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Ron Howard: 'Gay' Joke Will Stay in 'The Dilemma'

Ron Howard: 'Gay' Joke Will Stay in 'The Dilemma'

Ron Howard says he’s keeping the controversial “that’s so gay” quote in the upcoming film The Dilemma even though it was pulled from the trailer.

“This Ronny Valentine character (Vince Vaughn) can be offensive and inappropriate at times and those traits are fundamental to his personality and the way our story works,” director Ron Howard told the Los Angeles Times in a lengthy letter. “I believe in sensitivity but not censorship.”

Anderson Cooper and GLAAD spoke out about against Vince‘s character calling an electric car gay in the flick, out January 14.

Read Ron‘s full statement explaining his decision to keep the quote in the film after the cut…

Patrick [Goldstein, LAT entertainment writer],

I’ve been reading your posts about The Dilemma with a lot of interest. In the couple of weeks since you started covering the debate over our joke, it seems a larger conversation made up of many questions about all sorts of freedoms of expression has broken out: When’s it okay to walk off of a talk show if you disagree with the guest? Who is appropriate to cast in a movie and who gets to decide that? Should news people be held to a different standard in what they say? How risqué can a photo shoot be for a men’s magazine promoting an all-audience show? What role does comedy play in both pointing out differences and unifying us through laughter?

They’re all good questions and I’m certainly not the person who has definitive answers to all of them. The debate about what is appropriate in films and advertising has been going on since well before I started in the business — which is to say a very long time — and will never have a conclusion. But I do have some answers to the five questions you put forth in your post. I suppose you’re right that since our movie about two friends trying to do right for each other has been caught up in this larger debate, I’ll have to face these questions as we start to promote The Dilemma. I figured I’d address your questions here and maybe answer them once and not from, as you said, “every reporter with a functioning brain.” So here we go.

So why was the joke in the movie? Our lead character of Ronny Valentine has a mouth that sometimes gets him into trouble and he definitely flirts with the line of what’s okay to say. He tries to do what’s right but sometimes falls short. Who can’t relate to that? I am drawn to films that have a variety of characters with different points of view who clash, conflict and learn to live with each other. The Dilemma is a story full of flawed characters whose lives are complicated by the things they say to and hide from each other. Ronny is far from perfect and he does and says some outrageous things along the way.

Was it in the script or was it a Vince Vaughn ad lib? Vince is a brilliant improvisational actor, but in this case It was always in the script. The Dilemma is a comedy for grown-ups, not kids. It’s true that the moment took on extra significance in light of some events that surrounded the release of the trailer and the studio made the decision to remove it from advertising, which I think was appropriate. I believe in sensitivity but not censorship. I feel that our film is taking additional heat as an emblem for many movies and TV shows that preceded it that have even more provocative characterizations and language. It is a slight moment in The Dilemma meant to demonstrate an aspect of our lead character’s personality, and we never expected it to represent our intentions or the point of view of the movie or those of us who made it.

Did you think it wasn’t offensive? I don’t strip my films of everything that I might personally find inappropriate. Comedy or drama, I’m always trying to make choices that stir the audience in all kinds of ways. This Ronny Valentine character can be offensive and inappropriate at times and those traits are fundamental to his personality and the way our story works.

Will comedy be neutered if everyone gets to complain about every potentially offensive joke in every comedy that’s made? Anybody can complain about anything in our country. It’s what I love about this place. I defend the right for some people to express offense at a joke as strongly as I do the right for that joke to be in a film. But if storytellers, comedians, actors and artists are strong armed into making creative changes, it will endanger comedy as both entertainment and a provoker of thought.

And what do you have against electric cars anyway? Nothing! We have a couple of them in our family including the one I primarily and happily drive. Guess what that makes me in the eyes of our lead character? But then again, I don’t agree with everything Ronny Valentine says and does in this comedy any more than Vince Vaughn, the screenwriter or any member of the audience should for that matter.

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58 Comments

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# 1

This is not right and I hope the film bombs. It looks bad anyways.

People are homophobic b/c its perpetrated everywhere that being gay is something not cool.

Whatever the film sucks anyways.

# 2

Isn’t like 90 percent of Hollywood gay anyway? Now, “that’s so gay.”

# 3
Susie Warden @ 10/30/2010 at 1:13 pm

This is being blown way out of proportion. This is a comedy for adults. This is not a documentary or an educational film for school children. If we censor everything offensive to someone, we might as well live in China. I don’t see anyone complaining about the Jackass movies, or I could name many others that are full of what I would say is “offensive” humor. If you don’t like the premise or content of a movie, don’t go see it.

