Case of mistaken 'Identity'

Gay has become the go-to joke in R-rated comedies. Sometimes I entertain the idea that the laughter shared by audience members at the GLBT community’s expense in films such as 21 Jump Street and The Hangover Part II echoes the same shrill laughter I imagine some bellow when casting their ballots for constitutional bans on equal rights but then I think, not everyone in this theater fears me. Moments like these, especially in films that hold their own without the joke(s), automatically conjure up those adolescent fears of being laughed at by everyone.

Identity Thief starring Jason Bateman and the hilarious Melissa McCarthy, an already uneven film, devolves into disappointing territory when characters use slurs that often represent problematic language for the GLBT community.

In an ongoing joke about Bateman’s lead character’s feminine name (Sandy), a bounty hunter of sorts asks Bateman if he is some sort of hermaphrodite and then proceeds to call him a tranny. The lines are spoken during a high speed car chase, offering no comic relief, and only meant to support a joke that by this time was already old.

Later in the film, after being incarcerated, McCarthy describes defending herself from dykes inside the prison walls during visitation with Bateman and his family. Again, an unnecessary joke whose language reinforces to the mainstream community not only stereotypical imagery of lesbian characteristics but a slur often used to devalue their sexuality.

“Identity Thief” made headlines earlier this year when film critic Rex Reed disparaged not only the film but also the weight of its star Melissa McCarthy. Media outlets and most of America thought Reed’s comments to be unnecessary and ultimately Identity Thief was the number one movie in the country the week of its release. Headlines surrounding the film’s release ought to have disparaged the film’s wanton use of problematic language.

A quick Google search of the language used in Identity Thief revealed only one blog post criticizing the film for its extraneous representation of GLBT identity. Isn’t there a watchdog group for monitoring media portrayals of the GLBT community? Where were they when this film was in theaters?

Well perhaps they were preparing to honor Brett Ratner with their first ever Ally Award. Yes, the man that resigned from producing the Academy Awards after a backlash for saying that ‘rehearsal is for fags’ received GLAAD’s inaugural Ally award for his (probable Olivia Pope directed) PSA for equality. Or perhaps GLAAD was too busy preparing to reaffirm its commitment to the trans community (announced in late March as a rebranding announcement) to bother with the trans offensive language.

It must be a difficult position for one watchdog group to monitor every media representation, so we must speak out on our own when film and television representations unnecessarily use our community as the butt of the joke. See the reason I watched Identity Thief this weekend is because Universal Pictures wanted our site to run a contest in which you, our readers, could win copies of the film. Sorry Universal Pictures, but this is a case of mistaken identity. I won't push yours so others can laugh at mine.

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