Posted by Kevin at 126.96.36.199 on July 31, 2001 at 17:52:15:
I figured I'd address this here before it's made public next week.
'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' is being taken to task (wrongly, I believe) by GLAAD - the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (for those unfamiliar with the acronym). Below is the letter, verbatim, that I received from Scott Seomin, GLAAD's Entertainment Media Director.
Two colleagues of mine from GLAAD joined me last evening at a screening of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. We were overwhelmed by the potential negative impact for the film with what we would assume is a large share of its target audience: teen and young adult males. We will be public and aggressive in our condemnation and will provide substantiation for our opinions.
Here are the points to which we will object and our reasons for doing so:
- As one of the principal characters states, the film is a "big gay joke", but the joke is at the expense of the stereotyped category of people;
- All references to gay men reinforce them as objects of acceptable ridicule and dehumanization;
- Specific epithets for gay men include not only traditional slurs but also have the potential to introduce an expanded vocabulary of defamatory words and phrases;
- When sympathetic characters substitute the word "gay" for something that is wrong or stupid, it validates a common slur used by school-age youth to mean anything unacceptable.
We, or course, are familiar with your work as a writer and director and understand that satire is a large part and object of you expression. The intentional excesses of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and over-the-top characterizations and situations are fundamental to its nature. However, we believe that satirical sophistication is not a fundamental expectation of an audience bombarded by fag jokes and gags revolving around genitals and simulated sex acts.
Also, the inclusion of various other potentially offensive material (e.g. the bits about the acronym CLIT, racism, child abuse) for laughs does not excuse or dilute the omnipresent backdrop of the "big gay joke". While I will not fall as far back as the Hays Code, at no time is there any retribution or remorse for gay-bashing "humor". Again, to write off the behavior of the lead characters, especially Jay, with a what-do-you-expect-from-someone-so-dumb shrug truly trivializes the impact.
I wanted to state our position strongly here before I request a meeting with you to discuss this. I will be in New York from August 2nd to 6th and either can come to New Jersey or arrange a time at your convenience if you are in the city. Because I realize there are no changes you could make to this film to satisfy our concerns, I still believe we could discuss how you will be interviewed (for) this film and how GLAAD moves forward with its concerns.
Please let me know as soon as possible of your interest and availability.
Entertainment Media Director
Needless to say, I was crestfallen.
You all know me. You all know how big a fan I am of the gay community. You all know the respect and fascination I have for gay culture and practices. I've said in many an interview, from 'Chasing Amy' onward, that the only reason I never dabbled in homosexuality when I was younger was because I wouldn't know what to say to a guy after he blew a load in my mouth - a sentiment that says more about my social awkwardness than any socially awkward stereotypes that've been unfairly hung on the gay community.
Gay or straight has never been a big issue with me. Sex is sex, as far as I'm concerned. Some cats dig on the opposite gender, and some cats dig on their own. Sexual identity will always be as mystifying as why 'The Dukes of Hazzard' was once the number one television show in our country: there's no point in getting bent out of shape about it; it just IS. Some cats will always gravitate toward Daisy Duke, and some will always pine over Boss Hogg.
I've been knee-deep in gayness for the better part of my twenties and up (I just know THAT'S going to be printed out of context somewhere: SMITH SAYS HE'S "KNEE-DEEP IN GAYNESS"). For those who'll recall, we made a movie called 'Chasing Amy'. Bob Hawk (he who was most responsible for exposing the world to 'Clerks') is about as gay as they come (no pun intended), and he lived with me for three years. My brother's gay. There are prominent members of this board community who are gay. The list goes on and on.
Now lest you all think I'm pandering, I'm not trying to save face with the View Askew Gay All-Stars list above; I'm just trying to give some context as to why I was so crushed to receive Scott Seomin's GLAAD missive. So as soon as I read it, I called Scott Seomin (who joked about how hard it was to grow up gay with a last name like Seomin) to address his concerns. He was a sweet guy who, after talking to him for an hour, admitted that in his heart, he knew I was not a homophobe. But he couldn't cotton to the disparity between who I am and some of the humor in the flick.
I pointed out that the jokes in the movie, while funny at face value, do far more than evoke chuckles at the expense of the gay community. I believe that they teach tolerance to the same audience that Scott feels won't get the humor. When you have two main characters who've both - at one point or another - hinted at or flat-out copped to homo-erotic escapades, how on earth can that be considered "gay-bashing". It's more than you get in most "buddy" flicks. Did Murtaugh and Riggs ever cop to getting dreamy over the male anatomy? I think not.
