Mel and Mike’s Amazing Race
March 24th, 2009
In 2000, I caught a screening of Chuck and Buck, a movie that was painfully awkward but memorable. Especially noticeable was Buck, an odd looking emotionally stunted young man living in a dream world of his own desire.
I didn’t pay too much attention to Mike White, the screenwriter and actor who played Buck. I had read that he was bisexual and I would catch his face from time to time in something, but I didn’t realize that he had written Orange County, The Good Girl, School of Rock, and Nacho Libre.
And I had no idea that he is Mel White’s son.
Mel, as many of you will know, is the founder of SoulForce, an organization that works for “freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance”.
Mel is also a former ghostwriter for fellow evangelicals, including Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, and Jerry Falwell. Needless to say, that career path stopped when Mel came out as gay.
And now America is being introduced to Mel and Mike on the Amazing Race. And, if comment boards, bloggers, and reviewers are anything to go by, they are among the most liked competitors.
Mel, especially, has been winning over unexpected supporters and giving a human face to a subset of Americans that is not well known to the public: gracious Christians. After decades of watching the self-righteous and the judgmental on television, Mel is a welcome treat.
We’ve seen Mel on a mountain – waiting for the right wind to hang-glide – telling the viewers that it would not be right to pray for divine help in a competition. We’ve seen Mel and Mike both place much higher priority in family support than in winning money.
But this week, we saw Mel snap at a cab driver in India. Only to then declare, “This race certainly isn’t important enough to dehumanize somebody else by yelling and screaming at ’em. So I’m gonna feel bad about it for the rest of the day.”
But they are not without their challenges. Mel suffered a groin injury early on. And at 68, he’s not likely to win many foot races. Yet somehow Mel and Mike keep coming in at the front of the pack. Mel, who found himself hauling water and hay this week, leapt ahead of much younger competitors by using the correct implements.
As a gay man with an evangelical Christian background, I feel a sense of ownership of Mel White. So it delights me to see that not only are they still in game, they are doing well. But I am particularly delighted that it is not Mel’s success but rather his graciousness, humility, dignity and compassion that are winning him support. And I’m glad that finally there is someone on television who doesn’t make me cringe when they say they are a Christian.