Sony Pictures Co-Chair Amy Pascal: Let’s Get Rid of ‘Fag, Faggot, Homo, Dyke’ in Movies

SONY Pictures Co-Chair Amy Pascal spoke about the need to get rid of gay slurs and steretyping in the movies at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center's gala on Thursday night, Deadline reports.

PascalSaid Pascal, in part:

Brokeback Mountain, Milk, Boys Don’t Cry, Philadelphia, The Hours, Gods and Monsters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Single Man, My Own Private Idaho, Cloud Atlas – in all these movies, the main character is murdered or martyred or commits suicide or just dies unhappily. And there are far more pernicious and dangerous images that confront gay kids and their parents: the lesbian murderer, the psychotic transvestite, the queen who is humiliated and sometimes tossed off a ship or a ledge. It’s a big joke. It still happens.

How many times have you heard a character imply to another that the worst thing about going to prison isn’t being locked up for the rest of your life, it’s the homosexuality? And old stereotypes still exist. The most benign stereotypes would have a gay kid believe that they will end up being the asexual, witty best friend of the pretty girl, or a drag queen, or a swishy hairdresser. The list goes on…

…Not every gay character needs to be defined by his or her sexuality. Can’t being gay just be one stitch in the fabric of someone’s life? Can’t we depict men and women who just so happen to be gay – perhaps a lawyer or soldier or business executive or scientist or engineer…

We need to create an atmosphere that encourages people to speak up, so we get this right.

How about next time, when any of us are reading a script and it says words like fag, or faggot – homo – dyke – take a pencil and just cross it out. Just don’t do it.

Read the full excerpt at Deadline

Comments

  1. A FRIEND says

    And how many of those demeaning words and miserable stereotypes are exactly reflected in the posturing and behaviour of gay and lesbian people? A whole lot of them.

    So which has come first the stereotype or the real life characters? It’s a mobious strip that everyone participates in.

    We need to clean up our act as well.

    Amy Pascal has done a brilliant job defining only half the problem.

  2. Lymis says

    Right idea, right motivation, too simplistic an answer.

    The entire speech has more nuance – and I absolutely agree with her that there need to be more characters who happen to be gay and fewer characters who are written specifically to be the butt of jokes.

    But if an effeminate character is still beaten up, just crossing out “fag” in the dialogue not only doesn’t achieve much, it gives cover that the bullying is about being a nerd or being awkward, or something other than just being gay.

    And while Hollywood needs a more nuanced approach to the wide range of gay people, just editing out nelly queens, stone butch lesbians, delicate artsy gay people, and softball dykes in favor of having every gay character look and act straight is a step backwards, because real gay people include all those people and more.

    The problem with stereotypes is the idea that everyone is that way, or that there’s something wrong with being that way.

    Yes, it’s one-sided to only show gay people as tragic figures and clowns. But it’s equally one-sided, and misguided, to just take a pencil and line out all the realities of the prejudice we face.

    Get rid of gratuitous stereotyping, yes. But don’t homogenize us and invalidate many of the ways many of us really, truly are different from straight people. Show those realities, and show them as real, but no big deal, don’t erase them.

  3. J Y says

    While I think the idea is sound, the movies cited are totally wrong. Sorry, but I’d rather see Boys Don’t Cry or Monster or one of those biopics showing the real, ugly side of life for some gay people than some nonsense like the “bend and snap” hairdresser queen from Legally Blonde.

  4. Caliban says

    Yeah, she makes some great points, especially about the stereotypes.

    There’s a story in Vito Russo’s “The Celluloid Closet” about the making of the 1970s movie “The Man Who Fell To Earth.” Buck Henry, who played David Bowie’s lawyer in the film, went to director Nicholas Roeg and sked why his character was gay since it didn’t have anything to do with the plot. Roeg answered, “He’s gay because there are gay people.” Boom. There it is.

    And I’m sick to death, no pun intended, of the-homo-dies-in-the-end movie endings. I get it. In a lot of cases it’s meant to create sympathy, suggest martyrdom. But from reading “The Front Runner” as a teen to watching “Brokeback Mountain” I’ve had enough martyrdom, thanks. There’s a quote attributed to some actor on his deathbed, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” Well I’d say that dying for movie characters, as well as real people, is easy and it’s LIVING that can be hard sometimes, but you by-god just gut up and DO it and strive for your own happy ending.

    And what is it teaching young gay kids that death is somehow heroic and makes you into some tragic figure who lives on in memory and other people’s hearts? No, you become a footnote in the lives of others instead of writing your OWN book.

