Anderson Cooper | GLAAD | Vince Vaughn

Director Ron Howard: 'Gay' Joke Will Remain In 'The Dilemma'

Earlier this month Vince Vaughn defended the "electric cars are gay" joke his character utters in the trailer for the upcoming Universal Studios release, The Dilemma. After receiving criticism from many, including GLAAD and Anderson Cooper, Universal axed the joke from the trailer. Now director Ron Howard is defending the joke and guess what? He's decided to leave it in the final cut of the movie, which will be released in January.

Howard tells the LA Times:

Vv "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."

He adds: "I believe in sensitivity but not censorship. I feel that our film is taking additional heat as an emblem for many movies and TV shows that preceded it that have even more provocative characterizations and language. 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."

No word yet from Anderson Cooper but GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios issued a response immediately after hearing Howard's decision to keep the joke in the film.

“At a time when so many in our country are speaking out against the bullying of gay youth, Universal was right to acknowledge the offensive nature of this 'joke' when it removed it from trailers. Unfortunately, by leaving it in the movie, they are now contributing to the problem. The conversations started as a result of the community’s response to this slur will help schools, media and parents understand the impact of the word ‘gay' being used as a pejorative. Hopefully in the future, Universal and Ron Howard will recognize the power of their words and use their films to bring people together rather than drive us apart."

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  1. OK. Let's keep this simple for Ron Howard, Vince Vaughan and the rest of Hollywood. I won't pay to see this film. Everyone I know will not pay to see this film. Your decision to include this line means you will LOSE MONEY.

    And let's face it, money is the only thing that Ron Howard and Hollywood really care about.

    Posted by: Tom Stoppard | Oct 30, 2010 9:29:24 AM

  2. I was appalled when I went to see "The Hangover" and in the first 5 minutes Bradley Cooper's character yells "paging Dr. Fa** ot" to Ed Helms. But I was even more shocked when the audience roared with laughter. I live in Canada's largest city and rarely, if ever, hear that word. But I think I live in an urban bubble and forget that there are people out there (lots of them) who hate us and find the derision of us funny. Ron Howard has now added his voice to that chorus and it disappoints me. I hope the movie bombs.

    Posted by: jamesintoronto | Oct 30, 2010 9:29:41 AM

  3. Thanks for bringing up "A Beautiful Mind," Mike.

    Opie has a ton and a half of power, Harrison. He makes precisely the films he wants to make because of his box office track record. No actor would dare to cross him.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 30, 2010 9:32:58 AM

  4. "That's so gay."

    It's a phrase used mostly by hateful and/or ignorant men and boys that means in the mind of these men and boys "it's disgusting because it seems to invoke what I think to be the disgusting qualities of gay men."

    It's a juvenile phrase that views homosexuality as something wrong.

    Let's play a thought experiment about how bigotry is accepted for some groups but not others.


    While Ron Howard may not be Jewish, producers and directors in Hollywood routinely celebrate the fact that most of the founding studios within the film and television industries were started and run by Jewish immigrants and that the industry still has a disproportionately high number of Jewish American producers, directors, agents, and financial staff in relation to the number of Jews in America as a whole (which, according to Wikipedia and other sources is 2.1% of the nation's population).

    Within this context, *any* perception of anti-Jewish sentiment, words, or actions made by non-Jews is openly attacked and condemned and the non-Jewish person making even the slightest joke about Jews is likely to be blackballed in these industries or, at the minimum, widely condemned. (Jewish comedians are sometimes allowed to make jokes about themselves within the industry without outsize censorship.)

    Question: Would the film industry EVER accept a trailer or a film marketed to the general public that has ANY anti-Jewish jokes, however small (unless the film was about internal Jewish relations amongst Jews and the film was about bigotry)?

    Answer: No.


    African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Latino/a/Latin/Central/South Americans are different cases. Each of these groups have suffered a century of stereotypical racist treatment by whites and Jews within films and on television; and this is not to mention these groups exclusion in casting and their ghettoization in "race films."

    But today it would STILL be an outrage for a white film director in films marketed to the general public (not race films) to include an anti-black, Asian or Latino/a joke or passage in a film.

    (However, even still it is likely that the director and producer may still work in Hollywood again.)


    My point is that homosexuals and transgenders (with a few exceptions) are the last acceptable targets of massive mainstream bias in film, television, and all popular media.

    One seemingly little joke speaks volumes and it sticks in the mind of children and teenagers and they repeat it for GENERATIONS. "That's so gay" is an example of this viciously pervasive and ACCEPTABLE hatred.

    If you wouldn't say the joke or passage about Jews, blacks, Asians or other groups, then don't say it about LGBT people of any race.


