GLAAD President on ‘Dilemma’s’ Gay Slur, H’ywood Homophobia

Jarrett Barrios: “If somebody would stand up and tell Vince Vaughn to stop making gay jokes, that would be educating people”

Last Updated: October 11, 2010 @ 5:20 PM

Universal Studio’s indecision on whether to cut an anti-gay slur from its upcoming comedy "The Dilemma” has stirred up fierce blowback from gay rights groups.

None has been more outspoken in its calls for the studio to edit the problematic joke out of the final film than the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

In the film, Vaughn tells a group of executives, “Ladies and gentleman, electric cars are gay."

Facing criticism from GLAAD and celebrities such as Anderson Cooper, Universal said it would remove trailers featuring the line from theaters last Friday. Though GLAAD claims that process has taken longer than the studio initially indicated.

On Monday, GLAAD announced that it would launch an online protest aimed at pressuring Universal to move faster to pull teasers from theaters and to re-edit the film entirely. The studio still hasn't made a decision on whether to leave the line in the fim.

TheWrap spoke to GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios about the protest, why he thinks Vaughn’s joke contributes to anti-gay bullying and if Universal’s reaction is homophobic, .

You’ve linked the gay joke in "The Dilemma" to the recent outbreak of homophobic bullying …
It doesn’t take much to connect the dots. There has been a rash of bullying, some leading to suicides, much of it because of the widespread belief that it's somehow OK to say things about gay people that it is not OK to say about other groups. Comments like those in the movie make it seem OK to beat up gay people.

Has Universal been responsive?
We were pretty clear from the beginning that it was not funny. There were discussions over the course of two weeks, during which Universal appeared receptive and said that the trailer would be pulled — but it wasn't.

Universal says that it is cycling out the trailers from theaters, but the process won’t be completed until next Friday.
We’re still waiting on them to keep their word.

What if they pull the trailer but keep the joke in the film?
It will be a partial victory. We don’t want to just focus on the trailers. The larger issue is its presence in the movie, where it makes gay people the butt of a joke and uses language that denigrates us for a laugh.

Have you reached out to Ron Howard, Vince Vaughn or any of the other talent involved in the film to plead your case?
No, we haven’t. Our job is to get results for our community by going straight to the decision-makers at Universal.

If Universal bows to your demands will it trample on First Amendment rights?
It is the filmmakers' right to say whatever they want to. But it’s GLAAD’s job to point out hate speech and invite the public to join us in pushing for fairer media coverage of gay people.

At some level, though, isn’t this just a joke? Humor is frequently borderline offensive.
Humor can be elevating. But this just rehashes tired stereotypes that are routinely used to bash gay people and that contribute to the low self-esteem felt by many gay teens.

By perpetuating these stereotypes, it gives a green light to bullies, whereas if somebody were to stand up in the scene and tell Vince Vaughn to stop making gay jokes, that would be educating people and changing the game. We are the subject of so much discrimination — it’s still illegal in 45 states for gays to get married — so why beat up on this group to make movies?

Given the slow response you’ve received, would you say that Hollywood is homophobic?
I don’t know. At GLAAD, for instance, we issue a network responsibility analysis every year on the place of gays in the TV industry, and there has been enormous progress. Even though we’re seeing progress, we continue to see jokes and language and storylines that use these unsavory stereotypes that hurt gay people.

In this case, hope springs eternal at GLAAD. There’s still time for Universal to do the right thing.