I wanted to stay out of this. I’ve put up with all the complaining and moralizing. I ignored the reports from SXSW where the film was deemed racist and homophobic. I winced my way through review after review where critics felt it necessary to explain the ethics of comedy in relation to LGBT people. I withstood it all, weathering the storm of mediocre film criticism gracefully. Regrettably, I can remain quiet no longer after reading this:
That pissed me off. Its not enough for you to lose your collective cool over one slight comedy, but now you condemn other popular movies people have enjoyed for containing “homophobic” scenes that you deem offensive .
All I want a critic to do is tell me whether or not a movie worked, and then explain why. Furthermore, it’d be nice if that why wasn’t based on a film offending your own personal political and social beliefs
Hitfix highlighted certain scenes from random movies deeming them offensive because they ridicule people who are LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender). To serve as a bit of contrast I will post some scenes from popular movies that contain jokes, situations and characters that could be construed as offensive or mocking toward LGBTpeople but still work regardless in the film they’re apart of.
In Airplane, the classic 1980 send up of 70’s disaster flicks, there’s a character named Johnny. Johnny was portrayed by gay actor Stephen Stucker. In the film Johnny is a worker in the control tower helping to safely land a plane where a major indecent has occurred. Johnny is Gay. He is hilariously, sterotypically gay. Enjoy.
Dirty Work is a 1998 comedy staring Norm Macdonald. It’s about the exploits of two guy’s named Mitch and Sam (played by Norm Macdonald and Artie Lange). They decide to open a revenge for hire business and capitalize on their superior pranking abilities. A showcase of their talent comes early in the film when Mitch and Sam get jobs at a local movie theater. Their boss, Mr. Hamilton (Don Rickles) is a colossal jerk. He humiliates Mitch and Sam, making an example of them in front of the theater staff. They take revenge on Mr. Hamiliton by embarrassing him in front of his superiors who’ve come for an inspection. They sneak a very special edition of Men In Black into the projection booth of the theater. Needless to say, it’s probably not the Men In Black the crowd was expecting to see.
Later, Mitch and Sam’s antics land them in the slammer. Sam, being a big dumb ox, is more than able to handle himself, but Mitch is a bit uneasy. He’s heard rumors about what inmates like to do each other behind bars. Soon Mitch’s worse fears are conformed as a group of inmates come and select him for a very unpleasant welcome to the penal system.
Treasure this one folks cause its one of the only instances in modern comedy where a rape joke is done right.
….and by right I mean funny.
Although the Wayans Bros. have a history of hilarious gay comedy in their films, they reached their apex with the character of Ray (portrayed by Shawn Wayans) in Scary Movie 1 & 2. Of course we know that the strength/weakness of most slasher movies are the simplified characterizations like the jock, the slut, the prude, the clown, the token black, ect. The character of Ray is a jock. He’s a jock who has all the stereotypical earmarks of a flaming homosexual yet doesn’t believe himself to be gay. I don’t quite understand the origins of the joke in relation to the parody at hand. Maybe its an out of place commentary on latent homosexual urges in the male sport athlete? Maybe It could be that Keenan Ivory Wayans thought it would be funny if the character of Ray was a blissfully unaware flaming homosexual? In that instance, Keenan was right.
In Just Friends Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) has transformed himself from high school loser to big success yet finds his money and looks don’t impress his old high school crush Jamie Palamino. In desperation, he transforms into his old brace faced, khaki wearing, awkwardly sensitive high school self. Since he and Jamie were best friends back then she’ll probably be attracted to the older model instead of the new. He goes method in his performance, sacrificing comfort and his “man card”, to accompany Jamie to a screening of the 2004 film The Notebook. To describe his agony at viewing the film Chris uses a word that, while not exactly politically correct, is hilarious nonetheless. However, the payoff to what he says, involving the couple a few rows in front of him, makes the joke kind of brilliant.
Rush Hour 2
Yes, Brett Ratner sucks. Can we move on?
A blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut and even an inept “action comedy director” like Brett Ratner can occasionally hit bulls-eye with his material. The film in question is Rush Hour 2. Not a good film mind you, and a noticeable step down from the Rush Hour 1, but it has it moments. Cheif among them is a cameo by Jeremy Piven playing a overly stereotypical gay man, selling clothes in a posh Las Vegas boutique. The main hero’s of the film, Carter and Lee (Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan), stop by to get some nice threads in order to blend in better with the Vegas crowd. They’re mistaken for a gay couple by Piven’s character and despite Carter and Lee’s objections, he can’t be convinced of the contrary . Its a funny scene thanks in part to how well Chris Tucker and Piven play off each other, with Jackie as the straight man (no pun intended). Enjoy.
