Did You Hear The One About a Straight Man Telling a Gay Joke? It Was Funny!
By Shana Naomi Krochmal
In writer-director Judd Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen perform the oldest straight-guy ritual in the world (trying to kill each other in a video game) while improvising a long riff on an essential question: 'You know how I know you're gay?' Like in a crude 21st-century 'Who's On First?' they go around and around in circles, from cultural checkpoints ('You like Coldplay') to practical ('You just told me you're not sleeping with women anymore')'but there's no question these dudes love each other unconditionally.
So. What does it matter who's telling the joke as long as being the punch line doesn't require letting haters off the hook? As the past few years have proved, it's these same flicks that are topping the box office charts'and the gay story lines are now moving from supporting roles to center stage.
Take Blades of Glory, starring Ferrell and Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder as straight male figure skaters who team up to become the first same-sex pair in competition. It's one long joke about the discomfort your average man feels when asked to dance with another guy. ('You want me to put my hands where?') It's a gag that works well on-screen to expose the lengths to which people who are not exactly homophobic'I like to call them homoqueasy'will go to avoid the appearance of being gay. Because no one in the movie's world seems to take issue with a 'gay' team'except those competitors who argue it provides an unfair advantage in strength'the audience is asked to swallow its objections too.
It doesn't really matter whether you think these movies are funny or even whether you go to see them'they're marketed primarily to a straight audience and consistently rake in hundreds of millions of dollars. There will be more where they came from, because there is no demographic more desired by the power brokers in Hollywood than 14-year-old boys.
That's one way to explain this summer's I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, in which Adam Sandler literally plays gay. He and Kevin James (TV's King of Queens) star as two New York firefighters who stage a same-sex wedding across the Canadian border in hopes of securing benefits for James's kids. It's Some Like It Hot meets Green Card, so of course they have to cohabitate, pretend to be madly in love, and, in Sandler's case, try (unsuccessfully, of course) to deny the attraction he feels to hottie attorney Jessica Biel.
In between the domestic drama, Sandler and company draw a clear line in the sand. Everybody who calls them 'fags' gets a quick pow right in the kisser, accompanied by a pointed lesson in semantics: 'The preferred vernacular is 'gay'!'
'This movie says there's nothing wrong with being gay,' Sandler told Newsweek. But of course that wasn't the punch line. He added, 'There's just something wrong with being gay for Kevin James.'
Spoken like one of us!