But this is nothing new for us. Recall, if you will, the scene in 'Dogma', when Jay asks Rufus to tell him something about himself (Jay) that nobody knows. Rufus points out that when Jay masturbates, he thinks about guys. When that movie came out, the board got flooded with angry posts, demanding "How can you make Jay gay like that?!" I would answer "Why on earth would that bother you?", pointing out that Jay's sexual proclivity should never effect how the viewer accepts the character, and that if it did, then perhaps some soul-searching was due on the objecting viewer's part. If you liked Jay before that scene, why the hell wouldn't you like him afterwards? The long and short of it: that scene sparked healthy discussion about tolerance and acceptance - as well as made a lot of people laugh.
If you believe Scott's stated position that the target audience for our flicks is "teen and young adult males", then you have to allow that some of these impressionable youngsters will have to come to grips with the fact that the character they hold very dearly as one of "their's" has, in fact, expressed homosexual tendencies. And either those folks stop being fans at that moment, or accept that a character they identify with engages in behavior they may not approve of (if you work under the assumption, of course, that ALL "teen and young adult males" are terrified of the gay community). If they can accept that in a fictional character, some - not all, mind you, but some - will carry this newfound tolerance into their daily lives. Suddenly, I can do more than just entertain with even a flick that purports to have nothing on its mind apart from making you laugh; I can also educate in some weird way. That's the heart of "satire".
However, as Scott points out in his letter, sometimes, satire may fall on deaf ears.
During the '70's, Norman Lear created 'All in the Family', a show with a protagonist who was, essentially, a bigot. Some people understood this and enjoyed the show because of its well-observed satirical content. Some people misconstrued it and enjoyed the show because Archie Bunker didn't like black people... just like them. Did that make Norman Lear a hate-monger? Nope. Norman Lear wasn't responsible for how white America dealt with race issues. Norman Lear just showed us how stupid white America can be when it came to race issues. He held up a mirror to our culture. In essence, he was just the messenger.
But then, we all know what happens to the messenger...
The gay jokes in 'Jay and Silent Bob' satirize a young male culture terrified of any cock that isn't their own. I accept the fact that some folks seeing the flick may not get the joke behind the joke, and just walk away thinking "Jay and Silent Bob don't wanna be gay, man! Just like me!" However, I also KNOW - based on posts I've read on this board, following the release of 'Chasing Amy' and 'Dogma' - that some folks in that same demographic will walk away from this movie a little more tolerant toward the gay community. But just because there's a threat that the message of tolerance-through-humor falls on some deaf ears, should I not endeavor to reach ANYONE? No can do. Because if even one person is made more tolerant of that-which-isn't-him-or-her by watching a film I've made, then that means more to me than whatever the box office may wind up being - or whatever any protest group hypothesizes about my motivations.
That being said, I can't claim complete altruism in making the jokes we make in the flick. Gay sex is funny... just like STRAIGHT sex is funny. Just like making fun of racism is funny (I assume Scott's
referring to Chris Rock's white-hating director character when he mentions racism in his GLAAD letter). Just like making fun of bad parenting is funny (a young Jay and Bob are left outside the stores by clearly bad mothers early on in the flick; I'm assuming that's the "child abuse" Scott was talking about in his letter). Just like the homophobic mind-set, while frightening, is also fodder for ridicule (indeed, we make fun of the exact thing we're being accused of in the Biggs and Van Der Beek scene in 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back'). Just like Miramax making 'She's All That' is funny. Just like all the things we make fun of in the movie are funny. I mean, this is a movie that mocks ITSELF as it goes along, for crying out loud. No one escapes unscathed.
Anyway, I told Scott all of this during the course of our conversation, and asked what we could do to allay his (and GLAAD's) fears. He said he'd be asking Miramax to make a substantial donation to the Matthew Shepherd Foundation (Matthew Shepherd is the Wyoming student who was beaten to death for being gay in one of the worst hate crimes in recent memory; the Foundation's aim is to educate the public on the dangers of homophobia). I said I'd be happy to make a donation as well, as it's a great cause, and one I believe in strongly. He asked how much I'd like to donate. I queried how much he intended to seek from Miramax. He said two hundred grand. I admitted I don't have pockets as deep as Miramax. He suggested I donate ten grand, and I said "Done."
We spoke further about how important a film he thought 'Chasing Amy' was, and he informed me that if he'd been at GLAAD at the time the film came out, he would've given it a GLAAD award. It was nice to hear, as I was always kind of bugged that we didn't receive much GLAAD attention on 'Amy', considering how pro-gay the flick was. He said he wanted to meet me in person to shake my hand, and I invited him to the office on Tuesday to do so, as well as pick up his check. I bid him adieu, and thus ended a very friendly conversation that resulted in a couple of guys enlightened as to one another's feelings about some potentially thorny issues, as well as the Matthew Shepherd Foundation being ten g's richer.