I really don’t see how anyone, even the most hardcore L.G.B.T. advocate and gay rights supporter could not find this funny. Let’s leave Brett Ratner (the director of Money Talks) out of this one and focus on how brilliant Chris Tucker and Faizon Love are in this scene. Chris Tucker plays Franklin Hatchett; con man with a heart of gold. Given the nefarious nature of his profession Franklin soon finds himself in jail. His cellmate is Faizon Love’s character playing an obviously gay cellmate clearly attracted to Franklin. It’s a pretty cheap set up. “Hey the main character is in prison and his cellmate is gay. Isn’t that hilarious!”. For the lazy version of this joke check out the 1982 Ron Howard film Night Shift. If you want to see that same joke performed brilliantly then watch the scene from money talks.
A little advice:
Focus on the individual characters in the scene. Watch how Chris Tucker reacts, and how Faizon Love seduces. It’s the little things they do both in ignorance and in full knowledge of the situation that makes the scene into pure comedy.
Dumb and Dumber
I never got the joke as a kid. Written on a bathroom wall was:
“For Manly Love Be Here March 25th 2:15 Sharp”.
I had no idea what was meant by “manly love”. Now I know that it was another way to say gay sex (forced or consensual, the movie is never clear on which and that the Sea Bass, a violent, ill tempered truck driver wanted to give some to Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) in a gas station bathroom. Earlier in the film Lloyd and Harry ran afoul of Mr. Bass earning and his ire. After Lloyd and Harry had been bullied into submission, they pulled a killer prank on Sea Bass and got revenge. (Go to 1:00 mark for Sea Bass)
Sea Bass disappears from the film following this incident, which makes it all the more surprising when he returns. He doesn’t come bearing fists and fury but, ironically enough (based on how homosexuality has been stereotyped in relation to typical manliness), he shows up at a gas stop on the highway for a homosexual encounter with another random man. It good luck for Sea Bass that Lloyd Christmas happens to be in the wrong place at the right time.
What so funny about this scene funny isn’t the surprising aspect of a big tough trucker being secretly gay but that Sea Bass sought to exact his revenge in a way that the audience (and certainly Lloyd and Harry) never expected or even considered in the realm of possibility. We laugh in recognition of having our own narrow worldview and prejudices (relating to what kind of man Sea Bass is) turned against us. I’m not trying to suggest that Dumb and Dumber is some landmark of gay cinema, but it’s a lot deeper than you think.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Speaking of Deeper:
In Ace Venture: Pet Detective, Ace (Jim Carrey) has been hired by the Miami Dolphin’s to locate their missing mascot Snowflake. In the following scene Ace figures out the culprit in the Animal theft. The culprit is Lois Enhorn, who happens to be Lieutenant for the Miami Police department. It was an inside job from the start and Ace was hired only to make the investigation look serious enough so that no one would ever suspect Einhorn. Thankfully, Ace solves the case but before he can call in the cavalry there is something he must do.
It’s not how one would normally celebrate breaking a case. What we actually see is a hilarious overreaction to a past encounter between Lois Einhorn and Ace Ventura. We’ve learned from the clip above that the perpetrator behind the theft of Snowflake was Lois Einhorn and that Lois Einhorn is the transgender cover of disgraced Miami Dolphin’s kicker Ray Finkle. Finkle/Einhorn kidnapped the dolphin (and Dan Marino) to get revenge on the team. Lois Einhorn is constantly on Ace’s case throughout the movie, helping keep up the appearance that Ace was hired reluctantly and not to feed into a sham. However, when she had Ace behind closed doors, a different side of Lois Einhorn came out.
When Ace finally realized who Einhorn was, he reacted as any straight man would who almost made love to a transgender man believing he was a woman. It’s a ridiculously over the top reaction and is only pulled off because Carrey is such a brilliant physical comedian. How anyone can look at this scene and cry homophobia or gay panic is beyond me. Even if it was, it’s not mean spirited or intelligently presented homophobia (if such a thing was possible). He’s using a plumber to try and suck the kiss of a transgender man out of his mouth. This isn’t exactly the Westboro Baptist Church we’re dealing with here.
Toy Story 3
“A gay joke in Toy Story!? I don’t believe it!”
Well start believing. The joke originates from the Barbie and Ken story line which ran sort of parallel to the main story. As the lead characters of Woody, Buzz, Rex, Jessie, ect have their adventures at daycare, Barbie and Ken (new additions to the franchise) meet cute and fall in love. Only when it’s convenient to the story do they interact with the other characters. On one such occasion Barbie double crosses Ken who is in league with the main villian of the film to obtain some critical information that can help Buzz Lightyear. She ties Ken up then uses one of his many disguises to obtain information from behind enemy lines (start the clip at 3:20 for the gag).
Whew, thank God that the other toys think Ken is a bit of a “twink” or else Barbie would have been found out.
In all the positive reviews I read for the film (including the gushing review from Hitfix) no one mentioned this little bit of kiddie homophobia. Shouldn’t we condemn a film in which it’s okay to look down on a male toy who expresses his sexuality by wearing high heels? What is that teaching our children?
Why was there such a massive oversight where missed this joke? Could they have been so entranced by the magic of Pixar that they didn’t notice? Maybe. Or perhaps most film critics didn’t see it as homophobic but just though it was a great joke?
No introduction needed. Ladies and gentlemen, “The French Mistake”.