I noted back when I first posted the trailer to Ron Howard’s upcoming Vince Vaughn/Kevin James vehicle The Dilemma that it opened with a pretty clunky gay joke. Anderson Cooper noted the same thing today, prompting Universal to not only cut it from the trailer, but to possibly cut it out of the movie altogether. That’s good, but why did it take Anderson Cooper shaming them to get rid of it? Why was a gay joke there in the first place?
I still remember how shocked I was when I was first seeing The Hangover in theaters at Bradley Cooper’s character shouting “Paging Dr. Faggot!” to Ed Helms’ character. People laughed, but was it even a joke? The entire joke was that he called him a faggot. That was it. It was incredibly lazy, and I’d like to think someone as talented as Todd Phillips would be able to come up with a better line than that when he literally could have stuck in any insult in the world. But faggot made the cut.
As Anderson Cooper said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show today, “we’ve got to do something to make those words unacceptable because those words are hurting kids. Someone else I talked to recently said that the words people use and the things people say about other kids online, it enters into their internal dialogue.”
And he’s clearly right. Kids see movies and they pick up jokes and jargon from them. Hell, half of the “jokes” teenagers make to each other are merely lines from movies and TV shows repeated ad nauseum. So even if a joke seems relatively harmless, like the “electric cars are gay” line in the Dilemma trailer, it just reinforces that gay is an insult. It solidifies gay jokes and words like faggot in the common vernacular; it endorses the language just by using it.
So why are people like Ron Howard and Todd Phillips casually slipping gay jokes into their movies? I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that these aren’t homophobes. They clearly don’t think they’re being all that offensive, and I’m not generally one to be the PC police when it comes to comedy. But when the gay jokes they’re making are such half-assed, lazy jokes, jokes that could be much funnier if they didn’t rely on stereotypes, you’ve just got to wonder what they’re thinking.
Hopefully the embarrassment of having to publicly remove a shitty gay joke from a movie before it’s even released will keep studios and filmmakers from relying on such material in the future. After all, there are always fat jokes they could be making instead.