Jennifer Aniston | News | Vince Vaughn

On The Use of The Anti-Gay F-Word in 'Horrible Bosses'

Aniston_Horrible_Bosses Many of you may recall a media scandal that erupted last year around Vince Vaughn's movie, The Dilemma, in which a character describes hybrid cars as "gay."

Vaughn and the rest of the movie's team were roundly criticized for the joke, and were forced to make a decision on whether or not they would keep the punch line.

Many of us, including myself, were disappointed when they stuck to their guns and included it in the movie, although they did remove it from the flick's trailer.

We now have a similar situation with a new comedy called Horrible Bosses, about three men who decide to murder their wretched higher-ups. One of those bosses is played by Jennifer Aniston, whose character calls her employee a "faggot."

Some critics are wondering whether the term should have been included in the movie at all, but co-screenwriter Jonathan Goldstein explains their decision to keep it in the reel.

"I think part of the challenge is to, in a fairly short amount of time, get these guys to a place where an audience can empathize," he said. "To shorthand that, we tried to think: what are the most offensive things they can say? Using a word like that I think is one of them. It says this woman is irredeemable."

It seems to me that Goldstein and his team have the right idea: using an anti-gay epithet to convey to the audience, quite explicitly, that this character is indeed horrible, and so too are others who use the dreaded F-word.

Watch the trailer for Horrible Bosses, AFTER THE JUMP...


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  1. I trust GLAAD Vanguard Award (!) recipient Jennifer Aniston would be sensitive to these issues and deserves our trust. Right?

    Posted by: freddy | Jul 6, 2011 12:52:24 PM

  2. I'm more shocked that someone still pays Ramin Setoodeh to write.

    Posted by: nodnarb | Jul 6, 2011 12:54:54 PM

  3. The difference is as plain as day. In "The Dilemma," Vince Vaughn's character was the hero. From scene one, he was the guy you were supposed to be rooting for. He used the term "gay" in a derogatory way and this was supposed to be shorthand to demonstrate that he hadn't grown up yet. Did he grow up in the end? Maybe. Did he demonstrate contrition for using "gay" in such a way? No.

    In "Horrible Bosses," Jennifer Aniston is a villain. From the first scene. She's someone who's so offensive that hero of the film wants his fellow friends to kill her.

    The difference is as plain as day to me.

    Posted by: MrRoboto | Jul 6, 2011 12:55:01 PM

  4. Hmmm, could it be that keeping it in the movie guarantees free publicity?

    Posted by: Dastius Krazitauc | Jul 6, 2011 12:56:54 PM

  5. I saw this movie, and in all honesty I don't even remember her using the F word. Obviously in my case it made no impact whatsoever.

    Posted by: MT | Jul 6, 2011 12:57:46 PM

  6. "It seems to me that Goldstein and his team have the right idea: using an anti-gay epithet to convey to the audience, quite explicitly, that this character is indeed horrible, and so too are others who use the dreaded F-word."

    But isn't this supposed to be a comedy? This isn't American History X. If you want to get people to think and push boundaries and buttons, perhaps one should consider the context before diving head-first into it. Frankly, I find it offensive that Aniston would agree to use such language, and the "explanation" proffered by the director is less of an explanation than it is an excuse, in my opinion.

    We can debate the who, what, when, and where of the word, but when it comes down to it, if I'm enjoying an otherwise funny movie and I hear that kind of language used, especially in a theater full of laughing people, I'm probably not going to be saying to myself "Oh, gee, the director sure knows how to convey his point about this character!"

    If you want to show her being an "irredeemable" person, I'm sure there are smarter ways to do it.

    Posted by: Jesus | Jul 6, 2011 12:58:19 PM

  7. It's a comedy, but a dark one. I have no problem with it. Jenn A. has always played the good girl, which makes it even more effective. If my boss used the word, I'd pour sugar in his gas tank. It's an expensive gas tank.

