How Come The Office Gets A Pass On Stereotyping Gays As STD-Spreading Sluts?

On NBC’s Community last night, Chevy Chase’s character calls Gillian Jacobs a “lesbian” to insult her in front of her his new gang of septuagenarian friends. On The Office (also on NBC) last week, Oscar Nunez’s gay character is blamed by Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) for what appears to be a herpes outbreak. (The pair kissed in an earlier episode, so Michael could show his staff he was cool with the ‘mos.) How come these instances of gays being jokebutts go unmentioned (by the press, by GLAAD), while Vince Vaughn’s The Dilemma remark — “Ladies and Gentlemen, Electric cars are so gay” — is treated as the ultimate of slurs?

Because it’s all about context.

[flv:http://media.queerty.net/theofficeherpes.mp4 http://queerty-prodweb.s3.amazonaws.com/wp/docs/2010/10/oscarherpes939.jpg 650 400]

One thing we’ve previously chided groups like GLAAD about is treating all humor involving gays as the same. It is not. Sometimes making gays the punchline is funny, the same way Asians and Catholics and the blind can make for a good laugh. But there’s a difference between laughing with at laughing at. In the case of The Office, I’d argue the audience is on Oscar’s side, while his boss Michael (and sidekick Dwight) is purposefully the never-P.C. and completely self-unaware protaganist.

Dwight: I’m going to need a list of every man you’ve ever had sex with; I’m talking train stations, men’s rooms

Michael: Flower shops, fireworks celebrations

Dwight: Fence with a hole in it

Michael: Moonlit gondola, carriage ride through Central Park

Dwight: The woods behind the liquor store, the swamp behind the old folk’s home

Michael: Electric car dealerships

Dwight: The Democratic primary

(I can’t help but believe “electric car dealerships” was a nod to the Vaughn fracas.)

We pointed out another example with HBO’s Eastbound & Down, where calling 3-D TV technology “gay” went without notice.

While both Universal Pictures and Vaughn weighed in on The Dilemma‘s gay joke, for now NBC isn’t commenting to the press.

But why the differing treatment? Perhaps it’s the medium (TV v. movies), but I’d argue what gets us riled up about gay stereotyping jokes is whether we feel we’re being stigmatized (The Dilemma) or caricaturized (The Office). One is offensive. The other even homos will laugh at.

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  • NAP79

    This observation guised as “journalism” is complete bullshit. More of Queerty’s constant attempts to promote gay victimization. If it were up to Queerty, we would all be emascualated pansies constontly under attack. Even though 95% of The Office is no longer funny, that episode including the remarks to Oscar were pretty damn funny. Get some balls and quit being such whiny pussies!

  • Kim

    That’s funny!

  • jack e. jett

    Because GLAAD is owned and operated by self absorbed ego maniacs.

  • VagrantMan

    Did someone call the wambulance?

    The problem with your argument is that these two characters are kind of idiots. The “office” is in on it and so is the audience, that’s why it’s funny and not offensive.

    How about we stop being complainers and start asking more of our media representation? The very fact that the office doesn’t have a typical stereotyped gay guy speaks for itself.

  • shibby

    When Michael in The Office says things like that, the audience knows what kind of person Michael (and Dwight) is. The situation is funny (rather than offensive) because we recognize the intention behind the statement. We know that whatever comes out of Michael’s mouth is almost always stupid, misguided, and often times offensive. The show isn’t supporting the views. It’s putting it out there and saying, “Hey, look how stupid Michael is for thinking this is what gay people are like.” We aren’t the butt of the joke – Michael is. So, we can laugh.

    In comparison to Vince Vaughn’s use, it puts us at the butt of the joke. Guessing from the reaction (I haven’t seen the clip, so I can only extrapolate), his joke comes at our expense. The intention is not necessarily “Hey, look at how stupid Vince Vaughn’s character is” and could easily be “Hey, look how he puts that guy in his place by calling him ‘gay’. That’s awesome.” It’s difficult for me to gauge just how bad it is without the full context of the situation. If he gets called out for it later or is supposed to be an idiot of Michael proportions, I wouldn’t have a major issue with it. But if it’s a stand alone joke at the expense of gays, then I have a problem with it.

  • scott ny'er

    it would help to compare, if Queerty would find the Vince Vaughn clip and post it here OR state what the whole Vince Vaughn offensive remark in context.

  • John

    I saw that episode and laughed out loud…it didn’t offend me because I could clearly tell that they were portraying Dwight and Michael as complete idiots! Worry about something that matters for our community!

  • wannabegay2

    “the democratic primaries” is the funniest of all! :)) i laughed for half an hour!

  • Vman455

    Umm…to some of the commenters here: did you read the article? Because it said that the Office gay joke is funny–it’s not complaining about it. Lines like this should tip you off: “One thing we’ve previously chided groups like GLAAD about is treating all humor involving gays as the same. It is not.”

  • asa1973

    Listen, the Office is usually on-the-mark-funny with all of its jokes regarding race, gender, sexuality, etc. They allow the stupid characters to make the idiotic, -phobic comments while the more sensible characters show discomfort or take offense, etc. Meanwhile, the audience gets to ROTFL. Think Archie Bunker in All in the Family. So many racist and sexist jokes. So brilliantly funny.

  • Franco

    Please correct the spelling and grammar errors. These posts should be approved by a competent editor before the ‘submit’ button is clicked.

  • Adam

    I think the real difference is saying “XX is gay” isn’t really a joke. it’s a slur. There’s no build up, it’s making no commentary on how XX is like a gay person. In the instance of “XX is gay,” you’re really just using gay as a synonym for bad, lame, ridiculous, whatever. That’s simply not a joke.

    I think poking fun at stereotypes for a good laugh is awesome. Had Vince Vaughn, I don’t know, supported why electric cars are like gay people by saying they both are high maintenance, fine. Still a jab, but at least not just a slur.

    As for the Office remarks, I feel like a parody on stereotypes (which this seems like to me) is not only funny, but a really good way to break through stereotypes. I didn’t see the episode, but I doubt Oscar having made out with someone at a democratic primary was the cause of Michael Scott’s herpes outbreak. Likely the end result was it wasn’t a gay man who gave him herpes and the stereotype was not upheld.

  • Alex Sarmiento

    I FUCKING HATE “THE OFFICE”. I saw it once and found it to be incredibly intolerable. Whenever I see that show being mentioned, I want to punch someone in the face.

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  • Jake the libertarian

    @shibby: That…

  • Ronbo

    Is this piece of crap STILL on? I thought it was all just repeats.

  • Pete

    Buahhhh! Buahhhh! We are such victims!! Why doesnt the World orbits around us??? Why?????????

  • Darrell

    The difference is that Vince Vaughn is not funny.

Comments are closed.