Hollywood Offers Up Too Many Bad Gay Jokes This Weekend
Dear Hollywood, What the hell, man?
I know that at the end of the day all you care about is the bottom line, but, as individuals, you are liberals. That's just the way it is. But I guess the special red telephones got disconnected because things got out of hand this weekend. There are not one, not two, but three otherwise normal, liberal Hollywood movies from big studios that think nothing of a little homophobic humor. Consider that the release date comes not even a full week after Gay Pride, and I think we can call this a major disconnect.
Exhibit A: From Universal comes the least egregious offender, Seth MacFarlane's 'Ted'.
Now, 'Ted' is what we call an equal opportunity offender. There are offensive jokes flying all over the place. Toward Jews, Asians, Muslims, Italians, Brandon Routh – no one is safe. But the gay jokes are in abundance. When Mark Wahlberg and his bear embrace and the recorded “I love you!” sounds, there's the usual machismo and puffing out of chests. “I'm not gay! I'm not gay!” Later, when Patrick Warburton's character admits that he has drunken gay blackouts (and therefore comes to work looking beat up) there's a guy-guy smooch played entirely to make audiences from the sticks go “ewwwww!”
I can't get too upset, though, because it's MacFarlane and you know a movie like this is to have your buttons pressed. It just happens to be that these jokes aren't as funny as the others (many of which are really quite funny) and this movie has the misfortune of coming out this weekend – the same weekend as . . .
Exhibit B: From Magnolia Pictures comes the offensive but in-character 'Take This Waltz'.
Sarah Polley's finely observed (but extremely annoying) film about the destruction of a marriage features a fantastic performance by Michelle Williams. She's an emotionally confused woman who often slips into a defensive, childish mode (like speaking baby talk, which might actually be cute in real life, but may make you want to kill yourself when you watch this movie.)
Anyway, when flirting with her would-be partner in adultery, she asks him where he's going so early in the morning. Turns out he likes to go down to the lake before work. “That's gay,” she says. Off his confused look, she continues, "you are a gaylord."
Luckily, his retort is something on the order of "are you twelve years old?" but, I gotta say, having the word "gay" as a derogatory comment just. . . doesn't seem like a very helpful thing to have a in a movie right now. Yeah, the character is supposed to be an odd duck, but she's also the hero of the film. Frankly, it took me out of the movie, got me thinking “why that word and not something else?” and snapped all attention the film had over me. And it is made especially worse considering this is the same weekend as. . .
Exhibit C: From Walt Disney and DreamWorks the inappropriate and unlikely jab in 'People Like Us'
Handsome Chris Pine calls on fetching Elizabeth Banks. They're brother and sister but she doesn't know that so she starts in with some verbal sparring, assuming he's flirting with her. Defensively, he wants to let her know that this is not the case, so he tells her that he's in a happy relationship.
“Oh, really? What's his name?”
Not only is this a joke you tell in seventh grade (crack writing from our friends Kurtzman and Orci) it is flatly out of character for Elizabeth Banks. She's at work, as a bartender, at the Standard Hotel in Los Angeles.
Now, I've never been to the Standard in LA, but I've been to the one in New York. I gotta tell ya, you are unlikely to find a more gay-friendly oasis anywhere in the world. No one who worked there would ever be in a mindset to equate “gay” with that of a “put-down.”
On paper, it may seem like nothing more than a tone-deaf joke, but it is played in the movie for a big guffaw. I have no idea how this moment could have passed muster with all the producers and editors that scrutinize every moment of a film. Let me be blunt: in Hollywood, you either have working relationships with dozens of gay people, or may be gay yourself. I guess they figured a laugh from a hick crowd would be worth a little bit of their souls – and hopefully there wouldn't be any other films coming out the same weekend that uses the persecuted gay minority as the target of pejorative humor.
The “gay issue” is the last frontier for civil rights in this country. Hollywood is, allegedly, our vanguard in doing and thinking what's right. You'd like to think they would lead by example a little more, and choose their words more carefully. No, I am not suggesting censorship (which is why I'm basically giving the 'Ted' example a pass) but I'd like to try and inspire the writers and producers to maybe work a little harder and dig a little deeper to find forms of expression that don't perpetuate oppression.