In a few short weeks, the organization designed to protect the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community — GLAAD — has turned into one of the biggest bullies in Hollywood.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has loudly taken three big media companies to task in the past few weeks over words used in films and TV shows.
>> The group scolded Ron Howard and Universal Pictures for calling electric cars “gay” in the upcoming comedy feature “The Dilemma.” Howard didn't budge, but Universal took the joke out of the trailer.
>> Last week GLAAD demanded an apology from MTV — and got one — after the reality show "Jersey Shore" used the word "tranny" mockingly.
>> Last month, in a blog post on its website, GLAAD criticized the Fox hit musical series “Glee” for using the word “tranny” in a recent “Rocky Horror Picture Show”-themed episode.”
“Words and images matter,” GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios told TheWrap.
Well, yeah, they do — but so does getting what you want without declaring open season on your friends.
"GLAAD is much better served when they work with us instead of coming out and hitting us in the jaw in front of everybody," said one fearful Hollywood publicist.
A network official, meanwhile, noted that while GLAAD issued a statement hammering away at one of his series for its word selection, it wasn't until the fourth paragraph that the advocacy group explained what was wrong with the term the show used.
"It seemed more about what we did wrong than educating us," he noted.
In its quest for fair media representation, GLAAD seems quick to take off the gloves … even when dealing with its friends.
“Glee” just got an award from GLAAD for an episode in which showrunner Ryan Murphy wrote about a bullied gay high-schooler. MTV was lauded by the group in July for its gay and lesbian representation.
And while GLAAD officials take Howard to task for purging the bisexually themed source material for "A Beautiful Mind," he's also condemned by conservatives for being a typical Hollywood liberal.
Even the blogosphere thinks GLAAD is going too far.
“Good lord, can GLADD (sic) just die already?” wrote annoyed commenter Ryan on EW.com’s story about the ‘tranny’ complaint. “I hate all these groups that make a huge fuss about minor things. In my eyes it does more to hurt the cause they are supposed to be helping than it helps. PETA is another group I feel this way about.”
GLAAD may be “spinning its wheels and squandering its resources” by picking fights with media personalities, wrote Scott Stiffler on a leading LGBT portral, Edge, last year after the group got into a pissing match with Perez Hilton and “South Park’s" Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
But GLAAD has only gotten louder since that time under the leadership of Barrios.
In early October, the New York-based organization issued a “call to action,” asking its members to ramp up their tweets and petition Universal and Howard to remove the scene from "The Dilemma" in which star Vince Vaughn, who plays a designer of internal combustion engines, calls electric cars “gay.”
The gag has since been removed by Universal from the trailer, but Howard — who had final cut — refused to pull it from the film.
He told the L.A. Times, "I don't strip my films of everything that I might personally find inappropriate. It is a slight moment in 'The Dilemma' meant to demonstrate an aspect of our lead character's personality, and we never expected it to represent our intentions or the point of view of the movie or those of us who made it."
GLAAD deputy director of media programs Herndon Graddick said, "The notion that GLAAD is able to bully around Hollywood is just not realistic."
But GLAAD can talk tough.
“This is the new GLAAD,” said Barrios, acknowledging a more aggressive campaign to stamp out what it feels is harmful language.
During a tense back-and-forth with Michael Moses amid the recent “Dilemma” kerfuffle, Graddick conceded telling the Universal marketing co-president, “If you do that, we’re going to come at you completely.”
Moses and other studio spokesmen had no comment for TheWrap, and
called GLAAD to let the group know they weren’t cooperating for this story. (Editor's note: While we know that a Universal spokesperson contacted GLAAD, we do not know the exact content of the conversation.)
And when asked about its apology, an MTV official said the network had no resentment about issuing it — and that MTV officials “love” GLAAD.
GLAAD makes its rationale clear: In a society in which gay teenagers are often beaten and bullied, sometime to the point of suicide, and your sexual orientation can get you legally fired in 29 U.S. states, such words can be hurtful propagators of hate, intolerance and misunderstanding.
“Much of society thinks we don’t deserve equal treatment,” Barrios said. “Where did that attitude come from? It didn’t just come from jokes and movies, but those things reconfirm our inequality.”
Graddick said the interaction with Murphy’s camp was “not acrimonious,” and that GLAAD “talked extensively" with "Glee" producers before running its critical blog post.
In the case of "The Dilemma," GLAAD opted for a bit more than a blog post.
There's been considerable disagreement between Universal and GLAAD as to how events transpired, but both sides agree that before the trailer was released, the studio showed it to GLAAD to be sure the group thought it was OK.
The two sides differ as to when GLAAD got back to Universal with its objections — and just how fast Universal was in swapping out the trailer.
What is clear is the issue became public when CNN newsman Anderson Cooper made critical comments about the gag on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show.” That was on a Friday; the following Monday GLAAD issued its call to action, launching a petition against the studio and Howard’s Imagine Entertainment.
One sign of how upset people really are about this? Fully 2,818 people have signed the petition.
Editor's note: This story was corrected at 10:50 a.m. Tuesday to correct inaccuracies.
Josh Dickey contributed reporting to this story.