Hang Me: Happy Gay Pride Month, America!

by robbiefreeling
June 15, 2009 2:59 AM
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If box-office numbers and imdb message boards are to be believed, no one likes a poor little PC pussy coming in to rain on the parade. Well, sorry to break up the high-fiving, ass-slapping, "get over it, dude, it's only a comedy" raunch-party taking this country by "surprise" storm called The Hangover, but it can only be some sort of sick joke on Warner Bros' part that it got released, and has become the hot-ticket item, during Gay Pride month. Only four weeks till Brüno, but we have enough questionably homophobic comedy here to tide us over.

So how does this "sleeper hit" (that this market-tested studio comedy that plays into all possible stereotypes is considered a "sleeper" is funnier than anything actually in the movie) choose to begin? First laff line: Overheard voicemail of one of the four bachelor-party-in-Vegas-bound protagonists says, "Leave me a message. But don't text me, it's gay." Especially funny since I believe that is the recorded message of Doug [edit: Phil] (douche king Bradley Cooper), a schoolteacher to young children (later revealed to be a sweethearted family man who covers his precious child's ears when the word "fuck" is uttered at a wedding by a screeching harridan). Second joke: Zach "who?" Gallifiniakknniakkis is getting measured for his groomsman tux. The elderly tailor's hands get too high when checking the inseam, so he snaps at the tailor, calling him a "pervert." Then to make it a sweet number three, and to irrevocably taint the rest of the film before it's barely begun, three of the guys pull up to the house of the most emasculated of the friends—Stu (a very unfunny Ed "who?" Helms), who's much less of a man than the rest because he has a shrew girlfriend and he ties dainty sweaters over his shoulders—and squawk from the street: "Paging Dr. Faggot! Paging Dr. Faggot!"

And we're off and running. Of course the most I've read any critic mention this is Slant's Nick Schager, who mentioned in passing the "predictable homophobic barbs marring the early mood . . ." He's right, they are predictable, but for me, they weren't something to just get over and move on from. They're especially galling in light of the insane racism the rest of the film happily deals in (the only significant black character is a drug dealer, and of course there's a cray-zee villainous Chinese posse—led by a limp-wristed, at one point naked, Ken Jeong). It's all so unimaginative. Is there really no other way the writers could come up with jokes other than by intentional offensiveness? Of course, The Hangover isn't particularly funny, trading in the kind of humor that, rather than relies on intricate gags or laughter based on recognition, simply aims to elicit a "oh, shit, that's nuts!" response scene after scene. It's more a circus than a comedy: Look! A baby knocked in the head by a car door! Look! A gross guy in a jockstrap! Look! A little naked Asian guy with a tiny penis! Look! Mike Tyson! It's the definition of easy comedy. If it can get a laugh, then just do it, don't worry about that small percentage of your audience who become the butt of your jokes.

But, please, hush my gay mouth. I just don't get it, I guess. These movies—though they have the same types of homophobic jokes as any proudly tasteless comedy made in the past thirty years, from Bachelor Party to Moving Violations (!)—are now commenting on bad male behavior, right? Well, of course! These films in no way reaffirm how males should act...my stars, no: they're simply reflecting a state of affairs. Men certainly don't glean behavior on what men are supposed to be like from watching blockbuster hit films. Not at all. Just ask the chuckling dude sitting a few rows ahead of me who, immediately following the "text messaging is gay" joke, quietly stuffed his cell phone back in his pocket, where it stayed for the rest of the movie.


  • Paul Trimble | July 1, 2009 2:09 AMReply

    You take this wayyy to far, its a movie. do you really have nothing better to do? and these comments basically blast the shit outta everything you've said. Actors are probably the closest thing to pro-gay... i mean look at them, they're actors.

  • Brian | June 20, 2009 2:49 AMReply

    I mentioned the homophobia in my review on its opening day. We disagree on certain aspects of the film for sure but it's mentioned as a significant problem.


  • Actually... | June 19, 2009 1:54 AMReply

    Bradley Cooper did an interview with The Advocate where he discusses how much he wanted James Franco's role in "Milk". He also specifically addresses the "paging Doctor Faggot" line and the general homophobic tendencies in certain dude films. Take issue with the movie if you must, but try not to project a worldview onto someone else.

  • hello | June 18, 2009 10:35 AMReply

    Bradley Cooper plays Phil, not Doug.

  • Swizzle | June 17, 2009 6:10 AMReply

    Interestingly, an earlier draft of the film had a sub-plot with one of the main characters discovering that during their wild night he had a love affair with another man. At the film's end he came out of the closet. This gave the homophobic comments earlier in the film a negative context. The studio of course couldn't handle it and eliminated that part of the story.