    Posted by: vegetablelollipop | Oct 30, 2010 9:34:19 AM

  5. I'm a gay man and someone saying that something is "gay" does not offend me in the least. It's just a change in our language. It happens all the time in spoken English that one word also means something else. I also don't believe in censorship. Freedom of speech also allows me to speak up when I must. If you don't like it, don't see the movie.

    Posted by: Pugzz | Oct 30, 2010 9:38:25 AM

  6. I believe the response by GLAAD's Barrios was appropriate.

    The quality of the movie would not have suffered by removing the so-called joke. I think it's Ron Howard's ego that is at issue here.

    We need to be vigilant about anything that denigrates gays. I won't be viewing this or any future Ron Howard movies.

    Posted by: Kyle | Oct 30, 2010 9:45:51 AM

  7. Ron Howard's mea culpa is so lame it borders on self-deluded bullshit. Come out of your millionaire, white, straight bubble and step into the real world. Same goes for Vince Vaughn.

    Real truth, even though Vince is about my age and I should be his audience, I really don't want to see a movie about another grown adolescent. Really, that's the best you got? The premise of this movie is so thin it's almost not there. Having seen the laugh-less preview, I've seen the movie. Fill in the rest with Vince mugging, and Ron Howard directing by telling Vince to do it "bigger." What will keep people from this movie is that it looks like it sucks. Rich white people making a comedic movie about something they don't know anything about...real life.

    Ron, Vince, and the rest of them need to grow up, grow a pair, and start acting their (old) age. It's sad to see talented people desperately trying to hang onto relevance in a youth market.

    Posted by: BartB | Oct 30, 2010 9:47:31 AM

  8. PUGZZ:

    So you would say "That's so Jew or Jewish" in a way that paints Jews as wrong, stereotypical, or negative?

    If so then you are a bigot and ignorant despite being gay.

    If you wouldn't say the joke or passage about Jews, blacks, Asians or other groups, then don't say it about LGBT people of any race.


    Posted by: vegetablelollipop | Oct 30, 2010 9:48:33 AM

  9. Ron Howard says he believes in sensitivity, not censorship. In that case, why did he censor A Beautiful Mind, eliminating any trace of the lead character's homosexuality, a homosexuality that was described in the book on which the movie was based?

    The man is quite clearly a hypocrite. GLAAD's response seems weak as piss.

    Posted by: jason | Oct 30, 2010 9:58:55 AM

  10. Excellent point, Jason: Ron Howard is, indeed, a hypocrite when he rails against censorship, since that's precisely what he did with A Beautiful Mind (as well, he cast lily-white, non-accented American Jennifer Connelly as Nash's dark-skinned, heavily-accented Hondurian wife--a different form of censorship; what, Salma Hayek or Jennifer Lopez weren't available?).

    If anything, I hope this contretemps means that Hollywood will stop including "gay" and "fag" comments in their films except within a historical context.

    You'd think liberal Hollywood would know that we find these terms offensive and do NOT want to hear them when go out for a night of escapist entertainment.

    Posted by: Joseph | Oct 30, 2010 10:10:00 AM

  11. Opie's entire directorial career has consisted of making dumb movies for dumb straight white fratboys. Now he seems to be aiming at dumb straight white high school jocks. Whats next in the progression, a Barney movie?

    Posted by: jomicur | Oct 30, 2010 10:12:00 AM

  12. As my mom would say, "Is that the hill you want to die on?"

    Ron, there's a difference between censorship & consideration for others. We let our feelings be known, you told us we were wrong.

    I doubt, very much, that I'll ever see another of your or your associates' films in the future.

    See ya.

    Posted by: pete | Oct 30, 2010 10:15:08 AM

  13. Queen Latifah is an openly closeted lesbian, and she's in the scene where the 'gay' slur is used. I do hope that journalists remain 'sensitive' but don't censor themselves while she is promoting the film. She needs to be asked quite openly: "As a lesbian, do you, Queen Latifah, think it is appropriate to use the word 'gay' as a slur in a movie?"

    That seems reasonable to me.

    Posted by: SteveC | Oct 30, 2010 10:22:11 AM

  14. It just comes down to we are sick and tired of being the punch line of your unfunny jokes. I quit going to stand-up comedy acts years ago. I won't go to see this or rent it now, either.

    Posted by: candideinnc | Oct 30, 2010 10:25:14 AM

  15. So, I guess Ron Howard would not object if we started to refer to the justification of slurs against minorities as being "so Opie" -- right? I mean, we're gay, but we're not supposed to be offended when the "word" gay is used as a pejorative. We're not supposed to take it personally. Why should he?

