Ron Howard's comedy The Dilemma is already one of the most talked-about films of the year — but not for the reasons the producers might have hoped. A scene in the film's trailer in which Vince Vaughn jokingly says that "electric cars are gay" has caused a storm of protest. Critics like CNN anchor Anderson Cooper say this kind of joke fuels anti-gay harassment and even leads to teen suicides. Following the outcry, Universal Pictures said it would cut the joke from the trailer. Is it ever okay to poke fun at something by calling it "gay"? (Watch an ABC report about the controversy)
Using "gay" as an insult is wrong: "I, personally, swear like a sailor," says Madeline Holler at Strollerderby. But it is simply cruel, ignorant, and unacceptable in civilized society to use the word "gay" to "degrade something or someone." The English language has no shortage of put-downs, so why not use them, and let "gay" just mean "gay."
"Is it ever okay to call something 'gay'?"
The film is just being realistic: Some people do use the word "gay" as an insult, says Josh Tyler at Cinema Blend, especially "douchey marketing guy[s]" like Vaughn's character in The Dilemma. So why force filmmakers to pretend otherwise? "Let's get gay marriage legalized in all 50 states and then start worrying about eliminating Vince Vaughn’s right to free speech."
"The Dilemma trailer pulled from theaters because Anderson Cooper doesn't like it"
Censoring comedy is not the solution: After the recent spate of "horrifying stories about violence and bullying against gay teens," says Patrick Goldstein at the Los Angeles Times, what might have once seemed "relatively harmless" now has "far darker undertones." But censoring this mildly offensive joke isn't necessarily a good idea. Comedy is a "lot like free speech" — if you don't stand up for the weak jokes, "then you can’t protect the most important kind either."
"The Dilemma and the sudden dilemma over gay jokes in Hollywood"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How science is accelerating our search for alien life
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- 6 tiny scientific mistakes that created huge disasters
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1: 10 major differences between the book and the movie
- Inside Turkey's shadow war with ISIS
- 10 things you need to know today: November 22, 2014
Subscribe to the Week