Hollywood may have created films like Philadelphia, Milk, and The Danish Girl, which honored LGBT history and characters. But it also creates less applause-worthy content, particularly in movies aimed at a wide audience.
Sadly, gay jokes and ick-factor moments remain a staple of many of these blockbusters. In order to help move the needle, The Advocate took a look back at films that many may have loved at the time but from today's perspective contain some regrettable moments.
In the awkward silence after being humiliated by his ex-girlfriend in front of all his classmates who once looked up to him, the character Mike Dexter is called a "fag." The classmates' response? Uproarious laughter. Apparently, being called a fag is the only thing that can bring Mike Dexter lower than he already feels.
The premise of the film, starring Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell, is that Ferrell's character, a businessman, is being sent to prison. He looks to Hart, the only black man he knows, for advice on how to survive. Essentially, Ferrell is afraid of getting raped by other men. Variety called it “the ugliest gay-panic humor to befoul a studio release in recent memory.”
The 1982 film tells the story of two cops, one straight and one gay, who pose as a gay couple in order to catch a killer. This movie wouldn’t be all that bad if it weren’t for the fact that all the “humor” is at the expense of gay cops. The film implies that gay cops can't be trusted to work with straight cops because they might fall in love with them.
In the 1968 film The Sergeant, a deeply closeted war hero becomes obsessed with a fellow soldier. One might feel sympathetic toward the titular sergeant if not for the fact that the film depicts him as sick and demented as opposed to a complicated person, desperately looking for love in a time of war.
During a surprise visit to see his son, a father (played by Redd Foxx) finds out his son is a homosexual. How does he react? He chases his son’s boyfriend around the living room, threatening to strangle him, and then hires a female prostitute in order to “cure” his boy.
Two morgue attendants decide to make a quick buck by turning their workplace into a brothel. When things go south for them and they end up in prison, Chuck (played by Henry Winkler) thinks this is as low as he could possibly sink … until he notices an effeminate inmate in the cell who’s cut out a page of hearts, and Winkler looks up to heaven, saying, "I was wrong!" Classic 1980s casual homophobia.
After the titular characters are sent to Guantanamo Bay for smuggling a bong on a plane, they experience the horrors of life in a detention camp. In a place where you could be waterboarded or otherwise tortured, the audience is led to believe that those experiences are nothing compared to performing oral sex on another man. Gay panic ensues.
The film 300 told the story of 300 brave men who take on the entire Persian army at the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. The spoof of 300, Meet the Spartans, focuses mainly on the oiled-up men in loincloths and shows the audience a parade of gay stereotypes and queer male sexuality presented in such a way as to gross out the teenage audience.
One of the running gags in the horror movie spoof Scary Movie is that everyone thinks that Ray, played by Shawn Wayans, is gay. He makes his girlfriend dress like a football player, slaps as many naked man butts as he can get his hands on, and is even impaled by a man’s penis in a bathroom glory hole.
Michael Bay’s films are all pretty homophobic, to be quite honest. One of the worst displays of said homophobia is Bad Boys 2. For example, there is a scene in an electronics store where Martin Lawrence’s character describes the pain of recently having been shot in the ass. The lines are delivered in a way to make the people watching this exchange think they are talking about butt sex; unsurprisingly, they get seriously grossed out and offended.
In another example of people using perceived homosexuality as a means to belittle someone, there isWhy Did I Get Married Too. In the film, Janet Jackson's character, Patricia, attempts to humiliate her husband by surprising him at his office with a flamboyant gay male stripper, while hurling homophobic remarks at him. Because people thinking you are gay is one of the worst things that can happen to you.
Best friends and self-proclaimed ladies' men Nick and Jerry unwittingly board a gay cruise and hilarity ensues … if by hilarity you mean one of the biggest gay panic freakouts that has ever been filmed. A new low.
A common theme in homophobic portrayals of gay men is that of them as sexual deviants, constantly preying on straight men. This is the case in Wedding Crashers when Vince Vaughn is molested by the brother of a woman he is pursuing.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry tells the story of two best friends who, due to government bureaucracy, enter into a domestic partnership, living as gay men, in order to name their children as life insurance beneficiaries. Between the cynically exploited homophobia and superficial emphasis on tolerance, it’s a wonder that this film received a seal of approval from GLAAD.
In an early scene from Adventures in Babysitting, a brother and sister argue about Thor's sexual orientation. It’s the light tone of this conversation that really showcases the passive homophobia so prevalent in the 1980s.
Mel Gibson’s Braveheart took quite a few liberties with history. One such liberty was the portrayal of Prince Edward II as overly effeminate. While it is believed that the prince was in fact bisexual, the effeminate depiction of him and the murder of his lover appear to be tools in order to play up the manliness of Gibson’s character, William Wallace.