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    Ron Howard Explains Keeping "Gay" Joke in The Dilemma

    The Dilemma Universal Pictures

    In spite of recent controversy, The Dilemma will hit theaters Jan. 14 with Vince Vaughn's character referring to electric cars as "gay."

    Plenty of folks are unhappy about it, with GLAAD stating that director Ron Howard and Universal Pictures are "contributing to the problem" of discrimination against the gay community, especially during a time when bullying seems to be on the rise.

    But Howard maintains that The Dilemma is for adults, not kids, and that the filmmakers "never expected it to represent our intentions or the point of view of the movie or those of us who made it."

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    "So why was the joke in the movie?" read a lengthy email from Howard to the Los Angeles Times' Big Picture blog. "[Vaughn's character] has a mouth that sometimes gets him into trouble and he definitely flirts with the line of what's okay to say. He tries to do what's right but sometimes falls short.

    "Who can't relate to that?"

    Earlier this month, Anderson Cooper said during an appearance on Ellen—amid a discussion about the recent spate of bullying against gay youths—that he was "shocked" when he heard the joke, in which Vaughn emphasizes that he doesn't mean "homosexual" by referring to electric cars as "gay," in The Dilemma trailer.

    Universal soon apologized for any "discomfort" caused by the so-called appropriate-for-all-ages trailer, and a new version replaced the original a few days later.

    But it comes as no surprise that the finished product remains intact.

    "I don't strip my films of everything that I might personally find inappropriate," Howard continued, adding that he and his family happen to own several electric cars. "Comedy or drama, I'm always trying to make choices that stir the audience in all kinds of ways. This Ronny Valentine character can be offensive and inappropriate at times and those traits are fundamental to his personality and the way our story works."

    Vaughn, who sounds like a perfect fit for the character as Howard describes him, responded to the controversy with a statement condemning bullying and discrimation, but also suggesting that comedy is meant to be unifying.

    "Comedy and joking about our differences breaks tension and brings us together," he said. "Drawing divided lines over what we can and cannot joke about does exactly that; it divides us. Most importantly, where does it stop?"

    Howard also says that people's right to complain about what they don't like is one of the things he loves about the United States.

    "I defend the right for some people to express offense at a joke as strongly as I do the right for that joke to be in a film," he wrote. "But if storytellers, comedians, actors and artists are strong armed into making creative changes, it will endanger comedy as both entertainment and a provoker of thought."

    (Originally published Oct. 29, 2010, at 9:36 p.m. PT)

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