Random Factoid #446

17 10 2010

Hollywood has an interesting dilemma on its hands.

It’s hardly news to anyone who follows film news that the trailer for Ron Howard’s “The Dilemma” has come under heavy fire for using a phrase that might be offensive to some.  For those who didn’t see the trailer attached to “The Social Network,” here it is:

“Electric cars are gay. I mean, not homosexual, but my-parents-are-chaperoning-the-dance gay.”

Within a week, the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) was demanding that the trailer be removed from theaters.  This came as a shock to the studio, according to The Los Angeles Times, who “not only tested the trailer with rank-and-file moviegoers but also submitted it to a number of gay rights watchdog groups. According to Universal, no one complained.”

I’ll admit that I was a little surprised to hear the word in a trailer at a PG-13 movie, but considering all the jokes I had heard in R-rated movies, I wasn’t shocked.  I’ve read plenty of satire and seen plenty of comedic movies and plays to know that writers have to have no mercy if they must resort to insulting.  Everyone is fair game, although sometimes there are some low blows.  Compared to the some of the pejoratives thrown around in R-rated movies nowadays, the joke from “The Dilemma” falls somewhere between a low blow and mild name-calling.

I guess the biggest thing about the whole dilemma here is the fact that this is a trailer, not a movie.  People who might be offended by the word could avoid a movie that used it if they were well-informed; they could get totally blindsided by it when the trailer just plays before another movie they want to see.  The fact that GLAAD is insisting that Universal take the joke out of the movie seems a little ridiculous.  It’s not just that I’m a huge proponent of free speech, but they are picking the wrong movie to go after if they want to make a serious change in the way writers toss around terms describing homosexuals.

If their long-term goal is to get the word out of the vernacular as a synonym for stupid, they should have gone full throttle on the offensive against “The Hangover.”  Yes, the word gay has come to take on a despicable meaning, but so has lame.  How many times do we use that word and not realize that it is making fun of mentally challenged people?  And there’s never any uproar when you hear lame used in a movie.

But the fact that Vaughn’s line acknowledges that they don’t mean to make homosexuals the butt of the joke should make this a little bit less of a hot-button issue.  It’s wrong that the other context exists, but it’s a heck of a lot better than just throwing the word out there and making fun of homosexuals.  Compared to “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and the banter between Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen calling each other gay based on things that they like, this is child’s play.

Of course, I have to take into account the recent suicides linked to homophobic bullying.  This trailer could send the wrong message to those willing to interpret the nature of the joke in a certain way.  The suicides have lent the joke some very dark undertones, ones that weren’t intended to be there, but now they are very present.  Given the nature of the times, perhaps it is for the better that the line was removed.  The unfortunate events cannot be changed, but Universal may have played a part in preventing some further grief and distress.

Had these events not occurred, I would be in support of keeping the joke in the trailer and in the film because it would be hypocritical to grant one group immunity from comedic effects.

As Patrick Goldstein of The Los Angeles Times said, “Comedy is a lot like free speech — sometimes you have to hold your nose to support it. If you don’t stick up for the flimsiest kind of humor, then you can’t protect the most important kind either.”  This whole situation is a hard one to take a stance on, but there is a way to handle this that can preserve the integrity of all people and comedy.

I mean no disrespect towards GLAAD or Universal with this post, and I hope that I have treated this sensitive subject with the care and respect it is due.  I have nothing but sympathy towards all those affected by the suicides, and I sincerely regret any pain that the trailer for “The Dilemma” might have caused.  In these sensitive times, I hope I have provided a commentary based in reason and a response not heightened by the hysteria of the current events.


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7 responses

19 10 2010
Fitz

It seems like overkill considering the joke wasn’t intended to harm. If GLAAD wants to go on attack mode on a movie they should pick on The Hangover why they changed the line from Dr. Douchebag to Dr. F****t is beyond me.

20 10 2010
Red

When I first heard of this, I thought it was pretty crazy. And then I actually watched the trailer and seen that Vaughn’s character goes on to even say “not in a homosexual way”, and now it’s just absurd that GLAAD and Anderson Cooper would go so far.

21 10 2010
Andrew

They should be more offended that the joke just isn’t funny.

I don’t get why this movie gets torched at the stake while other films– like the previously mentioned Virgin and Hangover— don’t receive so much as an Indian rug burn, but maybe the fact that this line appears at the beginning of a trailer attached to a very prominent and visible movie is enough for their outrage. Beats me.

24 10 2010
Harry

I’m with everybody else on this one, it seems a tad silly to point out this one film for censorship when it seems like so many others haven’t heard as much of a peep for much much worse.

Good point about the use of lame, Marshall, and it’s especially interesting that certain words and phrases have made it into the ether without people realizing their origin. The use of the word gyp, is a reference to gypsies, but people never think of that when they say that they got gypped by a restaurant or whatever. Hysteric is a word related to the idea that only women could be hysterical (think hysterectomy). I’m not defending the use of the word gay as a substitute for stupid, but it just seems like offensive things are said so often that it’s difficult to pick what needs to be censored.

25 10 2010
MichaelAndTerrance

“Lame” has nothing to do with the mentally challenged. It describes someone who is crippled and the dictionary I checked does not even list that word as pejorative or derogatory. “Gay” does not have a “despicable meaning” unless you consider homosexuality despicable. Gay people identify themselves as gay (it’s what the G in “GLAAD” stands for) and, again, it’s not a pejorative word. Censorship is gay and lame.

26 10 2010
Marshall

No, the fact that a word that is used to identify a group of people can also be used as a synonym for “stupid” in the vernacular is despicable. You yourself used it in such a way to describe censorship.

27 10 2010
MichaelAndTerrance

What about the word “black” being used in many negative connotations, like the black sheep of the family, being blackballed from a club, buying something illegally from the black market, and so on? People with epilepsy are offended by the word “brainstorm.” Where do we draw the line? The long term and widespread use of “gay” and “lame” as “uncool” has made “gay” a homonym (can we still say that?), a word that has two or more meanings. As you pointed out, Vaughan even makes the distinction in the trailer as to which meaning he intends, as does Katy Perry in her song “Ur So Gay (and you don’t even like boys).”

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