Ron Howard: The Dilemma‘s Unfunny And Juvenile Gay Joke Stays

Though director Ron Howard and Universal Pictures agreed to pull Vince Vaughn’s “electric car are gay” line from the film’s trailer, the “joke” will remain in the film. Because, explains Howard, The Dilemma is a movie for adults; features characters with flaws; and because 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.”

That last one is the biggest non sequitur of the bunch — because what Vaughn’s character is doing in the film is neither comedic nor creative, but to each his own. It’s clear from the lengthy response he gave the LAT‘s Patrick Goldstein, Howard and his handlers have discussed the offensive line. And this letter does not read as a “fuck you and your fucking prudish friends,” which is good.

But nowhere in here does Howard mention what happens when the language (sorry, “jokes”) he thinks is so crucial to Vaughn’s character gets adapted by mainstream American audiences. You could argue that viewers of Jackass 3-D, then, might be encouraged to go home, rig a porta-potty to a bungee cord, and let ‘er rip. The difference is that one movie element is recognized as an extreme stunt, while the other is viewed as perfectly acceptable.

GLAAD, nor gay blogs like this one, should call the shots in filmmaking. And we never will: We don’t have that kind of power. But we can try to influence the creative powers that be to do things better in the future. And that’s what The Dilemma and its electric cars brouhaha will end up an exercise in practicing.

Howard’s full letter:

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.

How Come The Office Gets A Pass On Stereotyping Gays As STD-Spreading Sluts?
Is It Kosher For TV Shows To Call 3-D Movies Gay, But Not For Movies To Say It About Electric Cars?

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  • Toby

    Really? That they are so untalented that they can’t come up with a better, less used, 10 year old joke?

    No, the simple truth is, they are not offended by it…so fuck you.

  • MiKem

    Since it doesn’t seem the Ron Howard will change his flawed mind, then I’ll vote with my pocketbook and just won’t give Ron Howard any more of my money.

  • Benjamin

    Simple quiz for hollywood – substitute “gay” with “black” and it would never fly. Ron and his hollywood hypocrites!

  • Kieran

    Why should this be shocking? Hollywood has been promoting negative stereotypes against gay people for as long as any of us can remember. In the 30s and 40s, it was “colored” people who were portrayed as comedic bufoons for appreciative white audiences. Today it’s gay men offered up for ridicule to appreciative homophobic audiences. But when was the last time you saw a Hollywood film that encouraged anti-semitic humor?

  • Ken Powell

    I believe the movie company/actors are making a mistake for supporting negative attitudes against gays. Just don’t go to the film and support this crap.

  • Sapphocrat

    I am truly disappointed in Ron Howard. I thought he was better than that. Much better.

    And I do believe his essay was the longest fuck-you I’ve ever read.

  • mm

    looking at the cast in this clip, it’s not much of a protest effort to avoid this obvious mediocre Hollywood formula’d crap.

    But yeah, the entertainment media needs to stop using the word GAY as another outdated substitute for LAME but this film looks like it is indeed lame.

  • steven TR

    Well just for comedy sake and entertainment, next time I have a horrific hangover I am going to say I feel like I red headed child star beaten by my stage parents. Or that I feel like Vince Vaughn looks these days…boated and SHITTY….

  • Mark

    Ron Howard is pro-sensitivity but anti-censorship eh?

    I wonder why he chose to censor the gay elements from ‘A Beautiful Mind’?

    And I do hope that journalists start asking Queen Latifah (in a sensitive manner of course) about her opinions on the ‘gay’ joke.

    A question like ‘As an openly closeted lesbian, did you not feel offended by the gay joke in The Dilemma?’

    That seems pretty sensitive to me.

  • Mr. Enemabag Jones

    In the LAT article the writer wrote this:

    The decision is ultimately Howard’s call, since he is a final-cut director, although my sources tell me that Howard sought advice from a variety of sources, not only from talent involved with the film but also from people at Universal and in the larger comedy community.

    I wonder is Ron Howard bothered talking to any gay people, the people that are actually pissed off over this “joke”. Doubtful. All the Hollywood liberal hets are circling the wagons, and defending each other

  • BjBien1010

    Everyone really needs to step off this.

    I just saw PREDATORS and this was an actual line…


    No one seemed to care. No woman’s groups or ANYONE for that matter.

    What about SEX IN THE CITY 2 with the gay wedding and its stereotypical remakrs? “When ever there is so much gay in the room Liza appears”

    Howard is right about censorship though. What’s next, stop all movies from using…


    because they offend women?

    The bottle line is simple…

    If a film’s dialogue, content, or ANYTHING involved in it offenends you, DONT GIVE IT YOUR MONEY.

  • Thomas Marx

    I always find it amazing how people think freedom of speech means that everyone is free to say anything they want unless they’re complaining about what someone else says. How exactly does that work? You can make fun of fagots and that’s free speech, but the silly queers can’t complain about it because that’s censorship? Do what?

    Ron Howard acknowledges that people can express offense. That’s more than can be said for the people commenting on this news article on Yahoo; gay hatred is more than alive and well in America, it is flourishing and blossoming. How dare those fairies complain about being laughed at and scorned.

    I live in America, so I can say that Mary was only a virgin if you don’t count anal. I think that’s funny, and if it offends you, keep it to yourself or you’re censoring me. And that makes sense how?

    You know what I think? I think dropping a crucifix in a jar of urine is not art. It is intended to be offensive, and people have every right to complain. I think equating something you despise with being gay is also offensive, and people have every right to complain. Freedom of speech is not some magical power that protects ugly people from being challenged; it’s actually quite the opposite. The Westboro Baptist Church is free to picket the funerals of fallen soldiers that gave their lives for this wonderful country, but I am also free to say that’s wrong and stand between them and those that mourn the loss of our heroes.

    And I am sorry, but Ron Howard is full of crap. He claims that denigrating gays is a slight moment in the film, yet that’s the moment that was advertised in trailers and television commercials. If he wants to show the personality of the character, why not change the line to say that only niggers drive electric cars? Wouldn’t that preserve his artistic integrity and keep the character true to himself?

    But what am I saying? It would take strength, honor, and a deep-rooted sense of morality to stop pandering to the ugliest parts of human nature and offer more than cheap jokes at the expense of others. That’s something Ron Howard and Vince Vaughan don’t understand and never will.

    And thank God I live in America, where I have the right to say that. Thank God I am intelligent enough and moral enough to realize that I don’t have to declare something as being gay, I don’t have to use words like nigger or spic or whatever derogatory name is used against Asians. I hate people that think they are self-righteous, but in this one specific case I gladly embrace the concept. I am better than people like Ron Howard and Vince Vaughan, and I thank God every single day that I am.

    Maybe because I’m so gay.

  • Thomas Marx

    Thank you Queerty for letting me say that and get if off my chest.

  • adman

    Ron Howard can juggles these nuts, I haven’t watched one of his films since I was 13, thank god. He’s a mediocrity with privilege and that gives him a platform and an opinion he can’t really state, since he’s also a coward. Baby boomers, who knew? When you eventually end up in the retirement home, you might want to hide. I mean it, working people are in those institutions, and you know what you’ve done to them all your lives, right?

  • daveny

    Man! that is one UGLY man!

  • DS

    Awww! Did your gay mafia tactics not work?

Comments are closed.