Oh Jonathan Bower, you bowl-cut, 80s moppet. Your storylines on your 196 episodes of Who’s the Boss? cumulatively have not amounted to the drama your alter ego Danny Pintauro has drummed up in the past week. I feel like I have been on this rollercoaster with him, and where I was experiencing great pride a few days ago, now I have great anger and frustration.
The ride started with Pintauro’s appearance on Oprah’s Where Are They Now? in which he revealed both that he had previously used crystal meth as a means to more fully explore his sexuality and that he has been HIV positive for the past 12 years.
The cynic in me thought, “Ok, this was a press grab for a press-starved former child star currently working as a manager at PF Chang’s launching a ‘Beacon of Light’ tour when he hasn’t developed relationships yet with LGBT/HIV/AIDS-related organizations.”
But I quickly shushed my inner cynic as Pintauro had to have known he was opening himself up to the myriad trolls of the cyber-sphere and the conservative world who would now be using him as a beacon of sin, promiscuity and any anti-gay tail-pin that only needed a donkey. Sounds brave to me.
Then Danny Pintauro appeared on The View and it was a train wreck of an interview. He was completely shamed by Candace Cameron Bure in one moment and, in the next, was asked by Raven-Symoné on national television if he and his husband practice safe sex. The internet responded by blasting The View hosts for handling the topic in about as wrong a way as they could possibly manage.
The cynic in me yelled, “Who prepared Pintauro for this interview?!? Cameron Bure has been known to espouse conservative ideology and Raven-Symoné has previously said some wackadoodle things about the gay community. How was he not ready to correct Raven-Symoné when she conflated HIV with AIDS and, far more importantly, where was the indignation at the dehumanizing tone and content put forth by his fellow child-stars?”
I shushed my inner cynic, but not as quickly. As much as The View co-hosts were wholly unprofessional, I was frustrated by what I perceived to be Pintauro’s overall fumbling.
Then Danny Pintauro did an exclusive interview with that U.S. magazine, that reputable source of news and sensitivity, claiming that he contracted HIV through oral sex (“a compromised immune system, having been up for a long time, drugs, rough sex, all of that combined with lesions in your mouth, bodily fluids, it’s that easy,”) and shaming the nameless man from whom he contracted HIV. (“The lifestyle he was leading was really irresponsible.”)
The cynic in me was jumping up and down screaming, “Are you kidding me? Are you seriously kidding me?”
At this point, I’m making no move to shush my inner cynic.
Let’s put aside for a second the fact that contracting HIV through oral sex is unbelievably unlikely. The more important point is that it is essentially unprovable. By going out of his way to link his HIV transmission to oral sex, Pintauro has muddied the overall issue of how we talk about HIV/AIDS via a more palatable transmission method. It would have been one thing if he was suddenly putting himself forward as the poster-child for the dangers of oral sex, which aren’t currently part of the health class curriculum. Instead, he did the opposite, minimizing this detail with the horrid summary statement of “it’s that easy.” It only served to add insult to injury that he then went on in the interview to cast the man who gave him HIV in such a shameful light.
Look, the LGBT community can’t always choose our spokespeople. I get that. A former child-star is not the executive director of an LGBT/HIV/AIDS-related organization who has undergone an extensive vetting and interview process to ensure that messaging, outcomes and overall media savvy are all right on point.
But Danny Pintauro needs to put his Beacon of Light press tour on hiatus immediately and fully immerse himself in what it means to be out front representing those living with HIV in a society where the level of discourse around HIV/AIDS is riddled with misconceptions, misinformation and tactlessness (see: The View). He isn’t the spokesperson we chose. But he’s the one we currently have. And he needs to do better.
Ken Schneck, Huffington Post