    Posted by: MLH | Jul 6, 2011 1:05:41 PM

  8. Thank you for letting me know I can watch this movie. I've been waiting for your analysis.

    Posted by: Tony | Jul 6, 2011 1:06:48 PM

  9. These things always get the benefit of the doubt from me. Context in comedy (and in most art forms) is everything, and there are few, if any, words that have no conceivable use.

    Posted by: AdamA | Jul 6, 2011 1:08:45 PM

  10. The use of gay and faggot in these movies is no less offensive than hearing n*gger, ch*nk, sp*c, or r*tard in movies. Are we going to start blasting all movies that use offensive language? Real people say harsh words, and in films there are characters that portray these types of people. Choose your battles.

    Posted by: TyN | Jul 6, 2011 1:09:46 PM

  11. That's not "explicit". This would be: in the next scene, have that character say something like "Anyone who uses that word/talks like that deserves what's coming, etc." Easy fix.

    Posted by: K | Jul 6, 2011 1:10:09 PM

  12. I also wonder if the reaction would have been more negative if a person of color, say an African-American, had said the word.

    They have the right to put into their movie, but I'm glad to know they say the word so I can avoid it altogether.

    Posted by: Stan | Jul 6, 2011 1:10:28 PM

  13. It boils down to whether or not the employee she calls a faggot is a gay or straight character. My bet is that the character is straight--since these stupid buddy comedies never feature a sympathetic gay character. If so, Aniston's character is only reprehensible for emasculating a straight man by calling him gay. Completely different from calling a gay man a faggot.

    Posted by: Really? | Jul 6, 2011 1:12:31 PM

  14. This doesn't offend me in the slightest. It isn't Jennifer Aniston using the word, but a character she is playing. If the name of the movie was "FAGGOT" then, yeah, get offended by it. People are just putting way too much energy into this word. It is an ugly, awful word but the movie is a comedy and she is playing a.. you guessed it! HORRIBLE BOSS. Besides, this movie has too many things going for it.. Charlie Day and Jason Bateman being the main draw for me. Comedy, once upon a time, pushed the envelope and boundaries. I happen to enjoy my comedy in its crudest and most un-PC form.

    Posted by: Tom | Jul 6, 2011 1:17:01 PM

  15. Did anyone care about the "fags" joke in The Hangover? Seems like that film isn't getting all this attention, and it was much worse than this or the Ron Howard film.

    Posted by: Bruno | Jul 6, 2011 1:18:23 PM

  16. "The use of gay and faggot in these movies is no less offensive than hearing n*gger, ch*nk, sp*c, or r*tard in movies. Are we going to start blasting all movies that use offensive language? Real people say harsh words, and in films there are characters that portray these types of people. Choose your battles."

    According to recent numbers, about 81% of leading roles in movies are Caucasian males. Not only do we have to deal with ethnically-selective casting and white-washing in movies, but minority groups also have to constantly deal with misrepresentation and defamation not only in the public, but in media as well. This isn't to say that people can't say the word, but considering the context, the cast, and the times we live in, you need a better explanation than what I've heard so far. If you don't think it deserves an explanation, fine. But take responsibility for it, and don't expect me to swallow that pill for you.

    Posted by: Jesus | Jul 6, 2011 1:20:41 PM

  17. The explanation from the film makers of "The Dilemma" was that the character's use of the word "gay" was meant to show that, although he was lovable, he was also clueless and socially awkward.

    There is a pretty thin line between that and the use of "faggot" in "Horrible Bosses". If you allow characters to use derogatory language as shorthand for character development, it should work in every case.

    Perhaps the real distinction is that the line in "The Dilemma" was still played for laughs, even though it was used for a similar purpose as the line in "Bad Bosses".

    Posted by: Chris | Jul 6, 2011 1:25:31 PM

  18. This post seems like a Bilerico tin foil hat "think" piece to me. WTF is it saying? I don't have a clue. Is it condemning the F-word or advertising the movie?

