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Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

Gay Dilemma

Since everyone else is weighing in on this topic, I figured I’d throw my two cents out there.

In case you haven’t heard, Ron Howard’s new movie The Dilemma has a trailer in which star Vince Vaughn calls a car “gay.”  This seems like a fairly regular occurrence these days; someone will use the word “gay” in a pejorative way.  In fact, even in liberal New York City, I hear that term thrown around by tens of people a day – gay and straight – to refer to something that is not homosexual.  In my opinion, using the word “gay” in that manner is inappropriate and wrong and I try my best not to use it in such a way.  But, I’m not about to say that characters in films can’t use it.

There has been such an outrage over Vince Vaughn’s stupid line in a trailer for a (probably) stupid movie that they have removed the word from the trailer.  Yay for equality?  The issue here, for me, is that just because a character in a work of fiction is racist, homophobic, sexist, etc. it does not mean that the creator of that character is.  If you disagree with the character’s use of the word, then it’s your right to not like that character.  We hear things we don’t want to hear all the time and if we want to, we can be offended by everything we encounter.  But once you start censoring what characters in films and literature can or cannot say, then what is the next step?  Are we going to go back and remove the name “Nigger Jim” from every copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?  Are we going to edit out the whole “do you know how I know you’re gay?” section from The 40 Year Old Virgin?

What I’m trying to say here is that art shouldn’t have to adhere to the standards of society; that’s why it’s art, it should stand outside of it.  Now, one could make the argument that The Dilemma is hardly art, but who gets to be the arbiter of that?  Art is subjective.  If people want to get up in arms over the use of a possible slur in a film that will probably have no influence on their life?  That’s their prerogative, but it seems like an awful waste of time.

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6 Responses to “Gay Dilemma”

  1. mattheww says:

    No one is censoring anyone: They communicated, we communicated.

    Your argument about art seems out of place here. Movie stars playing movie leads in this sort of film hardly count as characters at all; they are idealized versions of the viewer, or his or her best friend, with whom we are meant to identify and/or find cool. So when hipster Vince Vaughn tells a stodgy board meeting that a car is gay, we are meant to be right there with him. So much so that we’ll see the movie to get more just like it.

    That is hardly Huck Finn being racially insensitive by contemporary standards. It’s presuming an audience finds ‘gay’ an acceptable, even a cutting-edge, slam and trying to sell them something based on it.

    Maybe they’re right. But they found out that at least another audience is deeply offended by it. They will proceed with that new awareness, and I hope they do the right thing.

    But we shouldn’t mind, I hear you. We’re making too big a deal over what, to you, seems like nothing. Well, all due respect, but who are you to tell me what I should and should not find offensive? And if something I inform you offends me doesn’t seem offensive to you, why don’t you — as straight men seemingly NEVER do — take that to mean that there’s something you don’t know. Something you don’t find offensive it turns out is offensive to others. Hunh. Interesting. Maybe I have something to learn today.

    No? Instead you think you’ll tell me I’m wrong to mind? Well it was worth a shot. Believe me, we’ll be back here again.

  2. Noah Forrest says:

    Mattheww, I appreciate the intelligent response.

    Look, if I write a novel in which a character uses homophobic or racist remarks, does that make me – the author – racist? Perhaps if a character says a slur, then for you it means they are automatically a despicable person, but I don’t react that way to characters in literature or film. But, I accept the fact that some reasonable folks will see Vince Vaughn’s character in The Dilemma and dismiss him because of his “gay” remark and I think that’s acceptable. What the film WANTS and what is actually accomplished is subjective and changes from person to person. The film may want to find the “gay” joke funny, but I don’t. It may want me to like Vince Vaughn’s character, it doesn’t mean I will.

    I’m not telling people what they should find offensive. What I’m saying is that offensive content should not be removed from films because film is, I say, an art-form. Comedy is an art-form too and there are many comics that use racially insensitive words or say words that many find offensive, does that mean we should picket them until they stop using these words? It seems a bit like liberal fascism to me.

    Everyone’s sensitivity meter is different. Mel Gibson said awful things about Jews (I was raised Jewish), but I’ll still see Mel Gibson movies. However, some other Jewish folks will never see another Mel Gibson movie ever again. Similarly, if you are offended by material in a movie, you have the right to stay away from that movie. But that doesn’t mean the offensive material should be removed.

