After the trailer for Zoolander 2 dropped, a protest had sparked against one of the film's particularly controversial gags. The joke, involving an androgynous model named All, has been labeled as a mockery of LGBT concerns in a petition that's over 20,000 signatures strong. Naturally, the writer of Zoolander 2, Justin Theroux, has commented on the controversy himself, and above all else he feels a bit hurt.
While doing press for The Leftovers, the hot button issue found its way into a conversation between Theroux and a journalist representing The Wrap. Theroux, who also co-wrote the Ben Stiller vehicle Tropic Thunder, responded to the outrage with the following remarks:
I don’t even know what to make of it, because it hurts my feelings in a way. I take great care in the jokes I write, and the umbrage being taken is out of the context of the scene. I wish people would see the movie first. Satire is a thing that points out the idiots...I’m all for letting words be ugly when the target is correct...our target is not, and never was, to disenfranchise anyone.
Unfortunately for Justin Theroux, and those involved with the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch in the controversial role, the petition also draws attention to the fact that a traditionally gender identified actor has been cast in a role that depicts, "a non [gender] binary individual in a clearly negative way." With only two months to go until Zoolander 2's release, the issue of depicting a non-traditionally gendered character is most assuredly not going away, but considering how Tropic Thunder came under similar fire during its own theatrical release, the issue wasn't really that new to begin with.
It wasn't too long ago that mental disability groups tried to lobby Paramount to delete the now famous "full retard" scene from Tropic Thunder, only to see the scene eventually included in the finished product. That's not to say that the concerns of special interest groups are invalid, it's just that in the case of both films penned by Justin Theroux, context is key. The exact conditions that set up these scenes are extremely important to their interpretation, and ultimate message. For all we know, the scene sets up a killer joke at the expense of our two favorite male models, courtesy of their competition.
In order to gain a little more context as to how this joke possibly fits in with the rest of Zoolander 2, we'd suggest watching trailer again below. Be sure to keep an eye on the 00:36 mark that begins the scene in question.
There are a couple of questions that should be answered before any sort of controversy is raised: the first being, how is the character portrayed / described. In the case of All, the words "biggest supermodel in the whole world" don't seem to create a negative connotation, at least not with the world at large. Which raises the second concern when it comes to the joke: if the world isn't reacting negatively to the character of All, then who is? The answer, of course, is Derek and Hansel: two characters who've never been gifted with smarts or social graces.
Ultimately, the fuss does seem a bit overboard for the folks that haven't seen the entirety of Zoolander 2 just yet. Considering that this scene is more than likely a quick cameo by Cumberbatch, it's not as if All's identity is going to be a sticking point with the film's overarching plot. Still, the possibility for further controversy exists just as abundantly, as the trailer obviously shows a truncated version of the final moment. We'll see soon enough when the film opens on February 12, 2016 – the same day that the infinitely more controversial Deadpool opens.