    Posted by: ggreen | Jul 6, 2011 1:27:01 PM

  19. There should be no censoring of language in movies, books, theater, etc. Radio and television are slightly more complicated because of public access.

    And, yes, I'm talking about any offensive language--if it is appropriate for a character to say it, or it's essential for the author to get her message across. For instance, anyone who tries to delete (or replace) the word "n.gger" from Huckleberry Finn should be deleted (or replaced) from the planet Earth.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Jul 6, 2011 1:27:42 PM

  20. Listening to heterosexuals defend their use of the word faggot in ANY context is sickening.

    Notice, it's always 'faggot' that they choose. Always. It's never another derogatory word for any other group of people.

    I swear, they've got a faggot-reflext programmed into them by the time they are 12.

    But don't defend it. Don't justify it in any way - because there exists no justification that leaves anyone looking anything other than ignorant and crass and classless.

    Jennifer Anniston should know better. And she has the star power to get a word removed from the script. Believe that.

    It just appears that heterosexuals could care less about the millions of gay citizens that they degrade in their immature, classless attempts to degrade other heterosexuals.

    Very disappointing, Anniston. Very disappointing.

    Posted by: Bill | Jul 6, 2011 1:31:09 PM

  21. I wish my life was so perfect that the only thing I had to complain about was a movie that uses the term "faggot" one time. You guys need to, seriously, get a life, or at least join reality. There are a lot bigger problems facing the world, and our own communities, than a character in a movie using a word that you don't like. If your skin is that think then I suggest you see a doctor... or a shrink. Jeez.

    Posted by: Wayne | Jul 6, 2011 1:35:40 PM

  22. We can always seem to get ourselves in a lather when the word "faggot" is used in a movie, but we couldn't mobilize ourselves to defeat Prop 8 in California or many of the other anti-equality measures around the country. What does that say?

    Posted by: Larry | Jul 6, 2011 1:41:17 PM

  23. Context, context, context, guys.
    I do agree sometimes that we are becoming overly sensitive and we call out everyone who uses the word without considering the context that it is being used.
    Why do we apply a double standard when it comes to who can use the word? Like only blacks are allowed to use the n-word and gays are allowed to use the f-word. i.e. Dan Savage was on Keith Olbermann's show the other day and he referred himself as a "musical faggot". Bill Maher uses the word on his show to make fun of homophobic conservatives and we are OK with that since no one ever calls him out on it.
    Would it be any different if instead of the f-word that they change it to "homo" or "queer"? If so, why is it different?
    Censorship is never the solution in our fight for equality.
    This only shows that we, as a community, is "weak" and whiny and goes after everyone who dares to use the f-word.

    Posted by: gayalltheway | Jul 6, 2011 1:52:41 PM

  24. I work in entertainment. I guarantee you that no one would have allowed her to call a Jewish person a word that rhymes with Mike. NEVER.

    They still use this 'f' word because in America's mind, it has not risen to the level of vitriol equated with the 'n' or 'k' words.

    Posted by: LAX/JFK | Jul 6, 2011 1:55:02 PM

  25. Privilege is telling others when their offense is warranted and their opinions are necessary. I, for one, would rather continue the conversation than just shut up about it. If we don't talk about this stuff, we will never resolve it. And it can be resolved. If the objective of the director really was to stir controversy and make people talk about issues like this,then it seems to be working!

    A lot of what I am reading here is "I'm not offended, why should you be?", and the expectation again is on the person offended to provide an explanation. Who is calling for the word to be banned or censored? I have a history with that word and it's not pretty, so when I talk about it, I am coming from a very painful place, but if someone is going to tell me I can't be offended or to get over it, my initial reaction is probably going to be to tell you to go fornicate yourself because it's infuriating to have other people tell you that they know more about your own life experience than you do.

    But hey, that's privilege!

    Unfortunately, I get the feeling that a lot of people are here more for Lady Gaga posts and male model fixes than an actual conversation, but hey, we try.

    Posted by: Jesus | Jul 6, 2011 2:02:12 PM

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