Happy International Women's Day everyone!
Maybe not the best way to commemorate it, but I was watching Animal House last night. I was contemplating John Belushi's eyes--you always feel like he's present in the scene, that he's taking the actors as the characters they're playing, but at the same time there's a fundamental not-giving-a-fuck.
But on the subject of civil rights issues, for decades now I've been bothered by the way the word "gay" is used. I've known a lot of people who really have nothing against gay people who will casually use it to indicate dislike for something. Which was why I was so disappointed when I saw this on Sunday night;
Much like the Above the Influence PSAs, this one is likely to have the exact opposite of its intended effect. At least with Above the Influence spots, I have nothing against people smoking pot (unless you're operating heavy machinery or hosting the Oscars and you're not Jason Mewes or Cheech Marin), so I tend to just find them funny. But this one dispiriting. It's like two contentious groups just getting ready to sign a peace agreement and one guy on one side yelling, "Yeah, so fuck you!"
First of all, I like Wanda Sykes, despite the fact that she seems to have a 100% failure rate in finding good scripts. When she's on The Howard Stern Show and just riffs, she's great, and her delivery is fantastic. But Sarah Bernhardt couldn't save this shit.
There are a couple key problems. Like many people who don't use the word "gay" as a derogatory term--and even some who do--they don't understand that the word, when it's used this way, isn't merely interchangeable with "lame" or "bad". Even those cross-eyed individuals like, I'm sad to say, Jon Stewart, who claim their use of the word has absolutely nothing to do with gay people, know on some level it does. Because people started using it when they were kids when being gay, like just about every possible distinctive thing about a personality, was something it went without saying one should be mocked for, only this one had broader cultural approval, which cemented it. In this is the deep, embedded assumption that because someone is gay or exhibits qualities associated with being gay--like a guy who's effeminate in some way--there's something wrong with their brains, that they're kind of dumb for going along with something so obviously wrong (it's obvious because it's a popularly held notion).
So "gay" is in fact often used to refer to someone carrying on with a particular wrong idea, particularly if they're emotional about it (i.e. feminine). So when I saw that the PSA on YouTube had a number of comments to the effect of "this ad is gay," I couldn't help thinking, "Oh, shit. They're right." In other words, this ad is the perfect storm of counterproductivity. It tries to shove something down the throat of the viewer and in the process provides an opportunity for validation of that which it seeks to combat. And it's angry. Few things could've made it worse, short of having RuPaul shit on the doorsteps of every intended viewer.
Of course, like the Above the Influence spots, a lot of the problem is unhip people trying to be hip. You're better off not trying.