Gay Meets Straight: Punch Line or Sucker Punch?

Gay Guy,

Tricia Romano at Daily Beast
is wondering whether gay humor needs to change. How can we (gay or straight) joke about homosexuality and still let gay teens know that they'll be accepted and not judged?

In the upcoming comedy "The Dilemma," Vince Vaughn's character jokes: "Electric cars are gay. I mean not 'homosexual' gay, but 'my parents are chaperoning the dance' gay."

Ellen DeGeneres, Anderson Cooper, and Elton John all say that's not cool. Since then, the joke has been pulled from the trailer. Here are several quotes from the article:
Vaughn responds to the controversy: "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?"

Here's a quote about Dan Savage, who launched the It Get's Better campaign. Savage "says that he and his friends joke around and call each other 'faggot' and 'breeder' —- thinks maybe the line has been drawn after the gay suicides: 'That sort of rough-and-tumble sexual humor has its place, but maybe now we're waking up to the fact that it's having unintended consequences out there. There are vulnerable 14-year-olds.'"

Famously gay-friendly comic Margaret Cho says: "The use of [gay] as an adjective—to use it as a description of something is not valid to me as comedy."
We've posted a few of the "Don't Say That's So Gay" ads (1,2). I agree that we can't shortcut to gay=lame, dumb, or whatever. But context is everything, and trust can be earned. I can't walk up to a new gay guy and have the same rapport that I have with you, GG. I think we can talk and joke freely. And because you know where my heart is, you'll offer me a little leeway if a joke goes near, or slightly over, the line. Comedy and political correctness will never be an easy mix. I don't want them to be.

--Straight Guy

P.S. Just to get this straight, am I supposed to be offended if someone calls me a breeder? I need to know, because my impulse would be to offer a high five and keep walking with a little extra swagger. Because, yes, I am, and I already have. Thanks for noticing. I had no idea my mojo was THAT strong.

I get that breeding is supposed to be the thoughtless, primal side of reproduction. But your team might need to work on that comeback. Needs more sting. You're usually so much better at witty retorts than we are. Oops, I just stereotyped. Deal with it.


Allie said...

SG, you rock.

Straight in Upstate said...

As a moderate language/ writing junkie, the Vince Vaughan example is just bad writing, let alone bad comedy. "Pathetic" or "sad" seem like much better words than "gay" in that situation. And don't call me a dork or a nerd because that's the part I latched onto.

"Breeder" is another odd insult, because until science learns how to create artificial sperm that does everything the real stuff can do, everyone regardless of gender or orientation is bred by someone else (or, two someone elses).

Dorn said...

Breeder always made me laugh. So disdainful; sex with purpose instead of being above it all by having sex strictly for pleasure.

Not to diminish the insult of Gay being used as a negative adjetive (sadly it's been common as long as I can remember) but it reminds me of being told "that's SO White" as a way to say I'm being lame.

I am curious where the lines will be drawn though. SG, your point about knowing the audience (friend) in a manner is key but still some would argue hate speech no matter how personal or light hearted is wrong as outsiders will not see the drawn line. Similarly, the "N" word isn't to be used outside of African American groups. Doesn't a double standard like that make it impossible for "common" usage to fade away?

kathryn said...

So, you think that being a Breeder would only apply if you're straight?

See, I would conclude that if you have those little swimmers in your body, you're a breeder.

But that's just me.

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