Gay slurs: ‘Offensive’ Isaiah Washington vs. ‘delightfully profane’ Sharon Stone
At a press conference at this year’s Golden Globes ceremony, all hell broke loose after actor Isaiah Washington of the hit ABC show Grey’s Anatomy uttered the word “faggot,” one of the most offensive gay slurs in the English language. Co-stars berated him; the media pounced on him; ABC executives considered canning him; gay and lesbian anti-defamers offered to counsel him.
At the time, Washington wasn’t calling anyone any names. He was simply denying – whether truthfully or not – that he had referred to gay co-star T.R. Knight as a “faggot” on the Grey’s Anatomy set.
Much brouhaha about nothing
Apparently not one to care about gay slurs, actress Sharon Stone thinks the Isaiah Washington brouhaha has been much too much ado about nothing whatsoever.
Known for Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct and Martin Scorsese’s Casino, and for the critical and/or box office disasters The Specialist, Sliver, The Quick and the Dead, Diabolique, Gloria, Catwoman, and Basic Instinct 2, Stone told gossip columnist Liz Smith:
“I’ve been called a bitch – and a lot worse – for years. And you know what, so what? [italics in the original] People who think that aren’t going to change their minds. And I wouldn’t dream of sending them to therapy to ‘rehabilitate’ their feelings. How absurd. … Please, I call all my gay friends ‘big fags.’”
Smith goes on to fawn over Stone’s “delightfully profane ‘great broad’ status,” including her involvement in charities and her lamenting the fact – or rather, the unproven allegation – that Another Country and My Best Friend’s Wedding actor Rupert Everett lost the role of James Bond as a direct result of his out-of-the-closet status.
Gay slurs = gay slurs
Unfortunately, Liz Smith’s article doesn’t tell us whether Sharon Stone calls her lesbian friends “big dykes,” her non-gay male friends “big pricks,” and her non-gay female friends “big cunts.”
We also never learn what sort of “delightfully profane” name-calling the Best Actress Oscar nominee (Casino, 1995) and Worst Actress Razzie winner (Intersection & The Specialist, 1994) applies to her black friends, her Jewish friends, and so on.
Something else that goes unmentioned in Smith’s piece: in case one (or more) of Stone’s sons turns out to be gay, will she refer to him as a Big Fag? And how would she feel if others called him that?
‘Little Miss Sunshine’ & its ‘fag rag’ hit
Anyhow, when it comes to humorous gay slurs, Sharon Stone is hardly alone.
In Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ Little Miss Sunshine, veteran Alan Arkin (Best Actor nominee for The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming, 1966; The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, 1968) plays a heroin-addicted grandpa who tells it as he sees it. At one point in the Michael Arndt-scripted feel-good family comedy, Arkin tells Steve Carell – in the role of an emasculated, desexualized gay scholar – to go get himself a “fag rag.”
The Arkin-Carell scene is there for snickers and guffaws. And it works. At an industry screening, the – liberal? – audience pissed themselves laughing.
A critical and box office hit, Little Miss Sunshine has gone on to win the 2006 Producers Guild Award, in addition to several critics’ awards for Michael Arndt’s screenplay plus four Academy Award nominations: Best Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress for Abigail Breslin, and Best Supporting Actor for “fag rag” line deliverer Alan Arkin.
More worrisome than gay slurs
So, should Isaiah Washington be fired from Grey’s Anatomy? Or would a few “gay slurs are bad” therapy lessons be enough?
Could Sharon Stone’s statement “I call all my gay friends “big fags” be evidence that one can perform charitable deeds and still be both crass and insensitive?
Whatever your views on the use of gay slurs – and while the Isaiah Washington debacle rages on the in the U.S. media – one should keep in mind that out of the Hollywood limelight gays continue to be denigrated, persecuted, and murdered.
Whether Iraq’s Muslim militias call guys who have (or wish they could have) sex with guys the Arabic equivalent of “faggots” or the affectionate Arabic version of “big fags,” Iraqi gay/bi/tri/etc. men will go on being slaughtered because, big or small, fags and faggots are ultimately perceived as one and the same: depraved perverts, not only lesser men but also less than human. (A tragic irony is that like most everybody else in Iraq, gays led a much safer life before the American-led invasion.)
Curious though hardly surprising detail: A Google News search for “Isaiah Washington faggot” brought in 1,685 results. A Google News search for “gays murdered Iraq militias,” brought in two.
Make sure to check out The Guardian‘s “Gays flee Iraq as Shia death squads find a new target.”
‘Hounddog’ rape sequence sparks outrage
From real-life gay slurs to on-screen child rape: Starring Dakota Fanning and Robin Wright Penn, screenwriter-director Deborah Kampmeier’s 2007 Sundance Film Festival entry Hounddog has infuriated those whose grip on reality is based on what they see in movies and TV shows. Described in the Sundance schedule as “a Southern Gothic tale [set in 1960s rural Alabama] about a girl finding the strength to overcome debilitating obstacles,” Hounddog shows Fanning’s 12-year-old character getting raped.
