Posted by DB Hines at cx592030-a.ocnsd1.sdca.home.com on August 06, 2001 at 22:38:40:
I've just heard about Kevin Smith's run-in with the good folks over at GLAAD, and found it to be amusing, annoying, and ultimately very very familiar. Lemme explain...
Way back in the dark days of the early 80's, my writing partner and I wrote a script to a film which ended up being made as "Once Bitten." Maybe you've seen it - Jim Carrey in his first "big" role, Lauren Hutton as a California vampire, Cleavon Little prancing around as her gay butler. Aside from the presence of Carrey, its claim to fame seems to be that it was the closest 13-year-old boys could come to seeing nudity in a flick in the days before Cinemax.
It came out, did well for about a week, then disappeared to the wasteland that is "USA Up All Night" (or whatever the hell they call it now). The fun part - if your idea of "fun" is masochism, and ours sure is! - for my partner and I would be to check out the blurb reviews in various movie books as the years have gone by. The word "anemic" sems to be a favorite among critics in describing the level of comedy, and I can't say we disagree.
As Bill Cosby would say, I told you that story to tell you this one...
It came to my attention a few years back that "Once Bitten" held a place of infamy in a book about the history of homosexuality in the cinema - Vito Russo's "The Celluloid Closet." The book took us to task (Well, not "us" exactly - me. Just me. My partner was somehow overlooked. Dick.) for being one of the most homophobic of the many homophobic teen comedies made in the early 80's. Heck, it even had a still from the movie! On the plus side, Leonard Maltin never included a still. On the downside, he never accused me of being responsible for the sad treatment of gays in cinema and society. So I guess it balances out.
The scene that Mr. Russo found especially offensive involved a high school shower, in which Carrey's two best friends - looking for the vampire's bite marks on his inner thigh - find themselves in a compromising position which causes a homosexual panic among their fellow students. The call "Fags in the showers!" goes out, and the showers immediately empty.
Now, whether you think that's the height of humor or not isn't the point. The point is... well, the point is that Mr. Russo completely missed the point - just as GLAAD seems to have done with "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back."
The shower scene depicted common high school (indeed, common, period)attitudes about gays and made fun of them, showing the situation to be completely and totally ridiculous. Did we side with the kid yelling about "fags" in the showers? Nope. He was just some panicky dumbass in a high school shower stall filled with other panicky dumbasses. But just because the word "fag" was used, Mr. Russo found the scene objectionable. This is known as a knee-jerk reaction. Accent on the "jerk."
What Mr. Russo and GLAAD seem to have in common is simple - both have the best intentions in campaigning for gay and lesbian rights, and fighting the daily fight for more widespread tolerance and acceptance. But they also both suffer from a certain tunnel vision, in which they've become so caught up in their cause that they attack anyone who dares utter a word or tell a joke that someone, somewhere might find offensive - or even worse, use as an excuse for their narrow-minded, anti-gay opinions.
And that's not what art is about.
When filmmakers or writers or artists begin tailoring their work to the lowest common denominator lest we (gasp!) offend or unduly influence someone, we destroy the concept of art itself. Art exists (yes, even when the "art" in question is a goofy comedy) to expand our minds, to challenge our perceptions, and to tell us a little about the world we live in. And in the world we live in, there are people who are anti-gay and anti-black and anti-jew and anti-arab and anti-anything-different-than-themselves. And what GLAAD is saying is that we should cater to these people.
The best way to make a point is through comedy. I firmly believe this. If people are laughing, you'd be amazed at how open they become to the point of view being expressed. And if the point is to show those who are anti-gay as the ignorant fools they are, how better than to laugh at their ignorance? The characters of Jay and Silent Bob are very funny. They have a dedicated following. But I'm sure nobody - nobody - really thinks of them as role models to be emulated. They are the jokers, the fools, the comedy relief. The guys you "knew someone just like" in high school.
But GLAAD refuses to take the long view, and prove to be just as narrow minded - in their high-mindedness - as the same right-wing religious organizations that blasted "Dogma." (To GLAAD's credit, at least they SAW the film before taking it to task.) They don't realize that, by not allowing filmmakers like Kevin Smith to make fun of anti-gay attitudes, they will have played a part in perpetuating those very attitiudes they're fighting against.
And, as an afterthought, I've gotta say that I cast a suspicious eye on any organization that claims to be "horrified" by something... but will become un-horrified as soon as a big check crosses their desks. It doesn't matter how noble your cause is, if your organization is run in a less-than-noble way.
Okay. I'm done. Rant over. If you've read this far, you're my new hero.
PS - Yeah, yeah, I know that all the Cleavon Little stuff in "Once Bitten" is a horribly embarrassing gay stereotype. But you know what? I didn't write that stuff, and neither did my partner. So there.
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