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Pictures vs. 1,000 words.

Images pack a powerful wallop and and an air of indisputability that mere language can't match. Even those of us in the wordsmith business know it's true, which is why magazines work so hard to find photos and illustrations that capture the people, emotions, and ideas in their articles--and, we hope, capture the attention of readers in a way that clever headlines and captions can't. It's one thing, for example, to say Iran is murdering its gay citizens. It's quite another to see two teenagers' lifeless bodies [see page 36].

If the evening news gives us 20 minutes of car chases, 7-Eleven robberies, house fires, sports, and adorable animals for every five minutes of secret CIA prisons, illegal wiretaps, and FBI surveillance of gay kiss-ins, it's probably because if there's no video footage, they're afraid people won't pay attention. Worse yet, viewers might be tempted to change the channel and miss every story yet to come.

The high impact of the visual is also why there's a growing right-wing backlash against the film Brokeback Mountain: Millions of Americans going to the movies to see two cowboys in love trumps decades of excellent but largely unread books, magazine stories, and newspaper articles about the sometimes harsh realities of gay lives in rural America [see page 60]. And it's why lesbians are so possessive of Showtime's The L Word, since it's the highest-profile TV series to foreground gay women. If a lesbian doesn't see herself there or if the fictional women portrayed there don't meet her expectations, it seems a personal betrayal. No wonder series creator Ilene Chaiken is working hard to rethink her show after some unpopular twists in season 2 [see page 48].

But for all the immediate power of pictures, it's often the words that accompany them that determine our ultimate impressions. Are those executed Iranian youths rapists or persecuted gay teens? Is Brokeback Mountain a propagandist fantasy or a fictional reflection of real-life tragedies? Do the folks behind The L Word view the show as definitive or merely one entertaining spin on lesbian life?

Images draw attention and pluck emotional notes. Words, if put to proper use, illuminate intent and meaning. Images can inspire anger or sympathy or 1 curiosity. Words can direct us on how to channel those feelings into action, reveal whether other people feel the same way, and offer a richer cultural context.

The photo on page 28 of now-ousted Spokane, Wash., mayor Jim West--booted from office by voters over his secret gay liaisons and abuse of power--says a lot: The door is closing on his political career. But Dan Savage's commentary, evoking the difficult Spokane childhood of his partner, gives us real context by which to judge West's hypocrisy. The photo of the Iranian teens' dead bodies incites fury over a foreign government's apparent antigay hatred, but Patrick Moore's commentary reminds us that our own government remains silent about such abuses while antigay vigilante executions continue to occur in our own backyard.

In this issue of The Advocate you'll find passionate words from columnists Alec Mapa [page51] and Laura Weinstock [page 72], difficult words of confession and hope from Chastity Bono [page 52], and challenging words from barebacking expert Michael Shernoff [page 4]. With 22 more issues of The Advocate ahead this year, the discussions that will shape our impressions of the images of 2006 have only just begun.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:FROM THE EDITOR IN CHIEF
Author:Steele, Bruce C.
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 31, 2006
Words:565
Previous Article:Michael Shernoff.
Next Article:Lesbians on series TV.
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