Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Offensive A La Carte

The latter half of 2006 and the entry into the new year has shown what the American public finds offensive in regards to name-calling and appearances. Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, Rosie O'Donnell, and Grey's Anatomy's Isaiah Washington have offended Jews, blacks, Asians, and gays (respectively) all in just a few months. And now, we have more "apparent" gay-bashing from Snickers.

The Snickers ad, showing two guys unknowingly Lady and the Tramp-style sharing the same candy bar and touching lips, only to go prove their "manliness" afterward by pulling hair out of their chests, became an immediate controversy after the Super Bowl. The ad got its humor from overreacting homophobia, so overtly ridiculous that it was making more of a comment on the homophobia than supporting the concept. Apparently, Will & Grace never made such a joke.

The Snickers ad is innocuous. My opinion of the embattled celebrities throwing slurs all over the place is that, yes, we shouldn't say negative things about people for things they were born with. However, how many times do people get insulted over the way they look or the way they are, and while there may be some initial controversy, no one is threatening anyone's livelihood over it. Case and example: American Idol. There likely would be an immense uproar from the masses should Simon Cowell ever get fired for making remarks about how people look, especially when they're fat. But Isaiah Washington, whom the hit show Grey's Anatomy could likely survive without even though he is an important piece, lets loose a homo slur and his job is on the line.

And you know, if he had simply said "homo" in the same derogatory fashion as the word "faggot" was used, there might not be this kind of uproar (that's going out on a limb, but some words are softer than others and don't create nearly the same uproar, even if the intent is the same). I wonder if lead actress Ellen Pompeo had said it, would there be a call for her job?

So we choose who and what in whom or which to be upset. People say things they absolutely don't mean in the heat of a moment. They should be disciplined in most cases, but to have their entire livelihood threatened? This brings me to my overall point. Just as T.R. Knight, Washington's co-star and target of the slur, can't help being gay, Washington can't help feeling some way about it. And whether he really feels negatively towards the gay community is really only for him to know. We get into such an uproar about evangelicals trying to scare gay people in the world are we supposed to change someone's derogatory feelings on any subject? It's like trying to make someone fall in love with you who doesn't feel about you that way. How many people in any community hate different races or sexual orientation and because they've never let a slur slip out, they're still considered okay?

And that's the rub, isn't it? As long as you keep it to yourself, you'll go unpunished. People who feel hate, no matter how stupid it might be, are the new closet queens. I'm not sure in a couple of thousand years, no matter how much progress is made, these kinds of feelings will ever be extinct. I could probably write a 500-page philosophy document on this topic, how there's really too much gray area in the whole matter: It's not OK to say negative things about people, but is it anyone's fault to harbor those feelings? Just some stuff I wonder sometimes.


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