Friday, October 8, 2010

What a Dilemma

Yesterday, as I was making my way home from work, I was sitting on the bus and I noticed four young people - it was hard not to notice them, they were so loud. There were three boys and a girl, the boys looked about 14 and the girl no older than 12. Maybe she was the sister of one of the boys? I don't know and didn't stop to ask. Nevertheless, they were acting loud and bothersome as teenagers usually do. One of the boys accused the girl of "liking" someone (omg) and that developed into a conversation that lasted several minutes of very literal back and forth of "no I don't!" "yes you do!" "no I don't!" "yes you do!" Teenagers do as teenagers do, I guess.

As one of the boys stood up to get off of the bus at his stop he made one last joke about the girl and her supposed crush and as he stepped off the bus the girl, again, no older than 12, surely, called him "faggot!" It was a very eye-opening moment as I sat there towards the back of the bus generally minding my own business, but having my peacefulness disturbed by loud kids. The boy who was getting out didn't seem to say or do anything, he didn't seem particularly offended by being called this word so maybe that kid is a bit more enlightened than the girl is.

However, as I sat there I wondered whether I should have said something. My stop came up and, as it turned out, the girl and her friends were getting out as well. Should I tap her on the shoulder and politely tell her not to use that word? Should I have told her "next time you use that word consider how you would be feel being called a..." and go into an obscenity-laced, foul-mouthed hurricane of abuse? That felt a slight bit too much for a 12-year-old, but it was the option I felt I wanted to use most of all. In the end, however, I said nothing. How very weak of me, and as I sit here writing this I feel perturbed that I didn't. I got called the exact same thing at work once, albeit in a much harsher tone, by an actual grown adult. It's incredible the things people say.

What does any of this have to do with anything? Well, I thought of this story again this morning as I read that the studio behind Ron Howard's next movie, The Dilemma, have backed down and removed an offending "gay joke" from the trailer of said movie. I wrote about it last September when it came out and I was relieved to read similarly negative opinions about the gag throughout the various websites I visit.

Says Universal, the studio behind The Dilemma:

"The teaser trailer for The Dilemma was not intended to cause anyone discomfort. In light of growing claims that the introduction to the trailer is insensitive, it is being replaced. A full trailer, which has been in the works for some time, will post online later today."

That's all very well and good, but the offending joke (and "offending" is the correct term, thank you very much) will surely remain in the movie. Gotta give the plebs what they want! And what they want is, apparently, jokes about how "electric cars are gay". Whatta world!

Still, nothing can remove the disappointing fact that it was there in the first place. Universal Studios, Ron Howard, his producers and whoever cut the trailer, thought that joke was not only rock solid, but so good that it should be used to introduce a world of ticket-buying audiences to their film. First impressions last and all that mumbo jumbo, I shudder to think what the rest of the movie is like.

With all the news lately of suicides by gay youth - and frequent news items about general homophobic abuse, denigration and violence - it all just feels so dispiriting. In this month's issue of The Big Issue I wrote an article about how gay relationships are finding their way into mainstream fare such as Modern Family and The Kids are All Right and how, just maybe, as more people see them then, perhaps, these archaic beliefs that gay people should be treated as somehow less than equal will dissipate. I am not that hopeful, to tell you the truth.

Blessed Tim Gunn.

Back to The Dilemma though. I almost wish I could see that trailer play live in the cinema to get a bit of a gauge of the audience. I remember seeing The Hangover and as hilarious as I and the rest of the audience found the movie, it was almost deathly silent barring a few uncomfortable coughs and "should I be laughing at this?" chuckles during the infamous "paging Doctor Faggot" line. That was a comforting sign, but I don't believe for a second that every screening of the movie was the same. The sequel to The Hangover is to be filmed and set in Bangkok, which is surely just a cue for decades-old jokes and others that drip disgust at the mere suggestion of gay male sex (geddit, cause it sounds like bang cock and what red-blooded male would wanna do that?!? 50 Cent will be rolling in the isles, I can tell.) Needless to say, I am not looking forward to that one (even though, as I just said, I really like the first.)

It's a dilemma worthy of Nelly and Kelly Rowland, truly.


Anthony Mai said...

I was on the train once and a group of 6 young, attractive girls at between 16-18 were having a conversation. They were wearing dancing outfits and through the way they spoke, I knew they were all dancers (yes, those sort of girls). Anyway, one girl kept using the that same F word!!

I wasn't offended, but a tad annoyed...
Anyway, that girl got of the same station as I did and we walked out to the waiting area to get picked up. I sat right beside her and so I thought I would say something. I tapped her on the shoulder and told her I was on the same carriage as she was and I overheard her convo.

I told her that I think she shouldn't use that word because people like me may feel uneasy. I could tell she was a nice girl and all, and she genuinely replied: "Oh, I'm sorry I really didn't mean to offend you. It's just because I have a lot of gay friends. You see, I'm a dancer and we all use that word a lot"...

Anyway, that's my story ;) You're a wimp, Dunks.

MattyD. said...

Glenn, the trailer played in front of 'The Town' when I saw it in NYC a few weeks ago, and my jaw dropped to the floor. I was so offended that the studio not only allowed that word to be used as a pejorative for a joke in the film but to OPEN THE TRAILER. I almost walked out of the theater then and there and demanded my money back, but I didn't. And like you on the bus, it's nagged at me ever since. I'm thankful that they realize their mistake, but I'm so angry that anybody thinks this is ok to put in a film.

Thank you for writing this piece, btw.

Von said...

Already commented on your article so won't again.
The culture of the young, my Daughter,26, tells me has changed radically and being bi, gay or whoever, is now much more accepted, expected and celebrated.The use of the word 'gay' is it seems a normalisation and a desensitising of the word and it's negative connotations.Maybe 'faggot' is going the same way.I just isn't the same for kids now and the generations move on so swiftly you may be acting as an old fart if you criticise, rebuke and protest.Not to say of course that some young people aren't or can't be homophobic. Maybe chill a bit?