Nominated for: jeopardizing a criminal case for the sake of some homophobic joking.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 2 p.m. on January 1. At 4 p.m. we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
Though it was never a bastion of good humour or good judgment, in one particularly brazen display this year Edge 102 host Dean Blundell and producer/co-host Derek Welsman opened the bilious floodgates exceptionally wide. They turned The Dean Blundell Show into a grotesque extra-legal forum for a sexual assault trial involving a Carlton Street bathhouse—a trial that happened to feature Welsman as jury foreman.
Blundell, of course, is well-known for his desperate style of shock-jockery. (Picture a low-rent, pre-entrepreneurial Howard Stern without the comic timing or the sentimental streak.) Since 2001, he has buttered his bread care of an endless procession of queer and transphobic jokes—a toxic hosting strategy that reached its prior nadir in 2010, with a profoundly unfunny assault on Justin Bieber. (The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council issued a reprimand.)
Old as the show’s homophobic slant is, Welsman’s on-air rants about his jury duty added a whole new element to the mix of offences. As one might expect, Welsman swore at the trial’s outset that he had no bias against homosexuals, an important detail in a case involving a man accused (and eventually convicted) of sexually assaulting three men. That oath would seem to be at odds with Welsman’s victim-blaming on-air commentary, delivered over the course of several broadcasts, about the ostensible irrationality and immorality of gay men who frequent bathhouses; his gossipy disclosure of tidbits from the jury’s deliberations; and his snide quip that the experience gave him valuable tips about “[getting] into the backdoor business.” Ever the bigger man, Blundell could not resist chiming in with gags that equated gay sex with prison rape (“You have damned a man to five of the greatest years of his life,” he offered, to in-studio hooting).
Blundell has since apologized for his comments, as those suspended from work for their hateful speech are wont to do. As gasbag apologies go, it’s on the decent side, correctly noting, among other things, that the hosts’ conversations “were not entertaining.” Welsman, meanwhile, has stayed mum.
The whole incident feels symptomatic of an ugly regression in this strand of from-the-hip broadcasting, where other people’s lives are simply fodder for undiscriminating hosts and guests with axes to grind. It isn’t just that Welsman’s undisclosed biases, apparently fit for radio but not for court, may have slanted the jury’s deliberations, but that the hosts’ troglodyte sexual politics, degrading stereotypes, and cavalier smears of everyone from possible sex offenders to mildly androgynous pop stars have somehow become normal—someone’s warped idea of common sense. It’s time we upped our standards.
The Dean Blundell Show has been cancelled, effective January 6, 2014.