NOTE: This is my personal blog, not one of those reputable trade publications I write for. Therefore, this piece might be raunchy, it might by crass, I may use profanities, I might refer to human genitalia, I might list reputable advocacy groups that I appreciate along with despicable ones that I don’t, I might add references to Japanese tentacle erotica, there might be an offensive video or links to offensive articles, and lastly, I might just piss you off due to my snarkiness. But this is an irreverent blog, so deal with it. If you don’t think you can, I have linked to a “safe” website for your enjoyment. Click here now to access it before offending your conscience by proceeding.
“After thoughtful consideration, Universal Studios Hollywood has made the decision to discontinue production of the Halloween Horror Nights’ “Bill & Ted” show for the remainder of its limited run. “
So says the show description page on the Halloween Horror Nights website.
Here’s what I know: Some blogger named “Jamie Lee Curtis Taete wrote on Vice magazine’s website how the Bill and Ted show turned Superman into a flaming gay fairy sex addict who wanted nothing more than to commit fellatio on his worst enemy. Ironically, the cry-baby author of this piece is much better known for his Vice column “Cry-Baby of the Week.” This week’s Cry-Baby appeared between his piece “The Bill and Ted Show at Universal Studios Is Super Homophobic (and Also Racist and Terrible)” and his followup “Universal Studios Canceled Their Homophobic/Racist/Terrible Bill and Ted Show.” For the heck of it, I’ll share this week’s Cry-Baby: “This week: Some city officials that drained a reservoir because a guy peed in it versus a school that suspended an autistic kid for drawing a bomb.” Yeah. The irony.
Now, at the same time that Universal was cancelling the show, one of the co-founders of Vice went on a bizarre anti-feminism tirade on a live Huffington Post video broadcast. Women readers who are supporting their gay friends’ rights to protest homophobic entertainment, such as Bill and Ted, should not take note, for this anti-feminism outburst has absolutely nothing to do with the homophobia issue at hand.
Vice has a reputation as a hip, irreverent publication. Halloween Horror Nights and its Bill and Ted show also have a reputation as being hip and irreverent. Universal could have certainly taken the Vice op-ed to heart, advertising the show with quotes from the piece like this – ”Here are what reviewers have to say about our show: ‘Super Homophobic,” “don’t worry if you’re not gay. There’s plenty of other shit in there for you to be offended by,” and “dialogue, I assume, was written by someone who has never met an actual black person before.” I would have watched that.
The problem didn’t arise from the Vice piece. It arose when the mainstream media picked up on it. And by mainstream media, I mean gay mainstream media. The Huffington Post’s Gay Voices section ran a piece titled “‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure’ at Universal Studios Hollywood is Homophobic.” The Advocate’s piece was titled, “Universal: The Allegedly Homophobic Bill and Ted Show is ‘Satirical’.” The Advocate’s editors, bless them, actually took the initiative to contact Universal for a comment (disclaimer: this is something I am not doing here on this blog, but am considering doing later in the day for one of the reputable trade publications I write for):
“[Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure] appears during ‘Halloween Horror Nights’ in limited run and is specifically intended to be shocking and satirical in tone, focusing on adult themes,” Universal spokeswoman Audrey Eig said in an emailed statement to The Advocate. ”The show lampoons across all areas of our culture and it was not our intention to offend or upset anyone. We know there are a range of opinions on this issue and we will respect them as we consistently review and refine the show’s content.”
The Advocate piece was published four days ago.
Then GLAAD got involved. I don’t know if any GLAAD staffers went to actually see the show. There is certainly a difference in response if one goes to see the show as a patron of the park who happens to be gay or work for a gay advocacy organization and one who is sent to see the show in order to determine if it has any homophobic or negative stereotypical elements. I don’t even know if anyone at GLAAD involved in dealing with this issue saw the show at all. So GLADD contacted Universal. In a statement, Rich Ferraro, the group’s Vice President of Communications said:
“We have reached out to NBCUniversal and are engaging in a productive dialogue around this and future shows. This type of content should be removed. Many have voiced strong concerns regarding the decision to include such outdated stereotypes and this outcry should inform future programming as well.”
