question of the day: Was Universal right to cut the gay joke from its trailer for ‘The Dilemma’?

You may have heard that Universal Pictures has pulled a trailer for the upcoming Vince Vaughn/Kevin James comedy The Dilemma over a desperately unfunny joke that appeared therein, which has Vaughn saying:

Electric cars are gay. I mean, not homosexual, but my-parents-are-chaperoning-the-dance gay.

Obviously, the word gay is intended as a slur, as a synonym for bad. Or stupid. Or lame. Or some other word with deeply negative connotations. As Ellen DeGeneres noted when she and Anderson Cooper were discussing this trailer on her show recently — which is what led to Universal’s editing of the trailer — it’s not like when people use “gay” this way they mean, “Hooray! It’s gay! Yay!”

Defamer takes an equally unfunny tack in commenting on the editing, calling Universal’s action “a huge blow to Americans’ right to make dumb gay jokes.”
Yeah, of course, Americans have the right to say whatever the hell they want, no matter how juvenile and pointless it is. And other Americans have the right to tell the first Americans they’re being obnoxious. What offends me about the joke isn’t so much that it’s derogatory — though it is — but that it’s offensive for no reason. It’s not provocative or pointed, just lazy and cheap. I agree with Patrick Goldstein at The Big Picture when he says:

Comedies are our favorite form of escapist entertainment. But is it really a comedian’s responsibility to worry about whom they offend? If so, they wouldn’t be comedians anymore — they’d be out of business. Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin were comic gods because they managed to offend virtually everyone, whether they were rich and famous or an oppressed minority.

No one’s saying “The Dilemma’s” gay electric car joke is the stuff of legend. But it’s still comedy. And comedy is a lot like free speech — sometimes you have to hold your nose to support it. If you don’t stick up for the flimsiest kind of humor, then you can’t protect the most important kind either.

I don’t want comedians not to be offensive: I want them not to be stupid when they give offense. I want them to give offense, if that’s what they’re going to do, for a reason. Universal wouldn’t have had to cut the joke if it were defensible in any way. But it isn’t.

What do you think? Was Universal right to cut the gay joke from its trailer for The Dilemma?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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