    Look, I agree with you that using the word “gay” in a pejorative way is wrong and I don’t do it. I think being hateful to a group of people, any people, is abhorrent. But I’m not about to tell people in the arts what they should or shouldn’t put in their films. You have your right to speak your mind in order to enact change, but I firmly believe that art should be held to a different standard.

  3. Lisa Murphy says:

    Shame on Universal for ALLOWING GLADD and Anderson Cooper to bullie them into remove this joke. IT’S a joke and has anyone ever heard of FREE SPEECH!
    In context the joke is fine but anti-gay!

  4. mattheww says:

    In answer to your very first question above, my answer is it very well might. It all comes down to intent. If you are presenting a despicable person, maybe that was the best way to go about it. If you, the author, seem to be celebrating your character for such a belief, that’s very different.

    Art is different? Fine. But there still can be homophobic art, and homophobic artists.

    In any case, I’m not sure a raunchy Vince Vaughn comedy counts as art. And I sure didn’t get the sense that its makers were impugning his character with that remark; in fact they seemed to approve of it. Are they homophobic? Maybe just insensitive. But for my money it’s down to those two.

    I guess what bugs me about this whole thing is the amount of blowback we gays immediately got. You are free not to write off Mel Gibson after his remarks, but I don’t remember anyone saying that any Jews who did were over-reacting. Or that the African Americans in Michael Richards’ audience that night ought to have not minded his outburst because comedy is an art form. But we’re getting a lot of that. It’s like people are blaming us for taking away the fun of hating on gays.

    We’re all more than a little sick of it. And you may feel you have good arguments. Maybe you even do. But here’s some food for thought: Straight people have been telling us to shut up and take our mistreatment since the dawn of gay. Look back at any point of that: Minding police raids. Wanting to hold hands in public. Wanting equal rights. Should we, in your mind, have shut up then? If not, what do you suppose the chances are that history will reveal we ought to have now?

    In ten years your post today will embarrass you, and you heard it here first.

  5. Noah Forrest says:

    First of all Mattheww, you are making an assumption about my orientation, which I have never (nor will I ever) expressed on this site.

    And you cannot factually judge intent. You can only guess at what an artist’s goal is. And who are you to judge what is and isn’t art? Maybe we should take down Jackson Pollock’s work from museums all over America because a lot of people sure don’t think that’s art.

    The gay community is not getting blowback because anyone disagrees that the use of the word “gay” in a derogatory way is wrong. But I’m saying that in the context of a film, which is an art form, it is wrong to put filters on anything. If someone doesn’t like it, they have the right to express that opinion of course, but I’m expressing my opinion. And my opinion is that in the context of a work of art, nothing is off-limits (except for, say, a snuff film).

    I think you’re conflating a lot of things in your last paragraph there. I’ve marched in Gay Pride rallies, written my congressman about repealing DADT, and been an ardent supporter of gay marriage. You are fighting the wrong person here. I want equal rights for everyone. But having equal rights includes accepting the fact that people are still racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, etc. etc. I haven’t been offended by a joke in my life, but again, my sensitivity meter probably isn’t as finely calibrated as yours and that’s okay. It’s your right to be offended and express that, just as it’s my right to express my opinion.

    And I’m going to say I won’t be embarrassed about this post because I believe in the freedom of expression in art and always have, always will. And I believe in the equal rights of everyone and always have, always will. Those things are not mutually exclusive.

  6. mattheww says:

    You have an odd tendency to judge things by the soundness of their logical extremes.
    If I say that a raunchy movie doesn’t count as art and someone else levels that charge against a Jackson Pollock, why not judge each case on its merits individually? The same goes for your original point: Universal altering this movie based upon the gay community’s reaction to its trailer opens the door to nothing, necessarily. Another community is offended by another trailer or film? Let them make their case.

    You also seem to not quite get that art is communication. The artist is saying something through his or her art. You can’t get mad at the patron for hearing what’s being said, or judging the artist for it. Nothing is off-limits, but that absolves no one of responsibility.

    By the way, I think your sexual orientation would be enormously germane and it’s odd that you will “never” divulge it here. That can’t be because your private life is off-limit — you were quick enough to let me know you were raised Jewish. Why is the gay or straight question any more nettlesome for you? The answer to that question probably informs your off-kilter views here.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon