Delta, the same airline that received blowback after deeming Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara's tasteful love scenes in Carol too risqué for your delicate sensibilities, has now banished the 2008 Chris Rock comedy special Kill the Messenger from its planes, owing to the comedian's use of an anti-gay slur.
The removal followed a complaint by Jeremy Foreshew, an employee of the gay “dating app” Grindr, who — while watching the film on a Delta flight — was appalled by a prolonged routine in which Rock explains how the relative offensiveness of the gay slur “faggot” depends on the “context” in which the word is used. In addition to alerting a flight attendant, who subsequently referred him to a Delta Human Resources manager to lodge a formal grievance, Foreshaw tweeted the following at the airline and Rock:
Get the idea?
– Jeremy Foreshew (@jeremyforeshew) August 18, 2016
Foreshew tells the website GayTravel.com that he was especially shocked because, as a former employee of a company that sells in-flight entertainment to airlines, he's aware of the “level of scrutiny” that's involved in clearing such films and TV shows. I wish I could say I was as surprised as Foreshew was — which isn't to say I don't find Rock's comments just as repugnant. In case you were wondering just how offensive the routine — which plays off the then-recent controversy surrounding Isaiah Washington's use of the word “faggot” during an on-set argument with Grey's Anatomy co-star Patrick Dempsey — is, here are some fun highlights (video embedded below):
1. Rock argues there's an appropriate “context” for a straight man to call another person a “faggot” in a workplace environment.
2. Referencing the Isaiah Washington incident, Rock implies that it's absurd to expect someone to be “mad and politically correct” in the heat of an argument, suggesting that it's merely “politically incorrect” (not deeply offensive and morally reprehensible) for a straight man to use the word “faggot” against another individual.
3. Rock compares calling someone a “faggot” during an argument with calling a person with one leg a “one-legged bastard,” an apples-to-oranges comparison that ignores the historic use of the word “faggot” to humiliate, degrade, and dehumanize millions of LGBT individuals.
4. Directly after asking, “What if the person that he [Washington] called a faggot was acting like a faggot?” Rock states that he “[has] gay friends” and that he is “all for gay rights” — as if that somehow absolves him of his comments.
5. Rock suggests that “faggot” doesn't necessarily mean “gay,” implying that it's okay for a straight person to use the word to insult another person so long as they aren't using it to denigrate someone's sexuality. Which is sort of like saying it's okay for a white person to use the “n-word” so long as they aren't using it to denigrate someone's race.
6. To demonstrate, Rock suggests that it's perfectly acceptable to call the person in the car in front of you who just so happens to be blasting Gwen Stefani's “Hollaback Girl” a “faggot” if they fail to hit the gas when the light turns green.
Isn't that fun/funny/hilarious?
In fairness, Rock made these comments in a concert special recorded eight years ago, so I'm willing to accept that maybe he wouldn't say the same things in light of his current awareness. I also wouldn't characterize his remarks as blatantly homophobic; “profoundly ignorant” seems a more apt descriptor of the content here. But I defy anyone sensitive to social justice issues to listen to Rock's routine and not cringe at the “context” of his remarks, which read like a defense not only of Washington — who was later fired from Grey's Anatomy over the incident — but of any straight person who feels the need to throw around a hateful slur that has been used to demean and brutalize an entire group of people for over a century.
The fact that Kill the Messenger was approved as an in-flight movie while the unedited version of Carol was denied speaks not only to Delta's backwards “guidelines” for what counts as appropriate in-flight entertainment, but also to a culture that is still often frustratingly-slow to evolve on the subject of LGBT issues, and which still too often deems straight expressions of hate (or, in Rock's case, ignorance) more acceptable than gay expressions of love. To Delta's credit, they told GayTravel.com that they plan to work “as quickly as possible” to have Kill the Messenger removed from their in-flight system. While they're at it, it would be nice if they reconsidered their stance on Carol too.