    Posted by: MajorTom | Oct 30, 2010 10:31:25 AM

  16. I'm absolutely not for censorship, especially in the arts - if they want to leave it in; it's their choice. That said, in this particular instance I think it is a bad choice. How many Amos and Andy or Aunt Jemima jokes do we see these days? The problem as I've said many times is we still haven't reached the point where this type of behaviour is socially unacceptable. We're getting there, but not yet. I hope we get there soon. It fucked up my youth, and it's doing the same to others. It really is despicable.

    Posted by: Mike | Oct 30, 2010 10:44:33 AM

  17. I don't think it should be censored from the movie IF it really does come down to the character being flawed. Years ago, I remember how my father found NOTHING funny about Archie Bunker because of the racist slurs he threw about. I did find the character funny because he was always ultimately the butt of the joke -- he was NEVER right. Insulting characters have a place in entertainment/art if its to draw a character (I mean, guys like this exist) or make a larger point.

    Does it in this movie? I haven't seen it, but probably not. Its probably spin to keep the complaints down to a dull roar. But, it doesn't mean it should be censored. Just don't see it and let others know why you won't.

    Posted by: princely54 | Oct 30, 2010 10:52:19 AM

  18. Absolutely ridiculous. Certain things are 'gay'. It's a friggin joke people. Lighten up. The gay guys on Modern Family drive a Prius. Why? Because it's funny, but I don't hear anyone ripping on Modern Family. I understand why everyone's sensitive right now but lets not swing the pendulum so far that we turn everything into a cause.

    Posted by: TheSportsFag | Oct 30, 2010 10:56:02 AM

  19. I don't like Vince Vaughn or Ron Howard movies, and I doubt the film would suffer at all with the 'joke' removed or replaced.

    I'm even getting increasingly intolerant of the casual, constant, though not necessarily discriminatory use of "that's so gay" to mean "that's lame". It's tiresome and obnoxious and people's distaste for it has been well established... at this point nobody has an excuse to believe that it's innocent, even if they add an h to ghey.

    That said, I think Ron has a point. If it's used to illustrate what kind of man this character is, and that portrayal is not positive, I don't have a problem with it. People do bad things all the time in movies to establish their roles. And frankly, it doesn't matter how sick and tired we are of it. We're sick and tired of war, rape, murder, and white collar crime, yet people do that stuff constantly on film and I don't hear anyone complaining that movies justify any of those activities.

    I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know exactly how it's used, and don't plan of finding out. It looks stupid. Maybe we can take what Ron said at face value, or maybe not and the joke's only played for laughs. I don't know. But assuming he's being fair in his description, I don't have a problem with it.

    I think the GLAAD position lacks nuance, and that completely turns me off. Since when is film a force for bringing people together? It's an entertainment than only occasionally strays into anything with real social meaning, and the mere presence of something in a film is not an endorsement.

    Would there be such a huge uproar if a film depicted an obvious homophobe using "that's so gay" and then immediately getting his comeuppance with a loud and aggressive verbal beat-down for being a bigot? If his every expression of bigotry was met with instant retribution? I doubt it, people would probably cheer.

    There's a place in film for "that's so gay" outside of historical accuracy, just like any other slur. I'm not going to abandon context to sooth my own rage at homophobia.

    Posted by: Mouse | Oct 30, 2010 10:59:44 AM

  20. IOW, "Mouse," your internalized homophobia must be catered to rather than everyone lse'e externalizedf homophobia

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 30, 2010 11:25:17 AM

  21. Hey Mr. Howard, how about I take my movie-going money elsewhere?

    Posted by: Alexander | Oct 30, 2010 11:35:09 AM

  22. @MOUSE,
    i have a trap ready to snap your neck. there is no needful reason for homophobia. saying that something is "so gay" is allowing homophobia. it permits the pernicious atmosphere that permeates the airwaves. you should be ashamed of yourself. btw, the word is soothe.

    Posted by: nic | Oct 30, 2010 11:37:18 AM

  23. 1) I don't think anyone will take anything in this movie with even a grain of salt. They won't remember anything that was said five minutes after they leave the theater.
    2) Not every joke made about a group of people is hateful.
    3) If we're going to fight battles over offensive images, and make a dent in public opinion, we have to choose them carefully.

    Posted by: justiceontherocks | Oct 30, 2010 11:40:07 AM

  24. The joke Howard uses in his movie is so jewish. Not religion jewish, but your parents accompanying you on a date jewish.

    Posted by: SteveC | Oct 30, 2010 11:42:03 AM


    well, little boy, what you think amounts to a piss on the snow. casting aspersions like your breaking wind affects other people. so, smart guy, where should we draw the line?

    Posted by: nic | Oct 30, 2010 11:48:49 AM

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