Then, yesterday afternoon, I fielded a phone call from Rebecca Ascher-Walsh of 'Entertainment Weekly', asking me to comment on how GLAAD (in the person of Scott Seomin) was "horrified" by the homophobia on parade in 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back'. I was taken aback, as Scott never once expressed being "horrified" by the jokes in the flick we'd discussed at great lengths on the phone Friday. He said he was merely concerned.
Suddenly, I was being painted as homophobic by GLAAD.
This I can't quietly sit by and let happen.
Neither 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' nor myself are homophobic. Fuck, if anything, we're overtly gay-friendly.
In regards to the film, the openly gay journalists who saw it during the junket didn't express one iota of a reservation in regards to the content of the flick. In fact, two of them thought it was pretty daring of me to have Silent Bob admitting that he'd have gone down on Jay (see the flick). The even better barometer for me was Bob Hawk - a man whose opinion I trust more than almost anyone on the planet. Bob watched the flick and never flinched, aside from laughing very, very heartily. And believe me - if anyone was going to call me on the gay jokes in the flick, it was the producer of 'Trick' himself. But he didn't, and I can't believe it's because he's self-loathing or afraid for his job (as Scott suggested the journalists at the junket must have been in order to not be insulted by the movie).
But most importantly, *I* don't feel the film's homophobic. I would never (nor could never) make a homophobic film. I'm not that guy, and here's why: I grew up fat. Even though I'm a white male, being fat my whole life still puts me in a minority category as well, and has made me the butt of jokes my entire life. Trust me - I know how hurtful or damaging it can be to be called a name or two. The last thing I'd ever want to do would be to mock others for who they ARE (except Ben Affleck; I can mock him incessantly and never feel guilty about it, because a) he's my boy and it's done with affection, and b) he's Affleck, for God's sake).
What really burns me about all this, though, is that now my donation to the Matthew Shepherd Foundation is going to be sullied in the process. Based on what Rebecca Ascher-Walsh told me, my donation is now being portrayed as an admission of some sort of culpability; that by giving ten thousand dollars to this worthy cause, I'm essentially saying "I'm sorry I made some gay jokes."
And that's horse-shit.
I'm not sorry - because I didn't make jokes at the expense of the gay community. I made jokes at the expense of two characters who neither I nor the audience have ever held up to be paragons of intellect. They're idiots. Funny idiots, yes, but idiots all the same. And by making them and other mental midgets in the film so leery of homosexuality, I'm making fun of a mind-set that exists in our culture - a mind-set, mind you, that I didn't create nor condone. And making fun of said mind-set doesn't legitimize it, in my opinion; it de-fangs it.
I swear, I caught it from the right wing on 'Dogma', and now I'm catching it from the left wing on this flick. Which am I, people: a bleeding heart liberal or a Bible-thumping conservative? And when the hell do I get to make a movie in which I don't have to explain myself afterwards? When the hell do I get to make a movie that some special interest group won't demonize? I sweat - it's like all that's left is to walk that thin, boring line down the middle that makes for really bland cinema. Because no matter what you do and say, no matter how good your intentions are, sooner or later, you're going to offend SOMEBODY.
So I could use a few good character witnesses. If you folks wouldn't mind, can you drop GLAAD a CIVIL line and let them now that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a homophobe? Please - no immature comments for these folks, alright? I've got enough troubles without anyone reinforcing the worst suspicions Scott Seomin and GLAAD has about our fans. They can be reached at email@example.com.
In closing, I'd like to leave you with an excerpt from the Jay and Silent mini-series that was re-released by Image Comics last week under the title of 'Chasing Dogma'...
What the fuck is this country coming to?!?
First, we're accused of brown-humping each
other, and then we get kicked to the fucking
curb for having a smoke! You know, there was
a time when a man could fuck his friend, AND
enjoy a goddamn toke, and nobody said shit!
Where's the so-called freedom for the pursuit
of happiness?! What if I WANTED to fuck you,
I'd never, because I fucking love chicks man -
even though I know you think about cuddling
up to my three-piece set all the time.
But what If I was all pent up, and all I needed to
keep me from going postal on that bus was to
bust a nut in your dark and stinky? That's the
problem with the climate of consciousness on
this planet today! Everyone gives too much of
a shit about who fucks what! The moral majority
has to wake up and realize that it's better to have
two guys stink-dicking or two chicks gargling clit,
than it is to have four complete fucking lunatics
nine millimeting random people from a rooftop
because they're not allowed to 'unpack their bags'
in whatever 'hotel rooms' they want, so to speak!
And by that token, I should be able to scream - if
I so desired - from the bathrooms of the buses
that traverse the unending roads of this great
country, to the bathrooms of the public parks
and rest-stops that dot the landscape like a
thousand points of light...
"I'M HERE! I'M QUEER! GET USED TO IT!!!"
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