  5. Joe Gallagher says

    Can we also end the practice of barring actors from roles for being “too gay”. It is a common practice for casting directors and studio executives to use coded language to indicate that an actor is not straight enough to play a role. I’d love to hear Ms. Pascal’s opinion on this invidious discrimination.

  6. says

    I’d embrace the presence of the “incidental” gay character…some character(s) in a film whose function is to do whatever they do to move the plot along and who, at some benign point, is met after work by his husband and the kids as they exit the scene, or is dropped off at the airport by her wife…and nothing is said nor made of it; it’s just There…

  7. Homo Genius says

    We watch Warriors last week end as our late night movie. We were commenting on the fact that 30 years later a lot of the gang members look really gay. Not 10 minutes into the film, they utter fag for the first time. I say first because its basically all one character says. Now we could say the character was closeted and putting up a front but it was a good reminder of how it was OK for years to denigrate gays. Watching the movie in 1980 would have reminded teen age me that I needed to keep my faggotry to myself.

  8. David Hearne says

    People, all of this is an easily observable cycle. We’ve seen it before with black people in the movies and television.

    • You start off with background characters who are simply there. Dignified servants and the like.

    • Then you have the smart mouthed servant or walk on tradesman. (Mammy, Red Foxx)

    • Then you have the whore with a heart of gold or the socially unacceptable hero slash tragic figure. (Imitation of Life)

    • Then you have stereotypes and over the top camp like George Jefferson.

    • Then you have perfect/improbable people. (The Huxtables)

    • Then you have normal people.

    Somewhere in between these layers you have documentaries which catch hell from all sides. In reality, we’ll know when we have truly arrived when the gangster, criminal, bad guy just happens to be gay.

    Our course will be a bit different and hopefully we won’t ever have shows like the all-black sitcoms which are by and large unwatchable. We’ll probably have at least one though. And as I have long maintained, Fraser and Niles were the longest running gay characters, even if thinly veiled.

  9. Dylan G says

    Hmmm… It’s a positive albeit looooong overdue step for a Hollywood studio exec to be making a statement like this, but the issue is a bit more complex than just crossing out words. It’s all about context, baby, which kind of seems lost on Ms. Pascal based on the examples she gives of movies that portray queers negatively: Milk? My Own Private Idaho? A Single Man? These are gorgeous, complex, and thoughtful films that portray fully human characters (and just happen to be written and directed by homos). Sure, they all end “unhappily”, but so what? Rick doesn’t get with Ilsa at the end of Casablanca but we don’t hear what a bummer that movie is for straight kids. Worry less about being politically correct and more about making intelligent, honest movies and the problem will largely take care to itself. By all means eliminate the casual, lazy throwing around of words like “fag” and “queer”, but also stop lazily using words like “retard” and making fun of fat people and letting douches sing stupid songs about Meryl Streep’s breasts at awards shows. Pay more attention to good writing and less attention to what 14 year old boys think. Be an adult.

  10. says

    she’s got a good idea – but it really does come down to this, which the anonymous-troll-brigade will not like: it’s not what “stereotype” or “archetype” is show – it’s how the film is ABOUT them. the issue is ever that a character is “stereotypical” – but how the film treats and views that character.

    and joe gallagher brings up a terrific point – the casting of non-gay people in gay roles. should “whomever is best for the part get it? yeah, sure. but define “best” – there’s a world of gay actors who are denied roles because a studio head, or a casting director (oft gay themselves) would rather see a straight person play the role. uh….ok. what ends up happening from a lot of that is that audiences, both gay and straight, end up not really getting a properly keen insight into the diverse makeup of Actual Gay People – you either get the affected put-on isms or actors who make the choice to add “no particular isms” – resulting in folks having a more than a bit skewed perception of “gay”.

    but Pascal has he heart in the right place. meaning, the woman is more than likely open to hearing more (from us, for example) and taking her stance and fleshing it out.

    so that’s a good thing.

  11. Paul R says

    I respect her views, but at least half the films she cites are enormously gay positive.

    Gay people die, in movies and life, just like straight people. People use derogatory words. Many of the movies she cites are based 30+ years ago, when things were quite different. I’m hardly a bright-eyed optimist, but her perspective seems one-sided.

    She does have good hair.

  12. matt says

    maybe that would be ok in a post-gay world, but we’re not there yet. just as the right-wing backlash to president obama showed that we’re not in a post-racial world yet.
    unfortunately, it’s legal to fire us for being gay in many states; in states where we can marry, our marriages are not recognized nationwide.
    things are changing faster.
    maybe in a few years, we’ll be treated equally under the law and these battles will be a memory.
    but we’re not in that post-gay world yet.

