Our Rating: ★★★★☆
L Factor: Major lesbian content – 2 episodes
Short Take: Take in a walk in their shoes.
Alternate Titles:
Year: 2005
Duration: 60 min
Language: USA/English
MPAA: Not Rated
Starring: Morgan Spurlock
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30 DaysMorgan Spurlock hit the big time with his Academy Award nominated documentary Super Size Me, in which he chronicled the changes in his body as he ate three meals a day at McDonalds for 30 days. Shortly afterwards, he began hosting a reality television program on FX in which he or others spent 30 days living in a different environment. Situations ranged from an isolated hogon on the Navajo Nation; living off of the grid; trying to survive on minimum wage; a pro-choice woman living in an anti-choice household; a Christian living in a Muslim household, etc.

The series, which was on from 2005 to 2008, won a GLAAD award for outstanding reality series. What makes it different from the plethora of reality tv shows (most of which I don’t find tolerable) is a real sincerity to live with and understand the people whose lives are different, without the staged drama prevalent in other reality tv. The experiences seem very genuine. There are two episodes of interest:

104 Straight Man in a Gay World 
Air date: July 6, 2005
Ryan is a 24 year old devout Christian who grew up on a farm in Michigan. He and his family believe that homosexuality is a sin, but he will be going to live with Ed, a gay man, in San Francisco’s Castro district – the gayest place on earth.

Ed’s friends don’t give Ryan an easy time of it as he spouts religious platitudes, but Ryan and Ed seem to get along well as long as they don’t talk about the gay issue. Ryan plays softball and visits with gay veterans, but it’s really visiting a PFLAG meeting, listening to parents talk about their children and how they want their kids to be treated equally in the world, that seems to get to Ryan the most.

Several times Ryan goes to meet with Rev. Penny Nixon of the Metropolitan Community Church. Before he leaves, he and his family are baffled by the concept of gay Christians, and he tells her directly that he thinks homosexuality is a sin. She gives him “What the Bible Really Means About Homosexuality,” which cautions about taking the Bible literally, since we pick and choose sections or passages to follow or not.

As Ed points out, part of the issue is that Ryan has very limited life experiences and has never lived outside of Michigan. What’s interesting is that at the end of 30 days, Ryan feels like he has become more open and has matured a lot. When we see him go back to his family’s farm, he is well aware of many of the stereotypes they still hold but he has left behind.

304 Same Sex Parenting 
Air date: June 24, 2008
Kati is a Mormon stay-at-home mom from Orange County, California. She strongly believes that gays and lesbians should not be allowed to adopt children. “That’s the way God ordered it,” she says. For 30 days, she goes to live with Dennis and Tom, a gay couple who live outside Ann Arbor, Michigan with their four adopted sons.

Part of her mission is to interact with the gay and lesbian community while she is there, and she feels like she has “a moral obligation to remain true to what I believe in” during the experience. Unlike many of the 30 Days episodes in which people often immerse themselves in their new lives, change their views and stereotypes, and better understand they people they are with, Kati’s goal is to remain steadfast and unbending. Although she thinks Tom and Dennis are nice people, throughout she proclaims that their relationship is a sin, causing Tom to say that he feels like he is living with the enemy.

Kati goes to church with the family and is surprised that the church is affirming of gay people, adding that it is “part of the moral degradation of America.”  She attends a meeting of COLAGE (Children of Gays and Lesbians Everywhere) and tells them she doesn’t think that the meetings are a good thing because it makes it seem as if being gay is ok. At a meeting of C.A.R.E, a group that works for second parent adoption rights, she says that she believes that they shouldn’t have the right to have children in the first place.

At a barbeque organized by a lesbian moms’ network, Kati gets very emotional with all of the verbal challenges she faces.  During her stay, she must constantly defend her position in often hostile territory. This includes a heated visit with the biological mother and aunt of one of Dennis and Tom’s kids, who tell her that they weren’t sure at first, but the boy, who is developmentally disabled, has a much better life now than they could give him.

Foster care advocates, who believe that adoption is the answer regardless of sexual orientation, show Kati inner-city Detroit with bad foster care and group home situations, which break her heart. This alone finally causes her to question herself — a very uncomfortable feeling for her.  But in the end, for Kati, it’s all about the fact that being gay is wrong, so gay and lesbian people should not be allowed to adopt. (AB)