# 4

Good for you Ron Howard….Anderson Cooper should mind his own business. I am so sick of these people bowing down to ******** like Anderson Cooper. As Ron explains it has nothing to do with bullying so Anderson and the rest of you do what you do best and keep out of the movie business

# 5

@Miles: Are you that stupid? I’m amazed.

Since when was a phrase deemed inappropriate? “That’s so hot”, were good-looking people offended by Paris Hilton’s phrase? I don’t mind homosexuals speaking out due to the bullying right now, but there’s a limit. It’s like when a black person uses the race card every 10 seconds, it’s just annoying.

This film is an adult comedy, if you can’t be an adult, get the hell out.

# 6

who cares? it’s not gonna hurt anybody. it’s a film for adults and they know better. If something is gay why not comment on it

# 7
Cristobal @ 10/30/2010 at 1:26 pm

Ok. I’m gay and can careless at this point about that. Get over it.

# 8

oh for God’s sake! stop behaving like a child and get a life!! if the film upsets you; don’t go. but you do not have the right to determine what i, as an adult, can or cannot see.

# 9
TRUTH HURTS. @ 10/30/2010 at 1:27 pm

Well you won’t get my $9.00. Enough is enough. Boycott this movie.

men who screw other men in the ******* are so “sensitive” they must be protected from mean people and silly jokes or they jump off a bridge and ruin your life.

as usual the thumbs don’t work!

@Dan
I agree it is annoying when black people use the race card for every freaking problem they encounter even though they have the same rights as everyone else in the country and are treated the same way. You can’t use your race as a excuse when the freaking president is black!!!

But the problem is that gay people in America don’t have the same rights as everyone else and when a portion of our society sees gays as being inferior, now that is a problem that needs to be addressed. Making fun of gay people isn’t going to help us gain any credibility when it is the ADULTS in our society who have a problem with it. So while the movie is targeted for mature adults to have some fun, it’s just another situation in which they can laugh at the concept of being gay and not see that we’re more then just a joke or some stupid drama queen on bravo!!!! Anyways just thought I would contribute :)

bravo ron howard, bravo free speech. let’s just hope this pc thing takes a rest, it’s gotten so out of hand. why is the word ‘gay’ deemed unsuitable when it’s a moniker for a large proud segment of our population and will remain such. i just don’t understand what’s happened and why but it seems pretty stupid. I once said i thought butafuko was a funny last name and i was called a racist. seriously, it is a funny last name. Pity…it seems the more comfortable we become with all people the more intolerant we’re becoming. I just don’t understand, it’s such a waste of time.

beetlejuice @ 10/30/2010 at 1:35 pm

@Dan:

Dan,
And what is a person to do when you play the entitled straight white boy card? Nobody disses you about being straight…ever been bullied because you were straight. I know your chain gets pulled because you leverage your whiteness, but heck that’s how you were born, you just got silly when you tried to behave as though it doesn’t give you a kind of a “pass” for the rest of your life. And I will just bet in the past 300 hundred years as slaves were being slaughtered by whites on a Sunday afternoon filled with lynching black folks, crying for help probably fits your idea of playing the race card every 15 minutes…would like a magic wand and could tap you on the should and for 15 minutes make you gay or black or maybe both…and see what tune you sing?

Who Cares @ 10/30/2010 at 1:37 pm

@Dan: You sophistries make me barf. “Gay” is a synonym for stupid, weak, and laughable in that context. People are dying because of this kind hate-speak. It has nothing to do with Paris Hilton. Are you serious?

I don’t think it’s being blown out of proportion. People may say it everyday, but that doesn’t make it right. I’m not gay, but using the word gay to describe something as bad or unacceptable is offensive.

Who Cares @ 10/30/2010 at 1:38 pm

@kAITLIN: I will use my free speech to say that Katilin has no idea what she is talking about and sounds pretty stupid.

FREEDOM!

Who Cares @ 10/30/2010 at 1:39 pm

@missy: I tried to thumbs down you a bunch of times and it finally worked!!

Privileged white straight folks. You guys have no idea what minorities go through in being discriminated against. If you look back to your history you would know alot of the world’s problems like slavery, racism, homophobia all came from you. Shame on you and even today you are still fighting us. One day soon you will be a minority and then you will know. Race card please. I bet if this was 1930 and people were still fighting for the end to racism you would be here arguing for why black people should just shut up and not fight.

