Things can happen very fast in Hollywood: green lighting a
project, casting a flick, making a few million, crashing and burning your
Brett Ratner is one of those overnight sensation guys who
found a shtick (the Rush Hour movies)
and ran with it right to box office gold and instant cachet. Goofy straight
guys, scatological humor, action, babes, sex, more action, The End. With over a
dozen top-grossing films in his repertoire, Ratner is a Hollywood A-Lister. If
you haven't seen his films it doesn't matter; plenty of 13-year-old boys and
their 25-year-old clones have. It's enough to keep a Kardashian in weddings for
a really, really long time.
Tower Heist is
Ratner's most recent box office hit, starring Eddie Murphy (he of the late
night visits with transgender prostitutes and former host-to-be of next year's
Oscars having quit today) and underused Oscar-nominee Gabourey Sidibe. Ratner's a moneymaker so
he doesn't have time for much (rising stars never do). So when he said during a
Q&A after the Nov. 4 premiere of Tower Heist that
"rehearsals are for fags," everybody laughed and kept moving.
Well, maybe not everybody.
Fast forward a
few days and Ratner has gone from Tower Heist to Towering Inferno. The
outrage over Ratner's latest anti-queer slur was fast, furious, and proved that
some faggots and dykes are done with being the last minority you can still slam
in public to get a good laugh now that blacks and Jews are off the table. But
hey, if President Obama can get away with homophobia ("I'm still evolving on
the issue" of queer civil rights --imagine the uproar if a white president said
that about black civil rights?), why not a Hollywood director, right?
This wasn't Ratner's first homophobic slip of the tongue.
He's a known misogynist, as well, who views women as orifices to "hit" and
likes to say so publicly and often. Ratner also opined in the past that if NYU
film students hadn't seen his top-grossing films, they were probably watching
"some fag shit" instead. Ratner also claims to have had sex with Lindsay Lohan,
who is Hollywood's best-known problem lesbian and half of Ratner's age. Yet
this was the guy the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had chosen to
revamp the Oscars after last year's disaster with a laconic James Franco and
peripatetic Anne Hathaway.
Apparently the Academy forgot-for the moment-that their head
writer for over a decade has been Bruce Vilanch, one of the (proudly and
openly) gayest men on the planet. Perhaps they also forgot that the Oscars --
and Emmys and Tonys -- have all been hosted by queers: Ellen DeGeneres, Neil
Partrick Harris, Jane Lynch, Rosie O'Donnell. Fortunately, someone whispered in
their ear and by late on Nov. 8th, Ratner was out, cut from the broadcast
entirely, "resigning" the coveted gig.
The story doesn't end there, however, because the classic
move for homophobes connected to the large or small screen is to run to the Gay
and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamationfor rehab. Just a few pats on the back
from the nation's least aggressive watchdog organization and Ratner will be
able to say some of his best friends are gay and he'll get another green light
and another major gig. Who needs those faggy Oscars anyway?
GLAAD says they are working with Ratner to "convene public discussions
with leaders in the entertainment industry about promoting fair and accurate
inclusions of LGBT people and stories." Here's a suggestion. Send Ratner over
to the set of Grey's Anatomy for a few
days. Creator Shonda Rhimes -- a leader in the entertainment industry -- has
managed to keep a complicated lesbian storyline front-burner for several years
on the top-rated show, winning Emmys and NAACP and ALMA awards in the process.
Rhimes dealt with a major scandal involving the homophobic
Isaiah Washington and out gay actor T.R. Knight, both cast members at the time.
Washington ran to GLAAD for rehab, but still couldn't keep the word "faggot"
from falling out of his mouth. He's never managed to work much since Rhimes
fired him. An object lesson for Ratner?
If it's defamation to slur other minorities, then it's not
okay to slur queers. We don't need to boycott Ratner's films; we aren't his
audience. But we do need to remind the Powers That Be that we are a large
demographic for the entertainment industry and a major demographic of its
behind-the-scenes workers (can you say hair, makeup, set design?).
The Academy did the right thing in dumping Ratner. Bigotry
doesn't deserve a reward. Now GLAAD has to follow through with Ratner's rehab
while the rest of us watch to see if this homophobe's script really can be
VICTORIA A. BROWNWORTH is a nationally
syndicated columnist, and author and editor of nearly 30 books. She writes
weekly about TV and entertainment for both the mainstream and queer press.
Follow her on Twitter @VABVOX