After watching Tim Gunn and other celebrities contribute inspirational videos to the "It Gets Better" Project all week, it's jarring to watch something that seems to have the opposite message.
In a recent discussion with Ellen DeGeneres about teenage bullying, Anderson Cooper took issue with a new movie trailer that he says uses the word "gay" in a derogatory fashion. The movie he's supposedly referring to (although he never says the title) is The Dilemma, starring Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, and Queen Latifah. Here's the exact line Cooper's talking about ...
... Electric cars are gay. Not "homosexual" gay. But, you know, "my parents are chaperoning the dance" gay.
Here's why Cooper took offense to that line:
"I just find those words, those terms, we've got to do something to make those words unacceptable because those words are hurting kids ... the words people use and the things people say about other kids online, it enters into their internal dialogue."
Cooper's issue with those words brings up an interesting question about the use of slang in entertainment: How dangerous is language in popular culture -- not just in movies, but also on TV, in music, in books, etc.? Because when you think about it, a lot of awful phrases that demean lots of groups of people often creep into our vernacular.
Now, most likely the screenwriter who wrote that line of dialogue that Vaughn's character delivered did not intend to offend the gay community. But the fact remains that those words -- just like the commonly used phrase "That's so gay" -- are rooted in demeaning opinions about that group of people.
It's not just kids who repeat what they see on TV; adults do it, too, especially if it's a shtick-y line from someone as "cool" as Mr. Vaughn here. You know what? People think that guy is really funny, so if he can get a laugh out of a line like that, you can bet others will try it, too. And sure, some people aren't offended by a line like that. But what about the others, who internalize it as homophobia?
People always complain about having to be too politically correct. But instead of telling everyone -- Cooper included -- to just "lighten up," what if we simply focused on removing borderline offensive phrases from our vocabulary altogether? Our movies might even be better for it -- there are plenty of cleverer ways to get a laugh.
Were you offended by the movie trailer? Do you use the phrase "That's so gay"?