Recently the gay playwright sent a letter to Jay Leno, asking the comedian to stop telling jokes about gay people. “You think gay people are great material,” Whitty lectured. “I think of a silent holocaust that is perpetuated by people like you, who seek to minimize us and make fun of us and who I suspect really, fundamentally wish we would just go away.”
Wow. Holocaust, eh?
To see if Whitty is overreacting, let’s consider one of Leno’s frequent “Brokeback Mountain” jokes: “Whether you’re a driver in L.A. or cowboy in Montana, keep checking your rearview mirror. You don’t know who’s coming up behind you.” The crowd laughed at that one, but it somehow seems unlikely anyone in the audience was driven to take part in a “holocaust,” whether silent or otherwise.
And that’s exactly the point.
Whitty has stumbled into what author John McWhorter calls “the meme of therapeutic alienation.” Whitty wants to believe there’s a mass media conspiracy against gays designed to generate a “silent holocaust,” so he creates one in his own mind when no such thing exists.
As Whitty told CNN, “for me, the issue of the gay jokes is just this tiny part of the problem. The larger issue is the way gay people are just constantly portrayed as the villain in the media.” Oh, are they? All right, game on: Name five gay villains from Hollywood films. Can’t? Well, then name two.
One movie buff interviewed came up with that many: Bruno from “Strangers on a Train” (1951) and Jame Gumb from “Silence of the Lambs” (1991). Of course, over the decades one could name hundreds of “bad guys” who happened to be straight white males.
The media’s problem isn’t that it features too many gay villains -- it’s that it too often ignores the real villains. We’re only now, almost five years after 9/11, getting the first major motion picture about that day. And “United 93” is the first movie in five years to feature Islamic extremists -- the real-life villains -- as reel-life villains.
Even so, some say it’s too soon. “I don’t think people are ready for this,” theater manager Kevin Adjodha told Newsweek. That idea too is a meme. If we’re not ready now, when will we ever be? The victim’s families support the movie, which will certainly remind Americans why we’re at war. The reality is people are ready to hear more about 9/11.