Dear Gary Oldman,
In your interview with Playboy magazine, you rant about the hypocrisy that allows leftist humorists and celebrities to “get away with” insulting people, and the unfairness that right-wingers can’t do the same thing. Here’s one of the examples you used:
Bill Maher … said to Seth MacFarlane this year, “I thought you were going to do the Oscars again. Instead they got a lesbian.” He can say something like that. Is that more or less offensive than Alec Baldwin saying to someone in the street, “You fag”? I don’t get it.
Since you clearly don’t get it — and have totally missed the point — allow me to explain.
Simply put: Yes, Baldwin’s usage is more offensive. Here’s why. The word that Maher used — “lesbian” — is one that is completely acceptable to use. Ellen may well say, “I am a lesbian,” and no one would call her self-hating. “Fag,” on the other hand, is a derogatory word intended to injure. Had Maher called Ellen a “dyke,” perhaps he would have received more backlash. And there’s a reason for it.
Did you see that part in your rant where Bill Maher said something to Seth MacFarlane on TV? That’s called a celebrity interview, the kind you were doing with Playboy. Maher is a comedian, and was using humor. Alec Baldwin arbitrarily shouting, in anger, the epithet “fag” at a stranger? Less acceptable. Sort of like how I can say, “Bitch, please” to my friends … but if I spit the words “Dumb bitch!” at a 9-year-old girl at a playground, I have perhaps misused it.
You see the difference there, don’t you Gary? How I can call you “an idiot” to your face for your stupid comments, but it would be rude to say the same to a mentally-impaired person? (Though, come to think of it, perhaps you are mentally impaired, in which case I apologize.)
Lisa Lampanelli, the insult comedian, calls folks in her audience “fags” all the time. And even the gay ones — hell, especially the gay ones — laugh it up. It’s a joke. It’s meant to diffuse tensions, not create them. No one is a victim in a Lisa Lampanelli set; they paid to be there. And having interviewed Lisa on many occasions, I can tell you, the gay community has no more sincere ally … even though she called me a fag to my face.
Which doesn’t mean comedians can’t cross the line, or get in trouble. A few years ago, a story I wrote (where Bill Maher called Sarah Palin a “cunt”) went viral, and it led to calls that Maher should apologize and be vilified. That didn’t get too far, perhaps because Maher has a history of skewering everyone (right and left) whom he feels deserves contempt.
Personally, I think attacking everyone for using the word “fag” has become too politically correct, as well. Queer used to be an insult — now it’s an identity. But Gary, please — do you really not get the difference between humor and anger, between satire and hatred, between derogation and parody? Is there hypocrisy? Sure. But if you cast an anonymous vote for an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave not because it was a damned good movie but because you worried you’d be called a racist … well, I think maybe your issues run deeper the not understanding political correctness. And anyone who would defend Mel Gibson by saying “we’ve all said those things” may need a session of sensitivity training.