Any jokes about hateful insults towards homosexuals in 2021? Matt Damon should know better.
Michael J. Stern
If I had the unilateral authority to ‘annul’ people – anointing them as outcasts who are banished to popular culture trash – my list would include the usual suspects: Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, Kevin McCarthy and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Starting Sunday, I’ll add another name to this list: Matt Damon.
While on a promotional tour for his new film “Stillwater”, Damon spoke to The Sunday Times in London for a high-profile interview. The interview was first brought to my attention in a series of tweets that alleged Damon admitted to referring to gay men using a homophobic slur.
At a time when people manipulate reality by taking comments out of context or making them up from scratch, I was skeptical. Before sharpening the guillotine, I wanted to make sure that another public figure wasn’t canceled for no legitimate reason.
Public relations decline
I tracked down the Sunday Times article and clicked on it, expecting to find a reasonable explanation – as if a character played by Damon, not Damon the man, had used the insult. After hitting a paid wall and signing up for a month of free access that will no doubt continue to charge my estate when I die, I have arrived at the original source. What I read was even worse than what the Twitter crowd revealed in their 140-character outrage.
Over the past few months, while eating a meal with his family, Damon made a joke and called a gay man “f —–“. This upset one of his daughters, and when Damon defended himself by saying he used the word in a 2003 movie, suggesting that if it was in a movie it was OK, his daughter didn’t had nothing. She went to his bedroom and wrote what he called a “treatise” on why it is wrong to use that word to refer to homosexuals. It was his daughter’s efforts that persuaded Damon to, as he put it, “remove the f-slur.”
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So, we’re clear, “f-slur” is a hateful term people use to demean gay men. It’s often linked to the threat of violence, like when a gang of thugs slap baseball bats on the side of their truck and yell at it as they walk past a gay man. And he’s often twisted into malevolence of actual violence – like when one of the men who murdered Matthew Shepard called him an “f -” who “needed to kill,” after beating the bloody Matthew, having him. tied to a fence and left to die in a cold Wyoming meadow.
That it took Damon’s daughter, in 2021, to explain to her why it is wrong to use this insult left me in a state of nausea made up of equal parts shock, anger and sadness.
On Monday evening, after more than a day of backlash, Damon released a statement claiming he had “never called anyone” the f-slur. The problem with his new statement is that before telling the story of his daughter instructing him on the standards of decency, Damon noted that he considers his words carefully when giving an interview because every word is ” analyzed ”by editors looking for“ clicks ”.
So his current stance looks more like a retreat in public relations than an effort to correct an inaccuracy of events. This leaves me inclined to believe what was published in his interview and not his new twist on a story that put him in hot water.
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What makes Damon’s latent homophobia much worse than simply using a homosexual slur is his apparent belief that revealing it to a newspaper wouldn’t be a problem for his career or the movie he’s promoting. The not-so-subtle subtext is that the public doesn’t care that they used a homophobic slur to refer to homosexuals. I went through the first 20 public comments included under Damon’s interview. None of them even mentioned the insult – so maybe he was right.
Anti-gay slurs should be taboo
I have to wonder if Damon would have been as comfortable admitting that he uses the “N-word” when making jokes about African Americans. Would he have defended the practice by claiming that a character he played in one of his films used racial insult? I do not think so.
Unlike epithets based on race, insults against the LGBT community remain acceptable, or at least easily forgiven, in some circles. They are still used among people whose words are not splashed in the headlines of the newspapers. For years, I heard them from a small contingent of law enforcement officers when I was a prosecutor. And there are well-documented cases of outspoken anti-gay statements from celebrities like Mel Gibson, 50 Cent, Blake Shelton, and Joy Reid – an MSNBC commentator who recently had her own show.
Even the author of the column in which Damon’s interview appears, Jonathan Dean, recounts the offensive confession but wraps it in a blown piece that portrays Damon as an artist-hero on a mission to save American cinema … everything dressed “in a T-shirt and open shirt.” For god’s sake, a big celebrity just admitted he used a homophobic slur to refer gay men and the author is more interested in Damon’s fashion choices than asking him how he thinks it’s acceptable.
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None of this is OK. Many of us in the LGBT community have come to expect attacks from a segment of this country that prides itself on demanding respect but only offers hate. What is particularly painful about Damon’s comments is that he had convinced many of us that he was the “Hollywood liberal” he described himself in Dean’s interview. It’s hard to discover that someone we think is an ally is actually part of the problem making our lives less secure.
As long as there is nothing less than condemnation and serious repercussions against gay libel, as a country we will continue to send the message that it is okay to treat members of the LGBT community as not deserving the same. respect and the same equality as everyone else. .
The headline that precedes Damon’s interview asks the question: Is Hollywood “A-lister” Matt Damon “Part of a Dying Race?” ” Let’s hope so.
Michael J. Stern (@ MichaelJStern1), a member of the USA TODAY Contributors Council, served as a federal prosecutor for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles.