Tonight's Viewing: Gay to Straight: Stacey Dooley in the USA, BBC3
50 Years of Bond Cars: a Top Gear Special, BBC2
Stacey’s innocence is part of the brand. Being startled is what she does best”
Unless you're 17 years old and get all your current affairs through BBC3, you'd generally expect to be a bit more sophisticated about the world's iniquities than Stacey Dooley, the channel's favourite everywoman presenter. This isn't because there's anything wrong with Stacey – she's sweet and open and has an ability to put everyone she meets at ease. It's because Stacey's innocence is part of the brand. Being startled is what she does for a living. So it was a little odd to watch Gay to Straight: Stacey Dooley in the USA and find yourself matching her, dropped jaw for dropped jaw.
Her subject here was conversion therapy, a conservative Christian approach to homosexuality that argues that it's a psychological problem that can be "cured". Being gay isn't natural, its supporters argue, it's a condition bought on by failures of parenting and failures of character, and with the right amount of determination it can be cured. They don't use the word "gay", obviously. They talk about same-sex attraction, the acronym for which helpfully sounds like a sexually transmitted disease.
After a very brief visit to a California Gay Pride parade, where she flourished her liberal credentials by tucking a few bucks into a go-go dancer's thong, Stacey went off to meet TJ, a crew-cut Arizona teenager who'd been struggling with SSA and an addiction to gay porn. He was getting the former under control, he explained, but still having problems with the latter. "I tried straight porn," he said, "and it was just kinda gross." Moments later, Stacey spoke for us all: "I know I'm not a genius by any stretch of anyone's imagination," she said, eyes wide, "but if you're mad keen on gay porn and straight porn isn't doing it for you maybe there are still gay elements of you?"
The deep sadness here wasn't that the young men weren't loved by their parents but that they were. "It would be like me trying to decide if I would be all right with him being a terrorist," TJ's mum said when she was asked if acceptance might be a better solution than treatment. He'd absorbed that equivalence and didn't question it – a degree of quiet self-loathing that had persuaded Danny, another conversion veteran, to get married and have children. His marriage didn't look terrible, to be honest, an apparently loving partnership with a woman who wasn't under any illusions about his feelings. But you didn't like to imagine the strain that Danny was living under.
The biblical simplicity of their attitudes to homosexuality was matched by a guileless trust in the efficacy of the therapy that was sometimes comical. To boost his "gender confidence", for example, TJ went off for a weekend conversion camp that sounded more like the plot for a gay porn movie with every passing second. Women were forbidden from attending, everyone had to bring a straight buddy and the sessions included boisterous wrestling and workshops on getting a "healthy hug". But sadness easily trumped comedy, with fathers weeping as they declared their love and support for sons whose only true disability was parental ignorance. You might have hankered for a more fiercely contemptuous interrogation of Joseph Nicolosi – the intellectual figurehead for this movement – but otherwise Stacey did pretty well.
50 Years of Bond Cars: a Top Gear Special was both a case history of automotive product placement and an example of cinematic product placement itself. If you were interested in knowing that the sports car in You Only Live Twice featured a "Toyota two-litre straight-six", I'm sure it would have been bliss. And even if you weren't, there were some revealing stories here, including that of Aston Martin's initial reluctance to have their cars featured in the films at all. But when the programme got to the set visit for Skyfall, you suddenly understood how they'd got clearance on all the James Bond clips. This vehicle was towing a trailer.
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