As Fanning explains in the New York Times:
“You know, I’m an actress. It’s what I want to do, it’s what I’ve been so lucky to have done for almost seven years now. And I am getting older. February 23 is my birthday, I’ll be 13 years old. And I will be playing different kinds of roles. I won’t be able to do the things I did when I was 6 years old when I’m 14. And that’s what I look forward to – getting to play new roles that aren’t too old for me and aren’t too young for me, that are just at the right time.”
Even so, in the United States’ Christian/right-wing media, some have called for Kampmeier’s head while others have demanded that Hounddog be banned. Others yet have accused Fanning’s mother of exploiting her child.
‘Conservative’ priorities & ‘Hounddog’ cast
Considering the uproar, it looks like a case of simulated movie rape – according to reports, the camera focuses on Fanning’s facial reactions to the assault – is more worthy of attention than millions of children (and teenagers) around the globe dying of malnutrition and preventable diseases; being physically assaulted by parents and guardians; working long hours in unsafe and unsanitary conditions; and so on. But that’s Planet Earth in the early 21st century.
Also in the Hounddog cast:
Three-time Academy Award nominee Piper Laurie (as Best Actress for The Hustler, 1961; as Best Supporting Actress for Carrie, 1976, and Children of a Lesser God, 1986).
David Morse. Isabelle Fuhrman. Jill Scott. Jody Thompson. Ryan Pelton (a.k.a. Blake Rayne) as Elvis Presley.
For the time being, Hounddog has no release date.
Scathing ‘Hounddog’ reviews
December 2008 update: Whatever their political and/or religious views, most U.S. critics have been – to put it mildly – unimpressed with Hounddog. Below are a couple of examples.
In the New York Daily News, Elizabeth Weitzman asserts, “Rarely has there been a movie as misguided as Hounddog, which self-righteously indulges in exploitation while loudly decrying it.”
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Steven Winn remarks that, re-edited rape scene or no, “nothing can redeem this mendacious swamp of a film that shamelessly exploits its young heroine in the name of raising sympathy for a blighted childhood. The whole distasteful mess is sunk up to its neck in a brew of Southern Gothic atmosphere and hocus-pocus sentimentality.”
Sex-related controversy frequently helps to sell movies, ranging from The Moon Is Blue and Baby Doll in the 1950s to Last Tango in Paris and Deep Throat in the 1970s. Perhaps because of the dismal reviews – or perhaps because the January 2007 Sundance Film Festival controversy is now all but forgotten – Hounddog bombed at the U.S. box office.
An Empire Film Group release, Deborah Kampmeier’s $3.75 million-budget Southern Gothic drama has collected a disastrous $131,961 since its September 2008 domestic debut.
Jessica Lange vs. Iraq War
In other movie celebrity news, two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange (Best Supporting Actress for Tootsie, 1982; Best Actress for Blue Sky, 1994) was interviewed by Michael Coveney for The Independent. Below is a memorable quote.
“George Bush really has whipped up the most poisonous scenario of neighbor against neighbor over the war in Iraq. It’s disgusting. I can’t tell you. There were times when it was really lovely to be out there and against the war. But then I had anti-war stickers on my car and some big fucking pick-up with an American flag tried to drive me off the road. It was scary and I was scared.”
After Coveney suggests that things could be worse if “President Bush wasn’t defending her ‘way of life’ and ‘civilized’ (read privileged) [parenthetical comment in original] values against the Islamic threat,” Lange responds:
“What? What are you saying here? I thought you were a nice person. My anti-war work started four years ago when the drums were beating. The few of us who really spoke out at the time took such a beating in the press – even the liberal press – and on CNN; I was on a CNN news program with an arms inspector who had been in Iraq, and we were treated like shit. Everything he said – and it was all factual – has come to pass.”
Lange goes on to talk about threats of blacklisting, summing it all up with a downbeat – albeit perfectly reasonable – “You begin to wonder why we bring children into this world. We’re on the precipice. No question.”
Also worth noting, at one point Coveney writes that Bob Fosse’s Oscar-nominated 1979 musical All That Jazz was Lange’s first film. Perhaps she’d like others to think so, or perhaps Coveney simply made a mistake the size of the title character in John Guillermin’s 1976 King Kong.
‘A Glass Menagerie’ & UNICEF work
Jessica Lange is currently starring in Tennessee Williams’ A Glass Menagerie at the Apollo Theatre in the West End. Besides her film, stage, and TV work, Lange acted as UNICEF ambassador for five years and has worked with HIV-infected children.
Among Lange’s other notable movies are Bob Rafelson’s The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear (1991), Bruce Beresford’s Crimes of the Heart (1986), Stephen Gyllenhaal’s Losing Isaiah (1995), Des McAnuff’s Cousin Bette (1999), Wim Wenders’ Don’t Come Knocking (2005), and Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers (2005).
