Because they can do better.
I was told today on Facebook that we should stop talking about “Get Hard” this week. Never mind that in a typical week leading up to the release of a movie, you'd typically see many articles about it, exploring different aspects with interviews and reviews and maybe premiere photos, and no one seems to complain about that. The reason I was told to stop talking about it is because we are supposedly “too sensitive” about the way the film leans on some really ugly stereotypes and lazy comic set-ups, and in doing so, managing to be unpleasant and even offensive. I've been told that we should stop discussing this because “it's a joke.”
The only people I see wringing their hands that things are getting “too P.C.” are those who want to be able to say anything to anyone without consequence. That's really what all of this comes down to, the idea of consequences.
At no point did I say that “Get Hard” should be stopped from being released or cut to my particular tastes or that anyone should organize protests outside theaters. I wrote a review in which I was very direct in my criticism of where I feel like the movie fails, and then Louis Virtel went to the press day for the film to speak to Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, and he asked what I think is a completely valid question. Then Adam McKay said something I'm still baffled by, and Greg Ellwood wrote a piece about his own perspective, and then we put together a gallery today about other movies that contain transphobic or homophobic or simply gay-unfriendly material in a way that is troubling. We're not saying any of those movies shouldn't exist, but certainly it is valid to look at the way any idea is explored in our culture, especially when it's sold as entertainment.
That's the consequence of releasing something where you grapple with difficult ideas. There's absolutely nothing wrong with doing so, but the consequence is that people will speak back to you and, if they feel you missed the mark, they will challenge you on it. Adam McKay should go back and read reviews of his older films before he starts playing the “Oh, you critics are just mean and lazy!” card. There have been plenty of serious examinations of the way he has subverted the mainstream movies he's making, and everything he says they're doing in “Get Hard” regarding economic and class disparity was dealt with earlier in “The Other Guys,” which did it well.
How can the guys who made this scene…
… or this scene…
… not understand why people might be offended by the approach in “Get Hard”? Approach is everything. The target of the joke is everything. Ron Burgundy may be wildly uncomfortable in that second scene, but no one starts throwing up on Champ Kind or weeping in a shower or freaking out. And the way Koechner plays that scene is everything in terms of difference. He's 100% real, and that's what makes it all work.
Here's why I'm perfectly comfortable with the number of times we mentioned this on the site this week: we are not a marketing arm to the studios. We are not here to service the release of these films. We are here to take the pop culture that is released and to try to set it into a context. It is a full-time job just to keep up with all of this, and that's exactly the value we have. We sort through it all and then try to help you figure out what you're interested in. You may not see things the same way we do, but you can be sure that we're thinking about these things before we write.
And before you tell me that it's not offensive and that it's perfectly natural for a straight person to express horror and disgust at the mere thought of gay sex, realize that it is impossible to tell someone else that they are not offended, that they cannot be offended, that they are wrong to be offended. All you can do is start from that point in the conversation. “Oh, you're offended by this? Well, I wasn't, and here's why. I'd like to understand why you were.”
How hard is that? How hard is it to see that our shared culture is only truly shared when it's not designed to make certain sections of it feel inferior or hated or shamed or repulsive? Yes… pop culture has different rules today, but that's not because of P.C., whatever that is. It's because the inevitable evolution towards diversity and representation involves change. It is difficult and turbulent, and I absolutely believe humor is a vital part of that process. Great humor can push and challenge and change people's minds. Humor can create enormous empathy, and that can change the world.
So when I say that I am disappointed and disgusted by the way this film handles these things, and when we try to have a conversation about that, it's not because we're looking to shut a viewpoint down. It is because we care passionately about this, all of it, which is why we're here at HitFix in the first place. Louis Virtel and Greg Ellwood and I and all of the writers we have on-staff, no matter if they're single or married or straight or gay (and I'm pretty sure we've got every possible base covered between us), believe that the media we watch and read and listen to and play is important and worthwhile, and that the conversation about it is worth having every single day.
This week, this is what's on our minds, and it's because we do consider Adam McKay and Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart and Etan Cohen smart and funny people. Asking them to do better isn't P.C. It's our job.