Over the Line or Overreaction? Use of the Word "Gay" in Ron Howard's The Dilemma Stirs Debate

Categories: Film and TV

ThinkB4YouSpeak.com may not be a household name, but you may have seen one of their award-winning public service announcements. If not, please take a minute to watch the short clip above featuring comedian Wanda Sykes.

I remember seeing a similar spot a while back and the impact it had on me. Comments such as "that's so gay" were so commonplace in the world I had inhabited for the past three decades I hadn't stopped to think about what they literally meant and how hurtful those words could be to the people around me who were gay. The ads are effective; simply raising awareness of how tacky and offensive such statements are is enough to stop those that are using them out of ignorance--at least it was for me.

That's why the first line of the trailer for Ron Howard's upcoming film The Dilemma, set to hit theaters in January 2011, is raising more than a few eyebrows. The clip opens with Vince Vaughn making a presentation to a boardroom, his opener: "Ladies and gentlemen, electric cars are gay. I mean, not homosexual gay, but like, my parents are chaperoning the dance gay."

CNN's Anderson Cooper appeared on the Ellen show earlier this week to discuss the bullying and suicide among gay teens in America and had the following to say:

"I was sitting in a movie theater over the weekend and there was a preview of a movie, and in it, [Vince Vaughn] said, 'that's so gay,' and I was shocked that not only that they put it in the movie, but that they put that in the preview, they thought that it was okay to put that in a preview for the movie to get people to go and see it. I just find those words, those terms ... we've got to do something to make those words unacceptable 'cause those words are hurting kids. And when you're a kid, it can change the way you see yourself and the way you think about yourself, and the worth that you give to yourself. I think we need to really focus on what language we're using and how we're treating these kids."
On one side: It's a movie. Vaughn is playing a character--possibly a thoughtless, asshole of a guy that would say something abrasive like that. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and calm the hell down.

On the other side: In order for the gay-rights movement to advance, the rhetoric must be changed. Take Vaughn's line and replace the word "gay" with any religious group, gender or ethnicity. It doesn't mean the same thing. The only words that can be substituted are synonyms for bad or lame. That is unacceptable.

What do you think?



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