Kiss Cam: The new social barometer

Dodger Stadium Kiss Cam, May 2015

When do you know that a social trend has gained full traction in America? One way is to listen to the pronouncements of pundits, think-tankers, pollsters and professors. They’ll conduct sociological studies; they’ll sample public opinion; and they’ll make the case with statistics. And, in the aggregate, they’ll probably get it right.

But if you really want to know what’s on the radar screen of most Americans, look and listen to advertising, tv shows, sports, movies and music. That’s where theory meets reality. That’s where savvy manufacturers and artists do what capitalists do best: capitalize on the zeitgeist.

I think we all knew that racial integration had really begun to take hold when at-the-time-beloved Bill Cosby [now disgraced, of course] became the tv pitchman for that all-American convenience food—Jello Pudding. More recently, Cheerios ads began featuring an interracial family.

And now, the Kiss Cam has broken the same-sex romance barrier. On May 2, 2015, the Kiss Cam at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium zoomed in on two men, who did what all obliging Kiss Cam couples do: they smooched on camera. And the crowd cheered!

That, my friends, is progress–especially considering the fact that, in 2000, a lesbian couple was kicked out of Dodger stadium simply for kissing as they sat in the stands.

Just for a little background, the kiss cam tradition originated in California in the early 1980s, as a way to fill in the gaps in play in professional baseball games, taking advantage of the possibilities of the then-new giant video screens. But until recently, the Kiss Cam was a hetero-only deal. Over the years, some Kiss Cam operators would use the lens to create a homophobic joke: framing two men on the Kiss Cam screen with the word “KISS” beneath their faces. That was supposed to elicit laughs and “ewws” from the crowd. And it probably did.

As CNN’s John D. Sutter puts it:

For years I’ve half-jokingly told friends that we’ll know gay equality is here when same-sex couples are featured unironically on the kiss cam — when two dudes who are asked to kiss on screen actually do it and get awwwws, not laughs.

And now that [at least] one Kiss Cam—and one enlightened crowd– has validated on-camera same-sex smooching, that great and glorious day when people can unashamedly love whomever they choose may be dawning in the American psyche.