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"The Dilemma" of controversial language

When I think of a controversial film, I tend to reference a Michael Moore piece, or something that directly attacks religion. I also tend to picture actors who wholeheartedly believe in the cause they are choosing to promote with their roles. I don’t think of the latest romantic comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James.

But in recent weeks, the film “Dilemma” directed by Ron Howard has received criticisms from GLAAD (The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) for its use of the word “gay” in one character’s line. The hotly debated line first appeared in the trailer when Vaughn’s character says to a crowded board room “Ladies and Gentlemen... smart cars are gay.” The actor explained in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, that “[The joke] wasn’t a derogatory term...We clarified within the joke [that it was] not ‘homosexual-gay’ but, you know, your parents are chaperoning a dance.” He goes on to say that he respected Universal’s decision to remove the scene from the trailer.

Though Universal Studios, the prime movie distributor of this film, chose to remove the scene from the trailer, the company, as well as Ron Howard, did not deem it necessary to remove the entire scene or line from the film itself. Vaughn was quick to back up this decision saying that he believes that comedy, while at first “edgy” and “controversial” eventually unites people.

While it’s extremely important to respect others and have discretion on certain “hot button” issues, I think that the speaker’s intent on the subject should also be considered. I completely understand that some “choice” words are often used to express a moment of shock or emotion, and do not reflect the speaker’s intent to be offensive. I cannot even begin to tell you all the “Jesus Christ’s” I’ve heard in movies. Yet, excessively using Christ’s name in vain bothers me because it shows that the person saying this couldn’t care less about respecting my beliefs in their language.

On that level, I can relate with GLAAD in their concern about the use of the word “gay” in movies. It may not be an appropriate passing remark, because it is also a description of a person’s identity, which they may have been harassed for.

But since the word was only used once in the film and the intent was not meant to be derogatory, I think it’s acceptable for the scene to be kept in the movie. People who are offended by this have the choice to see, or not to see, the film. It’s not forced on them.

Some might apply the concept of Freedom of Speech to this issue. Though this is America, everyone does not have the right to say whatever the [bleep] they want. This is especially true for Christians. Christ died so that every single person can know how vast, how deep, and how wide His love for them. As Christians, we are called to reflect that love in everything we do and say. Our freedom in Christ is no excuse for being insensitive to those who are offended, even if we don’t understand why.

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