  13. Caliban says

    I doubt she means that the words “fag,” “dyke,” etc be stricken from movies altogether, just that they not be thrown around casually, as they so often are, or be put in the mouths of the movie’s hero. Kind of the way “the N-word” (I hate that kind of mealy-mouthed PC, but whatever) is used in movies, to indicate a character with some flaws.

    Basically her comments read like a paraphrase of The Celluloid Closet, only 30 years later. Russo’s main point was that gays were either invisible or they were the butt of jokes, psycho-killers, or suicides. And now we’ve added martyr to the list. Yay.

    And it’s not a matter of gay people NEVER dying in films. It’d be kind of hard to tell the story of Harvey Milk without ending with his murder, after all. But why is that the only kind of story that seems to get told? In some ways it’s a deliberate attempt, I think, to create sympathy for gay characters and thus promote acceptance, but it does get old.

  14. says

    I don’t think ANY Gay character needs to be defined by his or her sexuality, ever. There are far too many people who believe otherwise, and not only on film but in real life. It isn’t realistic in any case.

    There are indeed too many offensive stereotypes in play in Hollywood movies, and not only of LGBT people. And the anti-Gay/racist/sexist language is often gratuitous.

    In general, I think screenwriters and directors should have the freedom to employ images and language that’s disturbing; art can and should occasionally be provocative. However, provocation for its own sake is NOT art!

    When an artist presents offensive material, he or she 1) should be prepared to justify the usage; I’m sick of the how-dare-you-criticize-me-I’m-an-artist excuse, 2) they should make it clear in the context of the usage that that it is indeed offensive. For instance, don’t pretend that the N-word or the F-word or the Q-word is “just a word” and accuse critics of so-called political correctness, 3) and make sure the negative language and images are balanced with positive ones, if not in a single film, then in a body of work.

    If a broad range of minority group images were consistently presented, I don’t think Hollywood studios would get so many complaints; but these filmmakers are lazy, and too many are in the habit of falling back on crass stereotypes.

  15. Jerry says

    Okay, I’ll go with the spirit of the thing, but the mechanism of going about it is a little chilling. I mean, didn’t we just have a thing about striking the n-word from Huckleberry Finn?

  16. Rexford says

    They just used the f-word yesterday in the Sony Pictures daytime soap opera, “Days of Our Lives.” And the show has been hinting for awhile now that the main reason why Salem’s resident bigot, Nick Fallon, is a homophobe is because of something that happened to him in prison (with his attacker just having been released and moving to town to hunt Nick down).

  17. says

    no gay person, nor any gay characters, are defined by their sexuality.

    unless we all are. we’re defined by our experiences AS L/G/B/T people.

    there is not a section that is defined by it, and a section that isn’t.

    although…….those that still say “i’m not defined by my orientation” are actually proving that they’re very much defined by a fear of others defining them by their orientation. read that a few times if you don’t get it.

    what they’re saying is is “some people are defined by being gay but i’m not” – of which they’re actually mistaken. it’s the other way around.

    what i think Pascal is getting at is this – roles need not always be written specifically for straight actors, or as straight characters: the L/G/B/T characters can exist just like any other characters: they’re in the story, they’re in the plot, theu have jobs, and they function in the storytelling.

    as for her commentary on those words: i think it’s rather simple – it’s not about striking the use of those words, but being aware of context, tone and what message is sent out by using them.

    i don’t think anyone would have a problem with a repulsive bigoted villain character using those terms. werk.

  18. David Hearne says

    You’re never going to make everyone happy at the same time. Stereotypes are generated by common experiences. The complaint about stereotypes is that they project that experience, even if it’s ubiquitous, on every individual. Frankly, the accusation is overworked.

    In case you hadn’t noticed, all of television is based in stereotypes and exaggerations. Look at Survivor, Big Brother, the Great Race, etc…. You know who is going to be on every season: the bitchy gay guy, the butch is he or isn’t he guy, the mouthy black chick, the strapping lesbian, the insipid born again Christian, the obnoxious New Jerseyorker, the old VET, the big threat, the wise but physically weak grandma, the liar, the saint, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker.

    The characters of most black sitcoms would be considered racist if a white person was acting the role.

    And let’s face it, there are a lot of gay men who would rather be tittering about whether a leading man is gay or straight than to know he’s gay. And when they find out he’s gay, they often make derogatory comments about his being a bottom.

    Lots of cleaning up of our own backyard to do.

