by: Patrick Gill
Brett Ratner is being awarded for repentance. In the year after his remark, “Rehearsing is for fags”, he has apparently had an education, at the hands of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), on anti-gay language. The immediate fallout, a public apology and resignation from producing that year’s Oscars; the long term goal, to have Ratner join panels on the effects of slurs—to have the offender become the catalyst. Now GLAAD has created a new award for him, the Ally Award.
Examined repentance can be done, it can be done well. It has been done well, actually, locally (to Chicago) by Tony Soto of The Qu. Soto has, before, identified as a reforming bigot. Though a member of the LGBTQ community as a gay man, he admitted to past ignorance and dislike for some of the different shapes and ways people, bodies, genders, and sexualities can be. Through his work with The Qu though, and with his friends, he started to learn more. He started to change his perspective. Though hard fought at times, he chose to do much of this learning publicly, he was on a panel at Queer is Community, he talked about it on podcasts and in articles; to be open and accountable. His occasional stubbornness ensured it was an earnest process. I think what Tony is doing is fantastic, it should be encouraged and viewed further.
Many things separate Ratner from Soto, the largest being that Tony is not a rich white straight person. Brett Ratner has a lot of things going for him; he makes movies people keep watching, he has gotten consistent work as a producer and director of films and music videos through the 90s and 2000s. I don’t believe he needs another thing going for him . He doesn’t need to be pat on the back for services to a community he publically insulted, one he had really no connection to before publicly insulting them. Not only is the necessity of his ally award questionable, the reasoning seems off as well.
Ratner, who even when you overlook the casual homophobia (which can be as disturbing as raging homophobia) still has a heaping pile of misogyny to dig through, only seems to care about people he has hurt after a mistake is made. Are there not women in the LGBTQ community, or feminists of all genders, who take issue with rewarding a person like Brett Ratner? He is a kid who’s only sorry he got caught shoplifting, who’s parents made them return the candy and apologize. Even when he apologizes it’s hard to tell if he is ever really sorry.
Which brings my eye to GLAAD, why would they honor him? In a tactical and cold way I understand; a Hollywood hotshot who is used to saying anything he wanted and they educated him, they landed the whale, they drew eyes to their organization and cause because of their edgy choices. And oh the things that they can do with eyes on them. But that’s the problem, people are just caught up in the choices. An ally does more than say they were sorry and that they know that words hurt.
I hope people are looking at GLAAD’s analysis’ of representation in prime time, that focus on the lack of trans* characters and LGBTQ characters of color, that they work to call out and educate in productive methods. I hope they are seeing that they also award Spanish language programming in an effort to not be so anglocentric. GLAAD’s work is getting washed out by what looks like an attempt to scare up media attention. A similar thing happened with Katy Perry being awarded by the Trevor Project — Perry’s place as an “ally” is baffling after recording a homophobic song, making multiple transmisogynistic comments, and being indignant about both. When you honor someone who is disingenuous, you take the credence and the power out of that honor. Do they understand the severity of their actions, when they take the honor out of something built to empower the LGBTQ community?
This is the time to shine the light on an ally who has has acted on their own volition, has cared for our community and taken to time to understand some of our intricacies, who has worked not just against anti-gay language but against multiple forms of opression and not left out the LBTQ or any other letters our alphabet might not always use. Yes, it’s a publicity jackpot to get the caustic bro an award for tolerance, but is that what these awards were made for? Your promotional language still talks about honor and outstanding representations, maybe it should be updated.