  • Ross | June 17, 2009 3:59 AMReply

    Thank you for this post on "The Hangover". While I did see the movie and thought it light and easy enough to enjoy, I have had several conversations since seeing it regarding the fact that many of us during a bout of laughter would remark to ourselves "why am I laughing, this is not even funny", or "I am embarrassed to be laughing right now. As said before, your observations on Bradley Cooper's character are what ultimately make the moral/sentimental implications of the film completely absurd. His character is one accepted as the most charasmatic of the group, even though he is a teacher who doesn't want to teach, a father who doesn't want to grow up, and a person who doesn't seem to have the faculties to carry out either duty. It is very astute of you to relate this to the homophobia of the film, as his character being the centerpiece of it makes this an inherently pigheaded and arbitrarily chauvinistic summer romp.

    Though I did think everything containing Zack Galifinakis was great (I guess I've been a fan for a while so this was surely biased) and that he and Ed Helms really took the weight off of Bradley Coopers shoulders. I am certain his character was crude and unrealistic (not funny or entertaining either, and what's this? Ed Helms provides all of the advancements of plot so B Coops character was utterly and completely superfluous) but I also think that this is a result of B Coops worldview. Let's look at his roles-- jocky broham in wedding crashers (a role that was very not funny, though I'm sure he tried his best to satirize his own real life role as a jocky broham), jocky broham in the hangover, jocky broham in a slew of other movies, and then his turn in Wedding Crashers as the stereotypical closet-gay counselor who also serves as an assistant to Amy Phoelers sadistic and equally charicatured drama director-- what clearer indication can there be that this very untalented actor is not only a homophobe, but also wishes to perpetuate these sexual tropes in american cinema through not only the roles he picks but also in how he portrays them?

    And Todd Phillips frankly just seems like the Alex Portnoy of frat comedy (awful, stupid, VERY unfunny cameo in "The Hangover" as well)-- superficially self-depricating and will willingly masturbate into something before it is consumed by his family, in this case, the filmgoing audience.

  • robbiefreeling | June 17, 2009 2:57 AMReply

    Thanks, Dennis. I haven't seen LOTL (great acronym!), but surely it's better, and better-natured, than The Hangover (even if it has Danny McBride in it). Yeah, what you say about The Hangover's box office take being used as its only measure of quality is so true, and seemingly becoming more commonplace about everything. There's even pre-release buzz about the fucking Michael Bay toy movie and it's all about how much it's going to make, not about its quality (though, that would be comical, I guess). And the reaction to Drag Me to Hell? Excitement upon its release, great reviews across the board. Now that it's flopped, it's swept under the rug as embarrassment. Also a sad state of affairs when a gross-out horror flick about a hell-demon vomiting bugs has a sweeter soul than a wedding comedy.

  • Dennis Cozzalio | June 16, 2009 12:13 PMReply

    Nice job, Robbie. I really appreciated this smart post. I stumbled out of THE HANGOVER last weekend feeling like I was living on another planet. It's bitterly hilarious to think this mindless, mean-spirited movie is being hyped to box-office (and undoubtedly sequel) heaven, and you do an exceptional job here detailing, even beyond the obvious homophobia and wallowing in questionable behavior as a tacit example for behavior that seeks to define or affirm American manhood, just why the movie is not funny. Where does the tiger stuff go? Where does the baby stuff go? (Oh, that's right-- to Heather Graham's ample breasts). None of these "outrageous" elements goes anywhere interesting. The entirety of the movie is one variation after another of some form of ridiculous behavior being either perpetrated or suffered by our "heroes," followed by one or more of them repeating "Oh, shit! We're fucked! We are so fucked!" over and over again. And of course the women are ice bitches (the bride), heartless shrews (the would-be fiancee) or beaming strippers with hearts (and breasts) of gold. And as a prospective teacher myself, accusations of finger-wagging be damned, I appreciated your point about Bradley Cooper's behavior being particularly reprehensible. Line this movie up against SUPERBAD or ROLE MODELS, to cite but two recent examples of modern comedies that deal in part with adolescence as an aspect of the adult male condition, and I would think anyone could see how badly THE HANGOVER falls short, in terms of laughs and narrative. But all we're supposed to care about is how much money the goddamn thing is making, and how that's supposed to affirm its essential worth in a market where endless hype passes for "surprise" and review after review kills a Will Ferrell dinosaur comedy for being silly. And by the way, LAND OF THE LOST is a much better, funnier movie than THE HANGOVER too.