@Miles: Other than marriage what are other rights Gay’s don’t have?

@Dan. … Your silly arguement about race and sexual orientation proves your fundamental lack of knowledge and understanding about tho issue… Then again how could you as a while I assume straight male you’ve always been in the majority in most situations…. It was just 40 years ago that blacks matches on washington with mlk .. My mother was 20… We’ve come along way true but instition

I’m with Ron on this one. This is a movie for grown-ups, who should realize that movies are fictional.

And whether it’s right or wrong, people in real life say “That’s so gay” ALL THE TIME. Both kids and adults. It’s common. To take it out of the movie would’ve been trying to deny reality.

I think it’s actually a good thing that it’s come to people’s attention, so society might be able to have a meaningful conversation about the topic. Keep it in the movie, but let’s discuss it. Let’s face the facts that sometimes we unattentionally say things that insult others. Let’s talk about what is and isn’t acceptable. That’s more important than trying to bully a director into removing dialogue from HIS movie.

i agree completely. but here’s the problem. on friday, i caught almost all of my grade 10 students watching this trailer over and over on their Ipods. these kids know how to convert film for use on these things. my students all said just about the same thing. if the “idiots didn’t want us to download the trailer and play it then they would not have made a big deal about it”

by now it’s probably made its way all through the school. i’ve also heard from the civics teacher that when he told his students why the phrase is inappropriate many of the students challenged him on that. one very intelligent student said out loud “all i have to say to that is first amendment, first amendment” the boy spent the rest of the class time demanding to know why people like anderson cooper are telling him what he can and cannot hear in America.

i know exactly what is going to happen on Monday. i and other teachers are going to have to deal with students saying “that’s so gay” at every opportunity. i can’t tell you how “thrilled” i am at that prospect!! a group of students saying the same thing over and over like parrots.

People don’t seem to comprehend that in censoring language, no matter the content, we are taking further steps to curtailing all the freedoms we hold so dear in the U.S.A. Personally, I’ve always been slightly miffed that the homosexual community hi-jacked the word “gay” to refer to themselves and their lifestyle. It once was a word that meant ‘happy and carefree’. It was a joyful word that focused on a lively feeling, not a word limited to mannerism associated with any particular group. In my opinion, the word still belongs to ALL PEOPLE, and we should have the right to use it freely and liberally.
Ron Howard acknowledges that in the context of the movie, he realizes that the word is being more narrowly applied, but I believe he acquits the comment satisfactorily with his intelligent analysis of the character and his understanding that comedy is necessarily broad & sometimes takes liberties in order to have us turn the spotlight back on ourselves to determine how we actually behave…. and are perceived by others. His ‘joke’ in this movie may actually help people NOT use the phrase in that context, rather than encourage people to be insensitive to the feelings of others.
It’s all a tempest in a teapot, and a foolish discussion. It just is one more indication that people who wish to find offense can always do so. Yes, it behooves all of us to be kind and sensitive in all we say… but you can’t have the thought police lobotomize everyone who doesn’t comply with your ideas of what’s acceptable.

That’s so gay is just like saying that’s so ghetto. It’s just a say. If one has a problem with that…that person sure has a “problem”.

Everyone who commented on my comment, you must be in denial. Gays only have one less right than the normal straight man: they cannot get married. Oh, so people bully you at school for being gay? Um… people bully anyone at school for anything: being smart or being dumb, being black or being middle eastern, being fat or being short or blind or small eyes or bad breath, the list goes on and on. Cry me a damn river about people bullying gays in school, obviously some get bullied because who are the harsh ones in school? The boys. I’ve hardly seen lesbians get bullied, trust me, I knew my fair share who were friends. Boys can go to extreme lengths to alienate each other, so the real problem isn’t homosexuality, it’s the male population and the immature ones at that.

If you want equal rights, more power to you, but don’t cry about a movie using a phrase “that’s so gay”. First off, gay means happy, or in slang it means lame, and when referring about sexual orientation, it means homosexual. If you take it out of context, there’s an issue, but I don’t see why you would. When someone says “F You” do you think they’re actually trying to have sex with you? NO. Otherwise you might take that as a compliment.

Everyone wants to use things to strengthen their own cause, but this isn’t one of them. Stop trying to use every piece of ammo you can dig out of the trash can for your equal rights, if you really have a problem, go to the damn source.

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