For her small-screen performances, Lange has been nominated for two Emmys in the Best Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie category, for Glenn Jordan’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1995), also from a Tennessee Williams play, and Jane Anderson’s Normal (2003).
Sharon Stone Basic Instinct 2 image: MGM.
Robin Wright and Dakota Fanning Hounddog image: Empire Film Group.
Jessica Lange in Blue Sky image: Orion Pictures.
“Gay Slurs: Sharon Stone vs. Isaiah Washington To-Do + Hounddog Rape Controversy & Jessica Lange vs. Iraq War” last updated in September 2018.
People bitch to much
personally i haven’t seen da movie yet but i plan to jus to see what da fuss is all bout. I am a Christian. And any true follower of Christ would never turn a blind eye. I have a firm and strong stance against Child abuse in all its forms. but you make it sound like christians are da ones who flared dis controversy up. when in reality it was da secular critics and news.
Did I see you down in a young girl’s “town” with your mother in so much pain? Dakota Fanning will continue to astound as long as she is in front of the camera. She, her mother, and her sister Elle are not fools. But those who criticize them are. But, you have rights, so go ahead and crit. I remember the stink when Alice Cooper came out with a song “Dead Babies” and everyone went boo hoo. Turns out it was a poison control ad. So get real, get a life, and go see “The Runaways”.
God I’m going to hell
Ok so before i saw the movie i remember hearing something about dakota fanning this or that but i didn’t really remember. Yes dakota fanning is a brilliant actor she was brilliant in the role. But that scene was too real i am sorry they could of done it with more tact. The things the boy was saying I’m sorry but in order for that boy to say those words and basically act like he was getting off. I can’t imagine who was coaching him in the room. To be honest i kind of blocked out dakota’s part a little it was too much for me to handle. And no offense but the director saying oh we need to make people aware of the abuse and the pain that people go through i’m sorry but that is a poor excuse. She could of done that without being graphic. and let me say there are many ways one can be graphic. I have personally been a victim of child sexual abuse and let me tell you something i don’t feel better after watching that film i don’t walk away thinking “Oh thank God every body knows my pain now” In fact i was repulsed by it.
I dont think there was any offensive material. i think dakota fanning did a brilliant job. she is a great actress and clearly one of the most talented kids i have ever seen.
I am so disturbed at the lack of intelligence…no I take that back. These people have to be intelligent to create and pull off such a fuss- so I’ll say I am disturbed at the misuse of society’s intelligence over this movie. Didn’t this happen once or twice before? I’m thinking Jodie Foster, Brooke Shields territory? Is it easier to get enraged over a PRETEND rape in a STORY? Dakota Fanning is precocious, wise, and nurtured. She is a child star for her generation- a generation that prides itself on its highly evolved attitude towards children and their influence and importance in the world. And “Christians” are pissed off about possible questionable treatment of this privileged, pampered, sheltered, warm, clean, fed child with a loving family and more money and security than the average bear? GIVE ME A STINKIN BREAK. In many countries (this one included) little girls have to prostitute themselves in order to eat. In many homes, little girls grow up thinking what is happening to them is normal… these little girls grow up broken and unable to fit into normal society. No self righteous do-gooder can call themselves a follower of Christ while turning a blind eye to the tragedies that are happening every minute while attacking a happy kid’s mom about what stupid movie she lets her kid act in. Did Dakota feel she was violated in any way? No. End of story. Oh my gosh can we please all just chill?
I think that it’s sad that Sharon Stone is often cited for her intelligence which is something that I have never seen much evidence of, ever. And as far as her “great broad” status only one B-Word comes to mind when I think of Sharon Stone. As far as “that word” goes it’s something that I think is in league with the “N-Word” somehow some people feel it’s a perfectly okay word to use as long as the right people are using it. Silly but a universal opinion has sadly yet to be reached. I remember all the hoopla over Jennifer Lopez using the “N-Word” in a song, only I wasn’t at all shocked because the year I spent at a predominantly Latino high school I heard that word used more than I ever had before. It’s just all so unfortunate, if T.R. Knight would had called Washington the “N-Word” he would have been fired.
As people being to actually see this movie, those who chose to condemn the makers of Hounddog before seeing it for themselves and getting all the facts are being shown for the idiots they truly are, continuing to live in denial of the facts.
Sean Hannity is perhaps the best example, as last night he interviewed someone who saw the movie at its premiere at Sundance. I forget the lady’s name, but I believe she is a conservative District Attorney, so Hannity was a bit surprised when she revealed that all the negative claims about Dakota’s infamous rape scene simply aren’t true. According to her, all we see is Dakota from her shoulders on up and the guy’s arm. There is no touching, and the rape is actually achieved through editing tricks, and not on the set.
But Hannity was not satisfied, claiming that what she saw was a “sanitized” version, and that he wanted to see everything that was left on the cutting room floor. Um, right, Sean. You haven’t see the movie, you weren’t involved in the editing process, you weren’t involved in the production whatsoever, yet you somehow know what “really” went on. What a jackass.