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.
The trailer opens with the phrase "Electric cars are gay" in an attempt at humor, but it's hardly a joke for audiences growing increasingly frustrated by use of the word "gay" as a pejorative. Vince Vaughn's character goes on to clarify that he doesn't mean, "homosexual, gay, but, you know, my parents are chaperoning the dance, gay."
Making gay people the butt of a joke--even when the joke says they're not--feeds into damaging bias against gay people. "Dilemma's" use of the word "gay" as an insult contributes to a social environment in which gay people are ridiculed, discriminated against--or even worse. Most troubling are the impacts to gay youth who endure bullying with such epithets: movies like "The Dilemma" that use anti-gay humor give a green light to negative words and hurtful acts that contribute to gay children's low self-esteem, perceived lack of safety and even--as we have seen in recent series of bullying-related suicides and anti-gay attacks--violence.
Rather than ignoring current events, Universal Pictures should be especially sensitive to the power of words and the message they send young people about their self-worth.
"When 'gay' is used as a pejorative in such a public way for millions to see and laugh with, it legitimizes and propels the many taunts that gay people endure," said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. "Amidst a rash of bullying related suicides and anti-gay hate crimes, we need to tell Universal and America that our community is tired of being used as a punch line."
For more information, see glaad.org/thedilemma.