Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Gay jokes not so funny

By Julia Ozog

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In a recent sketch on Saturday Night Live, a cashier compliments Andy Samberg and Jason Sudeikis playing a cute pair of gentlemen out antiquing together. This sends them into an annoyed search for a way to inform people that they are NOT gay, and are in fact two single, handsome and eligible men looking to impress women as much as the next guy. The rest of the sketch is a silly ad for matching “just friends” booty shorts, but the message from the beginning sets the tone for the rest: it’s not cool to be gay, so avoid making people think you are at all costs.

I am frustrated at the pseudo-progressive culture which continually allows sketches like this to pass as funny. Supposedly, gay is generally OK in our modern, broad-minded society. Most mainstream television series’ and movies don’t outwardly articulate hatred towards queer folks, so one can assume, based on a quick flip through the channels that it’s safe and acceptable to identify as LGBTQ. However, I constantly see the motif perpetuated by the SNL sketch complicate the message that gay is OK, but if someone ever assumes a straight person swings the other way? That’s just offensive. So offensive that straight women are encouraged to keep their hair long and wear make-up so no one mistakes them for lesbians. So offensive that men with higher voices and who illustrate their words with gestures assert masculinity in other ways to avoid being assumed gay.

Why do we laugh at jokes that criticize people for acting gay? Why is it understood that we should be insulted if someone questions our straight-as-an-arrow sexuality? I believe it’s because, despite promises that it’s acceptable to have same-sex attraction or relationships, it’s still seen as undesirable or unattractive to be gay.

The overall message being extended is that it’s shameful to be a queer person, so you should be embarrassed if you behave like one. I see this pattern as mirroring the fear of acting like a woman if you’re a man. I hear men criticize each other for acting too much like women on a near-daily basis. This is clear when someone comments that his friend throws like a girl, or when a man is sarcastically asked if he needs to change his tampon if he’s displaying emotion or sensitivity. Straight and queer men and women police each other to make sure that everyone falls into their assigned role. This is not a tradition preserved only by straight folks or men.

There is obviously a history of people from oppressed identities facing criticism or spiteful comments, and gay people and women aren’t the only ones affected. I commonly witness recognition that using the term “retarded” derogatorily is hurtful and problematic, and I want to see this analysis extended to the habit of people using “gay” or “like a girl” as insults. I want to see people reflect when they or others use the phrase “no homo” to quickly remind their friends of their straightness, and to compassionately call each other out in instances like this. I can continue to wittily follow up my particularly queer statements with “yes homo,” or straight folks can live up to their roles as allies by avoiding these types of judgmental and insensitive comments in the first place.

I know this SNL sketch was intended to be funny, like every other joke that centers around “acting gay.” But this is an issue that hurts me every time a woman asks me if she looks like a lesbian in her plaid shirt and expects me to comfort her with “no,” not with, “Hell yes, and the ladies are gonna love it.” It hurts straight and gay men, because it dictates that they don’t display love for their friends for fear of being criticized. It hurts all LGBTQ folks who are told that they have allies in the fight for equality, but who know that most heterosexual people actually feel embarrassed when they are thought to be anything but straight.

I want to move towards a place where two straight friends who are called a cute couple can be flattered, or who can at the very least not be offended. I don’t think that this can happen until more people stop laughing at humor like this and start acknowledging how hurtful it can be when jokes are made at queer folks’ expense.

Julia Ozog is a Collegian contributor from the Everywoman’s Center. She can be reached at [email protected] More information about the Everywoman’s Center can be found at www.umass.edu/ewc.

 

1 Comment

One Response to “Gay jokes not so funny”

  1. Hmmmmm on April 24th, 2012 11:00 am

    A lot of people make this argument that gay jokes shouldn’t be allowed because it might be offensive. I don’t agree with that at all. Now let me stress that I am not a right wing nut who is anti LGBTQ rights. However, if we say we can make fun of everything but gay people then what is going to stop people from saying you can’t make fun of any group. Clearly you were offended by the skit, and I’m sure other people were too but that is going to be the case in any joke you make. I’m sure people who are religious get offended by things Bill Maher say. I’m sure celebrities who get parodied on a regular basis are offended. It’s going to happen but it’s part of the business. People just need to stop being so uptight about things. Because you make a joke doesn’t mean you are homophobic or anything you are just making a joke. To get a laugh and a person who can take a joke will laugh.
    It all depends on if it is funny or not. Some of the best comics are able to joke about potentially offensive subjects, but make it funny. There’s a difference when Louis CK uses the N-Word compared to Michael Richards. Louis CK doesn’t just use the word. He plans it out takes time to make sure the way he uses is appropriate and that he isn’t just saying it for no reason. The same way the people at SNL make their skits. Everything is carefully planned. Nothing is too offensive in comedy if it is done correctly. That is the key point. It needs to be done correctly.

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