We were disappointed to see Vince Vaughn, star of the upcoming Universal comedy The Dilemma, defending the film's assertion that the word "gay" means "uncool" or "stupid." Earlier this week, we called on Universal to remove the anti-gay language from the film's trailer and from the film itself.
Here's the joke: the trailer opens with the phrase “Electric cars are gay.” Vince Vaughn’s character quickly points out that he doesn’t mean, “homosexual, gay, but, you know, my parents are chaperoning the dance, gay.”
The joke is that Vaughn's character is using the word "gay" to describe something worthy of mockery. That's it.
From our statement:
Since late September GLAAD has received verbal promises from Universal Pictures to remove an offensive scene from the trailer for the Ron Howard feature comedy, "The Dilemma," starring Vince Vaughn. In the scene, the actor uses the word "gay" as an insult. Unfortunately the company has neither confirmed nor denied that the scene would be removed from the movie before its January release date. Moreover, after promising to remove the anti-gay trailer, Universal has reportedly still not removed the trailer from theaters.
Approximately two weeks ago--about the time GLAAD received its first complaint about the trailer--Universal asked GLAAD to provide feedback on the clip. The feedback was clear: it plays on the sorts of stereotypes that give license to bullies and should be taken out. After talking to GLAAD, Universal promised to edit it out, but didn't make good on the commitment. Then, when CNN's Anderson Cooper denounced the trailer last week, Universal again promised to remove the anti-gay joke from the trailer. But the trailer is still running in theaters. Worse still, the studio tried to hide behind GLAAD, alleging that we didn't see the need to have it removed--despite two weeks of conversations.
Now, here's Vaughn's take on why the joke should stay in:
"Let me add my voice of support to the people outraged by the bullying and persecution of people for their differences, whatever those differences may be. Comedy and joking about our differences breaks tension and brings us together. Drawing dividing lines over what we can and cannot joke about does exactly that; it divides us. Most importantly, where does it stop."
We don't doubt Vince Vaughn's sincerity when he says he cares about people who are bullied for their 'differences.' Nor do we doubt that Universal executives feel the same way. But this isn't about intent. It's about the fact that no matter what the intent, when 'gay' is used as a pejorative, it sends a message, particularly to youth, that gay taunts are acceptable. And it sends a message to LGBT youth that they are people who should be made fun of.
Vince is right. Comedy does bring us together, unless one of us is the punchline. Then it pushes us apart.
Here's a little advice from fellow funny person Wanda Sykes.
We support Vince's effort to use comedy to bridge divides - which it certainly can, when done thoughtfully. But by standing behind this throwaway line in the film, he needs to realize he's supporting the use of the word "gay" as an insult by adults and, more importantly, by children.
Vince, we challenge you to stand by your own words, not the inflammatory words of your character. You can truly "lend your voice of support" to those of us working to stop the bullying, by making it clear that the lives of gay people are not punchlines.