Thursday, March 01, 2007


I will admit I am one of those who don't like hearing the expression "That's gay" used by kids (and some adults) in reference to something they find stupid, distasteful, or disagreeable. I have, on a number of occasions, asked middle school students not to use that expression because it may be offensive to a number of other people who either are or are not homosexual. They just about always respond by saying they hear it used on "South Park".

I love "South Park", despite the fact there are moments on the show from time to time that make me squirm! I'm not in the know on the origins of "That's gay", but did it start on "South Park"? If so, do the show's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have similar sentiments to those of my native-Missourian grandmother who died in 1987 at age 91? She used to say "Why did they have to take such a nice word as 'gay' and attach it to something so awful?" It always made me squirm to hear my grandmother say that, but is the current use of "That's gay" in the sense people like to use it a kind "Back atcha"? Stone and Parker appear to dislike a lot of things, and they tend to not treat one person or group any worse than they treat the next one.

I tend to agree with most people who suggest that the use of "That's gay" attaches a negative connotation to homosexuality. Obviously there are quite a few homophobic people in America. Is the way they embrace this expression a way for them to "legitimize" their homophobia, because so many other people use the expression too?

Maybe, maybe not, maybe it's all relative... but I think it is food for thought.


Blogger Tom Harper said...

I haven't watched South Park for quite awhile, but I really liked their political incorrectness. They offend everybody, and I think we need more of that.

As far as using the term "gay," there's already such a stigma about homosexuality, that phrases like "that's gay" or "totally gay" (that's the one I remember from South Park) might serve to dilute the negativity towards homosexuality. I doubt if a raging homophobe would say "that's so gay" because there isn't enough rage being expressed; it's basically just a silly expression. So homophobia could be trivialized and diluted by these phrases. Just my guess.

Who Hijacked Our Country

8:11 PM  
Blogger Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

I don't know. I just know that it's not a term that I use very often, unless it's the odd situation where I'm discussing Richard Simmons. However, since it's been months since I even remembered he existed, well, you get the picture.

8:52 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

I'm pretty sure the South Park guys didn't start it. More likely it was a phrase being used by schoolkids and they just heard it somewhere and figured it would work well as part of their irreverent comedy.

It's interesting how words become inappropriate and then gradually slide back out into public usage. I hear the word "retarded" used a lot at work when my co-workers are teasing each other. It has absolutely nothing to do with mentally handicapped people. I think people just get bored and look for ways to make their humor edgier.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Lizzy said...

I remember hearing that term in middle & high school. At the time, I didn't think much of it, but now it bothers me when it is used in a negative context.

However, that being said, I don't think the South Park dudes should censor themselves.

On a side note, I used to be a die-hard SP fan, but I lately I have found it to be especially mean. I couldn't even get through the Rob Reiner/Smoking episode.

9:59 PM  
Blogger PTCruiser said...

I'm with you, Snave. I enjoy the humor of South Park, but I don't like the negative use of the term "gay" any better than I like hearing the "N" word.

12:11 AM  
Blogger 1138 said...

It would be easy to say it depends on the specific application of the phrase, but that wouldn't be true.
I won't say that words or phrases should be banned, but there are attitudes that should not be simply condoned as childish behavior.
A phrase like "that's goofy", "that's odd" whatever should be substituted and not perpetuate harm and sterotypes.
Hech we could even go so far as to make it "That's so Cheney".

I have to wonder though if these South Park guys are getting this stuff from kids, what kind of interaction they are having with children in the flesh world.

South Park should not be watch by children, it's clearly adult themed and topic in nature and not appropriate, the feedback loop that it appears to be providing children strikes me as overtly harmful.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

Thanks for the great comments and the different perspectives you have all offered!

1138, I like your idea about substituting something like "Cheney". Similarly, in Kinky Friedman's books he refers to taking a dump as "taking a Nixon"!

Thanks MC! Heh... I GUESS. I hadn't thought about Richard Simmons in months either... and those months have been nice. It's kind of like not hearing a song like "Billy Don't Be a Hero" or "The Night Chicago Died" or maybe any Manilow songs for months. Times of peacefulness, eh!

J., it seems odd to me that I'm not as bothered by "that's retarded" as I am by "that's gay". I don't use the term "retarded" in a negative context very often, particularly at work (where I serve some mentally retarded students) unless it is to say to another teacher of a particular student "On a one to ten scale, how retarded would you say that student is? I would give him about a six" or "He may be the most retarded student I have ever had on my caseload." The term is used in attempts to bring levity into rather grave situations.

I tend to use that term in a negative way around my cats, though. Baby Mackie, whose real name is Macintosh, often becomes Tardintosh, Mackintard, Tardinstein, etc. I refer to our three cats collectively sometimes as "The Tards". It is always with a smile, and they always smile back at me as they purr and get all squinty-eyed. I can call them tards and they still worship me! 8-)>

As for the term "fucktard", or in abbreviated form "f'tard" I find it fairly objectionable to use, although it has a nice enough ring to it that sometimes all I have to do is see the word or think of it and I'll bust out laughing. Some of the humor I find in the occasional use of the words "tard", "retard", etc. may come from the fact that while I genuinely love working with that population, there are times when work gets pressurized and I need to let off a little steam. It's kind of like farting... a well-placed, well-timed fart CAN be hilarious and can serve a purpose. (Kind of like an "ice-breaker" but in this case it's more like a "fresh-air breaker".) Same with the use of words from the "retarded" word family, for me anyway.

Tom, I hadn't really thought about the use of "that's gay" having a kind of opposite effect from what I tend to think. What you say does make some sense! I will chew on that one! Just the same, I'm with PT and Lizzy on the use of that term, it just makes me squirmy, especially when I hear it used by 7th and 8th graders. In the area where I live, there are very few "openly" gay people*... this is a VERY conservative area of the country. I have no data to prove anything, but I tend to assume there are not too many nice things that typical big burly he-Dads from eastern Oregon tell their kids about gay people. I keep having to tell myself that Beavis and Butthead are about that age, like 7th, 8th, 9th, maybe 10th grade...? And I suppose I tend to howl with laughter at B & B because I know so many kids similar to them.

* - for a good shoot-down of the term "openly gay", check out the George Carlin CD or HBO video "You Are All Diseased". After hearing him talk about that term, I tend to only use it rarely anymore!

7:28 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

BTW, MC, when I went to post that previous comment, your Cartman animation's froze mid-flame, in a rictus of agony!

7:29 AM  
Blogger Lew Scannon said...

I use the term sparingly, in description of things that are obviously gay, like watching American Idol, or same sex fellatio. That's so gay!

2:14 PM  
Blogger GTX said...

There are lot of “Archie Bunkers” out there…

5:00 PM  

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