  19. GB says

    Leave movies alone. This is America. We have the 1st Amendment. F the language police. Gays should get no special attention. They seem to do well enough hating each other.

  20. GB says

    I hate you gays so much that whenever I need to get it up in order to have sex with my own mother I need to imagine gay guys getting bashed. That turns me on. My mom’s cooter, not so much. Grandma’s was better.

  21. Icebloo says

    Her intentions may be good but removing all that gay history and culture would be dangerous.

    It’s like saying we can never make films about the slave trade or world wars because we may upset black people or Germans. History has happened. It has affected us all. We need to make films about these issues so the next generations can see our mistakes and learn from them.

    We need our young to hear these hateful, vile words and to see films with gay characters leading very hard lives and quite often having terrible deaths. These are the real lives that many gay people have been forced to endure. Many still do.

    I don’t want our youngsters to equate gay lifestyles with Disney character lifestyles ! That is far more dangerous than the truth.

  22. John says

    This lady is crazy. Did she seriously just call prison rape “homosexuality?”

    Sorry, but being raped is probably way worse than being locked up. Sure, comments about going to jail inevitably involve jokes about gays and that’s a problem. But prison rape is a serious issue. It’s a violation of one’s bodily integrity, regardless of the sex of the perpetrator.

  23. GB says

    Someone used my initials GB cause they were too cowardly to respond with theirs. So I get some perverted response, which really restores faith in gays. Sorry to ruin your fantasy, but I’m a virgin when it come to woman. I’m 100% gay.

  24. A FRIEND says

    GB, it was Little Frankenfag (Kiwi), he does that sort of thing from time to time to extend the gay stereotype so that it includes sick sadistic perve. He’s likely to do it to me now as he has done before zzzzzzzzzzz.

  25. says

    Since she does not seem to understand the nuances of words and how they could be used..THIS IS JUST CENSORSHIP……Once again we’ll wind up with “Will and Grace” gay characters…Thanks but no Thanks……

  26. Caliban says

    @Alan Brickman, I would assume that Will & Grace is the exact opposite of what she’s talking about. Will, the handsome but prissy, sexless and neurotic gay man whose primary, if not only, emotional attachment is with a woman. Or Jack, the shallow, stupid, and sex-obsessed buffoon.

    One of the reasons I started watching the Daily Show is that WAY back in 2000 their TV critic savaged Will & Grace for its offensive stereotypical portrayal of gays while at the same time pretending to be “groundbreaking.” Though I later stopped taking it so seriously, that had been my initial reaction to W&G too.

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-december-14-2000/tv-guy—will-and-grace

    Unless the plot is somehow “gay themed” I guess I prefer the ParaNorman approach, where at some point a character is revealed to be gay but it’s peripheral to whatever function he/she has in the story. I watched Pitch Perfect the other night and for a while I thought they were actually going to do something interesting and have one of the more central characters revealed as “the lesbian,” since there were IMO hints in that direction. But nope, “the gay one” is revealed to be the tough black chick with butch hair, complete with another girl panicking and blowing her “rape whistle” when that character’s hand lands on her boob during a fall. It was cheap, lazy, and worse yet, not funny.

  27. says

    I thought that American Gigolo worked gay characters into the plot rather well. It also used the fag-word.

    It really comes down to this – All movies aren’t Disney. People really do use ethnic slurs both affectionately and hatefully. Sometimes they simply use them because they are ignorant, out of touch, or because it’s normal in their subculture.

  28. not today says

    “the worst thing about going to prison isn’t being locked up for the rest of your life, it’s the homosexuality? ”

    Rarely do you see such ignorance displyed. It is not about homosexuality, it is about rape and other forms of violence!

    As for banning words – are books next?

    People produce what sells and trying to make aberrant behavior mainstream isn’t a solution.

  29. says

    not today –

    She was not saying that, she was referring to the commonplace (even on this forum) habit of people joking that “Well, he’ll spend 5 years as some thug’s girlfriend.” This sort of comment is offensive on a number of levels, but that doesn’t mean that it should be excluded from a movie. It would be like making a movie about Brooklyn in the 40’s with no cigarettes and no belching.

  30. Caliban says

    @David Hearne, FWIW American Gigolo is one of the films Vito Russo singled out for its offensive portrayal. Think about it. Richard Gere is boffing all these rich women behind their husbands’ backs, refusing to have sex with “fags” to demonstrate that he does have some standards, but who turns out to be the real killer? IIRC it was the gay black pimp with the much younger, strung-out “boyfriend.”

    Take that how you will.

    @not today, I don’t think it’s so much an appeal to “ban” words as use them with a little more thought.

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