I won’t mention here that GLAAD has presented awards to and continues to sponsor screenings of “The Birdcage,” a film in which I find Hank Azaria’s portrayal of Agador Spartacus to be offensive. Not because he’s a flamboyantly gay character, but because he’s a flamboyantly gay character being portrayed by a straight man who would go on to marry Helen Hunt rather than being portrayed by a flamboyantly gay actor.
I have great respect for advocacy groups. But I also caution them against taking action based on things they read in print and haven’t seen in person. For example, on September 27, 2010, Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the ADL, released the following statement regarding Roger Waters’ use of imagery on his Wall tour:
“It is outrageous that Roger Waters has chosen to use the juxtaposition of a Jewish Star of David with the symbol of dollar signs. While he insists that his intent was to criticize Israel’s West Bank security fence, the use of such imagery in a concert setting seems to leave the message open to interpretation, and the meaning could easily be misunderstood as a comment about Jews and money.
“Of course Waters has every right to express his political views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through his music and stagecraft. However, the images he has chosen, when put together in the same sequence, cross a line into anti-Semitism.
“We wish that Waters had chosen some other way to convey his political views without playing into and dredging up the worst age-old anti-Semitic stereotype about Jews and their supposed obsession with making money.”
His source? That month’s issue of Rolling Stone. What’s not mentioned in Fox’s comment is that the dollar signs and Stars of David are mixed in with crosses, Islamic crescents, Communist sickles and hammers, and chicken foot peace signs. That’s what happens when you don’t see it for yourself. Additionally, there is a difference between taking issue with the decisions of the Israeli government and being anti-Semitic. Being anti-apartheid with regards to South Africa after all did not mean the same thing as being anti-Caucasian. There are many Israelis who disagree with how their government has dealt with the Palestinian issue, yet are still practicing Jews.
But I digress. Universal Parks on both coasts offers something for everyone: family fare during the day and during Grinchmas, the Rock the Universe Christian rock festival, and the mature themed Mardi Gras and Horror Nights festivities. Horror Nights, especially, is when the park gets to be rowdy and obnoxious. It’s when scantily clad go-go dancers line the streets (I’m hoping NOW organizes a protest after reading this). And the Bill and Ted show is the pinnacle of that irreverence.
This year’s show begins with Gandalf the White. Had this character been portrayed as a flamboyant gay man, would that have been acceptable considering the actor who plays the character on film, Ian McKellen, is openly gay? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Instead, the show’s producers thought it would be funnier if Gandalf the White were black. But I didn’t see the NAACP protesting this counterintuitive approach to the issue of race nor the white supremacists at the Universal gates protesting a black man wearing a white cape. And when Michael Jackson appeared from the dead and tried to seduce Justin Bieber, where were the NAMBLA members to tell him he was going about it all wrong?
Bill and Ted and the Horror Nights have been irreverent and raunchy for over two decades now. At the turn of the Century (I love that I can say that in my lifetime), Universal had Smithers from the Simpsons and the Ambiguous Gay Duo from Saturday Night Live as overtly gay sexual characters in the Bill and Ted show. Perhaps this was ok because they were cartoon characters, unlike Superman, who was created by two cartoonists to celebrate the best of Jewish American life (yes, Superman’s origins are Jewish, so there). So shame on you, Universal. As if gay Jews exist.
Then, there’s video taken by the ThemeParkReview crew in 2006. You can go straight to the 2:57 mark to see how ridiculous this whole PC thing has become.
I know a lot of openly gay people that are involved in the attractions industry – they work in it, they design it, they write about it. A number have, for the most part, panned the Bill and Ted show. Not because Superman turns gay, but because the show this year is actually not that good and doesn’t work as well as past years. In fact, none of them really honed in on Superman’s gayness in their reviews. Jamie Lee Curtis Taete and the media and the advocacy groups may be up in arms this year over Bill and Ted. But where have they been the past twenty-one years? That’s how long Universal’s been picking on everybody and everything with this show.
Universal’s sudden closure of the show and lack of communication regarding it was executed quite well. That is, if their goal was not to acknowledge the issue to the public in a manner that would appease the masses. The park can still salvage the show. They can bring it back for the final weekend, and at the point where Superman turns gay, a new character, a Comcast lawyer will rush in and issue a cease and desist order. Now that would truly be hip and irreverent.
As a side note, Universal Orlando has proudly noted that their show uses a different script and is still performing.