Ron Howard defends the fag joke

By now you may have heard that Ron Howard has a new movie coming out that includes a line where a character says about an electric car, “it’s gay.” Universal pulled the joke from the movie’s trailer since, you know, scores of gay kids just happened to be killing themselves after being bullied.

But Ron Howard says the joke is staying in the film. And his reasons are as warm and all-American as embracing a n-word joke.

Let me share a little bit of what Howard had to say about gay jokes.

So why was the joke in the movie? Our lead character of Ronny Valentine has a mouth that sometimes gets him into trouble and he definitely flirts with the line of what’s okay to say. He tries to do what’s right but sometimes falls short. Who can’t relate to that? I am drawn to films that have a variety of characters with different points of view who clash, conflict and learn to live with each other. THE DILEMMA is a story full of flawed characters whose lives are complicated by the things they say to and hide from each other. Ronny is far from perfect and he does and says some outrageous things along the way.

Good try.

You see, you can really only get away with using fag jokes to show how bad a character is when you actually show how bad a character is for demeaning gay people. For example, when Finn in Glee used the word “faggy,” he was ripped to shreds by an adult in the popular TV series, thus sending the message that it’s not okay. Is the lead character in Howard’s film going to be ripped to shreds for calling something “gay”? Somehow I doubt it.

Now, note how Howard referred to the recent spate of gay suicides:

It’s true that the moment took on extra significance in light of some events that surrounded the release of the trailer…

Did you catch that? The recent tragic suicides of young gay kids are “some events.” Nice.

More from Howard:

I believe in sensitivity but not censorship.

Do you tell n-word jokes, Mr. Howard? I’m going to guess that you don’t. And if you don’t, is that “censorship” or simply being a decent human being?

It is a slight moment in THE DILEMMA meant to demonstrate an aspect of our lead character’s personality

I cry BS on that one. Does Howard really want us to believe that the audience is going to recoil in horror at what a bigot the lead character is for saying “it’s gay”? Seriously? The audience is going to laugh. It’s not going to be a teaching moment, it’s not going to show anything about the character’s personality other than he’s funny and cool because he mocks fags.

Did you think it wasn’t offensive? I don’t strip my films of everything that I might personally find inappropriate. Comedy or drama, I’m always trying to make choices that stir the audience in all kinds of ways.

Right. We’re to believe that Ron Howard put the “gay” joke in to help stir the audience. Or was the joke put in because Hollywood is notoriously more than a tad homophobic and Howard thought it might be funny to put a fag joke in, since that’s what regular funny guys do, they tell fag jokes?

But if storytellers, comedians, actors and artists are strong armed into making creative changes, it will endanger comedy as both entertainment and a provoker of thought.

Again, you only get strong-armed when you think it’s okay to throw bigoted jokes in your movies. If you got it, if you didn’t find bigotry funny, you wouldn’t put it in in the first place. And when notified of it, you’d take it out because it would offend YOU. Again, would Ron Howard have a character tell a black joke simply because he knew the audience would find it funny? I somehow doubt it. He’s using a free speech smokescreen to keep a fag joke in his movie because he thinks it’s funny and not a big deal.

You can read the rest of the interview for yourself.

Look, I can handle the fact that Howard doesn’t want to be censored. But if Howard understood the problem, he wouldn’t have put the joke in the script to start with – or he’d have another well-liked character tell the bigot that it’s really not right to use that kind of language. But I’m gonna bet that no such teaching moment happens in Ron Howard’s film. It’s Howard’s own intolerance that’s forcing others to be intolerant with him. And at some point, artists, and everyone else in society, have to stop using free speech to justify bigotry. Yes, you have the right to be a bigot, and we have the right to call you on it.

Oh, and next time you get interviewed about the topic, Mr. Howard, show a little respect for all the kids who have killed themselves by referring to their deaths as something other than “some events.”


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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