The Dilemma’s Dilemma

Today is National Coming Out Day.

For that reason, it is appropriate to discuss a controversy that has rocked Hollywood, but not nearly hard enough as I believe it should have.

In a teaser trailer for Ron Howard’s 2011 comedy, The Dilemma, starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, a scene was included of Vaughn’s character insulting an electric car by calling it “gay”. The trailer offended Anderson Cooper. It offended Ellen Degeneres. It offended me.

When I first saw the trailer, I was immediately turned off from seeing The Dilemma. Just like when someone uses the word “gay” as a derogatory statement in real life and I then consider them to be immature and tactless people.

In response to these growing claims of insensitivity on the part of the studio, especially at a time when the issue of LGBT teen suicides has (finally) become major news, Universal has pulled the trailer and replaced it with this one:

In a statement Universal said: “The teaser trailer for The Dilemma was not intended to cause anyone discomfort. In light of growing claims that the introduction to the trailer is insensitive, it is being replaced.”

So the trailer has been reedited (although the scene is still in the movie) and the controversy has been put aside. But not because of the claims of insensitivity. Universal recognized the liability of promoting a Ron Howard movie during Oscar season. No doubt The Dilemma will be pushed in some way as an award-worthy film.

The studio might have acted in one way but it is not the most appropriate way. Universal made no move to address why using the word “gay” as a derogatory term is not acceptable by any means. Instead of promoting an open dialogue about this issue, Universal left it at, “We’re sorry. We fixed it. (Temporarily.) But you should still see this movie.” While this does make sense from a marketing perspective, what is comes down to is this issue should not be passed over and just edited away so a movie can be successful.

I realize that it is not the studio’s job to do anything beyond release new marketing materials and protect their financial investment. They are, after all, a corporation with a certain agenda. For this reason, either the filmmakers or the actors should address why the sequence is inappropriate and not just let it wither away. By making the use of the word “gay” a non-issue, it remains a non-issue. Homophobia is not held to the same standards as other forms of bigotry in the United States. The discussion needs to start now and whenever possible, even if it is just a movie trailer, before it becomes too late.

What do you think? Did the studio do the right thing by reediting the trailer and leaving it at that? Or is this just a non-issue that has been blown up for no reason at all?