The Priests of Hollywood (Ep. 132 - Designing Women & Gone with the Wind)

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What are the excuses you make for not doing what makes you happy? It's so easy to come up with reasons that NOW is the wrong time to launch into that project or hobby or career change you've always wanted. So where do you find permission to make a change in your life? This week's guest, Jason Powell, has only recently learned to give that permission to himself. Jason's one half of the podcast Ladywatch -- I interviewed his co-host, Ryan O'Connor, a few weeks back on episode 122. Each week on their show, Ryan and Jason talk about their shared admiration for powerful women. But off mic, they both have struggled with self-imposed limitations. We'll talk this week about the great southern belles who helped Jason find the bravery to stand up for himself to himself.

This Week's Recommendation: Killing all the Right People

Big thanks to Jason for joining me. Head over to to subscribe to Jason and Ryan's show. And visit to see clips of the Designing Women speeches featured in this episode. Just look for Jason's episode, number 132. Also at, you can watch a video that I made awhile back about a 1987 episode of Designing Women entitled Killing all the Right People. My recommendation this week is to check out that episode of the show -- you can find Killing All the Right People in three parts on Vimeo, and it's about what it was like to live with HIV during the dark years before reliable medication.

Remember, even into the late 1980s, very little was known about HIV, much less how to treat it. And the suffering of people with the virus was magnified by the cruelty of a country that didn't seem to care and often exhibited open glee about the epidemic. This episode of Designing Women tackled the issue head on, with a character rejected by his family for being gay and by a medical establishment that refused to treat him with dignity. 

Not only did the episode provide useful information about what HIV is and isn't, dispelling widespread medical myths at the time -- but it also shone a light on HIV stigma. 

The villains of the episode are busybody neighbors who object to queer people and to sex in general. One of them crows that the best thing about AIDS is that it's killing people who deserve to be killed. This was not an uncommon attitude at the time -- Pat Buchanan wrote an op-ed to that effect in the New York Times, and was then invited to work for Ronald Reagan as Communications Director.

It's crazy that in 1987, exhibiting compassion for people with HIV was a revolutionary act, and that Designing Women was the best education available to some people about HIV. But what's even crazier is that in some parts of the country, that's still the case. Only a handful of states offer any form of sex education relevant to queer people -- and some states actually require the teaching of inaccurate information, like in Alabama where kids are taught that same-sex intercourse is illegal. 

When Killing all the Right People aired in 1987, it was clearly ahead of its time. It would be nice to think that thirty years later, times have finally caught up. But sadly that's still not the case.

Stuff We Talked About


Parisian Kevin MacLeod (
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