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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Universal yanks its 'gay joke' trailer for 'The Dilemma': New promo due later today

Vince_vaugn Talk about a movie marketer's nightmare. When you're trying to promote a typically inoffensive middlebrow buddy comedy, as Universal has been doing with "The Dilemma," which stars Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, the last thing you want is to have your film bashed by Anderson Cooper on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" as insulting to gays. But that's what has happened to "The Dilemma," which has been embroiled in controversy after a number of viewers objected to the opening scene in the trailer, in which Vaughn is seen denigrating an electric car, saying, "It's gay."

Cooper said of the joke: "I just find those words, those terms -- we've got to do something to make those words unacceptable 'cause those words are hurting kids." He added: "I think we really need to focus on what language we're using and how we're treating these kids."

Coming at a time when the bullying of gay kids has been in the news, as with this front page story in my paper about a gay teenager who committed suicide after being taunted, Universal was viewed by many as being clueless and out of touch to be promoting a film with an insult to gays. But others have argued that gays are overreacting to a harmless throwaway jibe. Universal didn't waste any time in taking action. After it became clear that the controversy wasn't going away, the studio issued a statement this morning saying: "The teaser trailer for THE DILEMMA was not intended to cause anyone discomfort. In light of growing claims that the introduction to the trailer is insensitive, it is being replaced. A full trailer, which has been in the works for some time, will post online later today."

We still don't know if the joke will also be taken out of the movie, but the flap raises a host of unsettling questions. Here's a few: Like virtually every major studio in Hollywood, Universal has gay executives in positions of power who clearly would have seen the trailer before it was released. Why didn't they raise any objections? There are gay actors in the film who surely read the script before they took the job -- why didn't they raise any objections to the joke? Or if they did, were they ignored? And should the onus always be on gays to raise objections to questionable gay humor -- shouldn't that kind of reaction come from straight actors, filmmakers and executives too?

And here's an even more complicated question: This is hardly the first time anyone in a film or on TV has used a joke about something being "gay." It's been in the comedy lexicon for some time, from late-night TV to comedy clubs everywhere. So why is this usage the one that created a mini media firestorm? I'm going to have more to say about this, but I'd love to hear your thoughts about some of these questions.     

Photo: Vince Vaughn pictured at a football game last month at Soldier Field in Chicago. Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images



Comments () | Archives (51)

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I'm glad Mr. Cooper brought it up because it's about straight guys making fun of gays, ok in this case indirectly, by inflecting the 'It's gay." comment. Which means, "it's bad, i don't like it" All this has got to stop somewhere, and since our elected leaders are such cowards, why not start with the real influential people, the media in New York and the entertainment industry in Hollywood?

Let me explain... heterosexual men like to think of themselves as the toughest guys in the room. They are full of testosterone and embrace all things that are masculine and strong and loud and big and tough. They like fighting and cussing. They like monster trucks and harleys. They like to be rough and dominant. When they talk to their peers they brag and exaggerate their masculine exploits while they make fun of things that are perceived as unmasculine or weak. Masculine is cool and feminine is uncool. This is all part of the heterosexual male ritual and it has been for thousands of years. And they also use words to express these feelings. Something that is considered uncool or unmasculine might be called gay or pussy. It's not malicious against homosexuals or women -- it's simply words used as a put down about something that they consider to be unmasculine and to promote their own machismo amongst their peers. The same way homosexuals use words like straight or breeder as put downs or to convey something uncool amongst their peers.

Well, so much for "phat". And when the lyrics to "I Feel Pretty" were rewritten so she was no longer "pretty and witty and gay", I knew the boat had tipped over. Can we no longer have homonyms?? Ooops, my bad! We are losing the use of words from political pressure. When kids say "That's phat" they don't mean "fat". They case of the young lady ending up in a court case for saying "That's so gay" was outrageous. The kids don't mean "That's so homosexual," it meant "it's lame." Just like "gay" used to be "happy." I want to know why a 'community' of people have taken over a word, gay, so we have to have no homonym which it means 'happy' or 'lame'.

It isn't just this one instance, of's an accumulation of many instances, it's time for people to understand that words can hurt. The old adage "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" just doesn't apply anymore in this internet world. I will laugh at a Polish joke, or a blond joke (even though it hits home) but I think we are now going too far. It's not only the gay kids that are committing suicide, it's fat kids and kids who don't speak English properly or dress properly (all perceptions, of course). There's a story about a girl in Ohio who was bullied because of her ethnicity & lack of English skills. After she killed herself the girls that bullied her came to her funeral, looked into her coffin and laughed. Why can't we just stop insulting other people and accept them for who they are?

I found it interesting that the biggest bully of them all, Perez Hilton recently joined in the anti-bully against gay movement. Pot meet kettle. He's been working hard forcing gays who aren't ready to come out to come out of the closet. What a hypocrite.

I hear "It's so gay" all the time, even from those who are not homophobic, but I hate it because (although they may not have meant it in that way) in general the term means lame, or not cool - it's negative. Let's go back to saying something is not "cool".

Replacing the trailer is appropriate and the right thing to do. I applaud Universal for acting so quickly, however the chain of events transpired from script to screen. I am someone who believes that words are important and do last forever. I am a strong ally of the LGBT community, who wants to see the world and it's attitude changed to the point where "cheap shots" are not used to denigrate anyone.

If a group of people find something offensive is it okay for that group to force the offensive material removed? If thats the case then it should be okay for religious groups to have books removed from the library.
It's wrong no matter which way you look at it. I came of age as liberal democrat in the 70's and the mantra then was, "If you don't like it, don't go...but don't take it away from me if I'd like to see it." All groups have every right to their opinions I just don't think they have the right to remove something from someone else. If so we'd have no Harry Potter, no Heather has 2 Mommies, no Wizard of Oz in some places ! First amendment has its pluses and minuses. I may not agree with your position on something but I will fight for your right to have it heard.

What does calling an electric car gay have to do with people committing suicide? Nothing at all, but it doesn't surprise me in the least that it has become a controversy. Because it seems that's what always happens when a cause becomes a crusade. The crusade invariably turns into a fiasco of ridiculousness. You can't say this and you can't say that. How dare you? You are infringing on my rights as a gay, a minority, a woman, a man, a muslim, a catholic, a short person, a tall person, a mentally challenged person, and on and on it goes. What happened to having a sense of humor about yourselves? I don't want to live in a world where people have to take themselves so seriously all the time and are afraid to open their mouths because they may offend someone. Their is a difference between humor and bullying and I would hope that the majority of people on both sides of the issue could understand that.

On behalf of the stupid and lame among us I find the poster Debra's implication there is something negative about either of those conditions to be deeply offensive.

These "bigwigs" in Hollywood who cling to their gay jokes like the jokes are absolute life support just crack me up. "Hey You! I'm gonna make some jokes about the gays - just deal with it alright!!"

Meanwhile, back at the office, these - mmmm, strong as nails, thick-skinned, just deal with it, don't ever be politically correct, it's just a joke, AYYYY the politically correct police are here WHATEVER - heterosexual men have their diapers absolutely full, twisted and squeal to their assistants:

my grand latte does not have the right amount of foam
I need to be in business class
You can't book me at the Waldoorf Astoria 17th Floor facing west?
What floor is my room on?
Does this burrito have cheese with milk or no-dairy?
NOT business class?

Yes, you strong brave heterosexual men lecturing the rest of world on just getting over it, it's just a joke (as in, you are the only one ever who made this joke, what is the big deal) -- you are so completely clueless, & your comments are most humorous.

cheers. we see right through you

Oh Anderson, don't be so GAY....

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