sex and nudity are among the top things viewers file complaints about. While the FCC does not provide a breakdown of the subjects of the complaints it receives, based on public documents, as well as materials collected by MuckRock, it is one of the most common. The aforementioned shows also saw complaints regarding sex and nudity. Other programs ranging from Seth Macfarlane’s hosting of the 2013 Oscars, to innuendo on the Big Bang Theory, to bits and jokes on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, to a sneaky 50 Shades of Grey references on Sesame Street have been the subjects of FCC complaints as well. 

See what others are saying: (WFAA) (CNN) (The Hill)

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Bob Iger Steps Down as Disney CEO in Surprising Announcement

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  • Disney announced on Tuesday that Bob Iger will step down as CEO and will instead spend the last 22 months of his contract as executive chairman.  
  • Iger will be succeeded by Bob Chapek, the head of the company’s parks and resorts unit. 
  • The announcement surprised many industry analysts and company insiders, who are speculating that there might be more to the reasoning than what was revealed.
  • Iger said he plans to help ease Chapek’s transition into the role before leaving altogether, and that the timing of the move was not expedited for any reason in particular.

Surprising Announcement

Bob Iger stepped down as CEO of Disney on Tuesday after 15 years in the role, a change that is effective immediately. 

Though Iger’s move was not out of the question, the timing of the announcement was surprising. He still has 22 months remaining on his contract, which the company says he will spend as executive chairman. 

Iger, 69, is ending his reign as one of the nation’s most successful CEOs. Under his leadership, Disney has expanded with several major acquisitions, including Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and much of 21st Century Fox. Iger was also a key player in Disney’s transition into the streaming era, as it was under him that Disney+ launched last November. 

“With the successful launch of Disney’s direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of Twenty-First Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO,” Iger said in a statement alongside the announcement.

What’s Next for Disney?

In his new role as executive chairman, Iger plans to focus on more creative aspects of the business as well as help ease the transition of his successor, Bob Chapek. Chapek has most recently served as the head of Disney’s parks and resorts unit. 

Though Disney seemed positive about the change, some industry analysts and company insiders were blindsided by the sudden news. After the announcement, Disney’s stock dropped about 3% in after-hours trading on Wall Street.

“Why is the CEO changing today?” Laura Martin, a media industry analyst at Needham & Co, asked The Los Angeles Times. “What is the urgency?”

“This was somewhat of a shock to us as shareholders,” Timothy Lesko of Granite Investment Advisors said to Yahoo Finance. “They’re usually much more scripted than this.”

“No one knew this was coming,” said one senior Disney executive, according to The Wall Street Journal.

According to NBC, Iger said on a phone call with investors after the announcement that the move was “not accelerated by any particular reason.” 

Chapek beat out a handful of projected potential successors, including direct-to-consumer chairman Kevin Mayer, who recently oversaw the successful launch of Disney+. Some on Wall Street thought the CEO title would go to Mayer.

“The market had no warning,” Richard Greenfield, partner of Lightshed Partners, said to The Los Angeles Times. “The big question remains: What happens with Kevin Mayer? … It was Kevin Mayer’s job to lose.”

Chapek, for his part, is eager to step into the role. He has experienced success at the company himself; in recent years he has overseen the two major additions of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attractions in Disney theme parks in both Anaheim, California and Orlando, Florida. 

“When I was growing up in Hammond, Indiana, the son of a World War II veteran and working mother, my parents would take us on a family vacation to Walt Disney World every year,” Chapek said on a call with analysts, according to Business Insider

“That young boy could have never imagined that one day he would get the chance to lead this extraordinary company as the seventh CEO in its nearly 100-year history,” Chapek added.

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (NBC) (Wall Street Journal)

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