Another day, another issue in political correctness to complain about. Gay rights watchdog group GLAAD is back on the war path, this time taking MTV and more specifically Jersey Shore to task for its treatment of transsexuals in the show’s recent reunion special. This latest protest comes hot on the heels of the Ron Howard situation, in which GLAAD demanded the director remove a gay joke not only from the trailer but also the film itself. The studio backed down on the trailer issue, but Howard himself released a statement proclaiming the offending joke would stay. I applauded his decision in an article last week, but now that things have taken a turn with this whole Jersey Shore protest, I feel a longer opinion piece is warranted.
For those of you who don’t watch MTV’s horrifying, yet addicting reality program, let me give you a brief summation of the issue. A few episodes back, The Situation, not his real name, went out with the other roommates to a club. He had a few drinks and began flirting with another of the nightclub’s patrons. They chatted and touched each other a little bit. In between, Jersey Shore interspersed clips of the other roommates laughing as they pieced together the clues and figured out The Situation’s hot date was, in fact, a transsexual. This was followed by a confused and haggard Situation lamenting the ordeal. Late last week on the reunion show, the whole incident was played out for a second time, and MTV producers juxtaposed the footage with scenes of another cast member parading around in a dress. “Who was that tranny?”, the host asked, before the whole thing was greeted with rousing applause by both the audience and the cast.
There are only two reasons men dress up like women, and Jersey Shore featured both. The first reason is decidedly mainstream and in no way sexual. Idiot twenty-something men have been putting on dresses for the amusement of others since Greek theater. I’ve done it, most of my d-bag friends have done it and I’d be surprised if there wasn’t one reader here who didn’t at some point or another watch one of their drunk friends do it. There’s something inherently silly about seeing a muscular or obese man try to fit his lungering, hulking body inside a dress. Sure, it’s cheap, desperate and a little bit easy, but the act, in and of itself, is in no way derogatory. It’s just stupid amusement for idiots with too much time on their hands. The second reason is more complicated and frequently sexual.
There are millions of men in this country who enjoy dressing as women on a regular basis. Sometimes for sexual gratification and sometimes just because they feel more comfortable that way, our genders are not fixed products of nature. How we act, the way we choose to look, these ideas go well beyond having a penis or a vagina. Have you ever been to a drag show? Yes, they’re awesome displays of theater, but beyond that, they in no way resemble Jersey Shore’s Ronnie slapping on a dress to make his roommates giggle. We live in a free society where we can choose to do anything we want, so long as it doesn’t infringe upon anyone else’s rights. That’s the sticking point right there, and when it comes down to it, that’s what this whole controversy is all about.
Transsexuals have the right to dress anyway they see fit, just as they have the right to fuck, marry and carouse with any person of their choosing. It’s a right I support and one I actually voted for today. For too long we’ve slandered and besmirched others on the basis of skin color and life choices that in no way affect the daily lives of the masses. It’s sickening, wrong and something we should all be ashamed of, but when those same rights are extended to infringe on someone else, they no longer become rights at all. When a man goes out to a club and enters into a sexual exchange, whether it involves flirting, buying drinks or actual sex, he has the right to know a few basic facts. He has the right to know whether the girl is HIV positive, whether she’s currently engaged in a monogamous relationship and whether she is, in fact, a woman. These things shape not only our basic outlook on the exchange but can also affect our health, our view of ourselves and our ability to reproduce. That’s what everyone should be up in arms about. If the transsexual at the club had simply told The Situation what the score was, it wouldn’t have been a joke anymore. It would have simply been an event that happened, but because he was duped into buying drinks and didn’t find out the truth until later, it became a much bigger issue that he was teased about. Whether the rights of transsexuals were violated by MTV’s treatment of this issue is one of the stupidest questions I have ever heard. No! Of course no one’s rights were violated.
Transsexuals are not above sneer and ridicule. Neither are fatties, nerds, morons, anorexics, obsessive tanners, douche bags, posers, Wall Street CEOs, Presidents of the United States, hipsters, sluts, prudes, people with speech impediments and anyone who has ever done anything original in their entire lives. We’re a culture of Nelson Muntz’s! We find people who somehow stand out, we point at them and we say “Ha Ha”. Is it pathetic? Sure. But do we all engage in it in some form or another? Absolutely. If the Situation met a girl at the club and found out she was a Scientologist, would we not have seen a cheesy montage filled with off-color jokes? You bet your Thetan we would have. For years, GLAAD has been telling anyone willing to listen that homosexuals, bisexuals and transgenders should be treated just like everyone else. Well, here you go. Most people treat other people in poor taste. They laugh at their inadequacies and point out ways in which they’re different. Disguising yourself as a woman certainly doesn’t fall under sameness. Are we really surprised difference has once again been met with raucous fits of laughter?
I gave up on Jersey Shore about a month and a half ago. I was sick and tired of watching seven morons parade around in skimpy clothes and manufacture drama. I was sick of hearing fat girls referred to as hippos, and I was tired of seeing Orthodox Jews labeled as crazies. The whole thing just became too distasteful and emotionally draining to sit through. It wasn’t any one incident in particular. It was a habitual pattern of foolish, hateful shenanigans that in the end, just wasn’t worth it for a momentary drama fix. And I’m not alone. I can’t even count how many people I’ve heard call Jersey Shore stupid and hateful. Because it is. It’s on MTV for God’s sake. For two seasons, they’ve openly paraded around ugly girls, referring to them as grenades. No one talks about the dagger driven into their self-esteems. But as soon as a transsexual, a transsexual who knowingly tricked a straight male into flirting , is lampooned and ridiculed, GLAAD stomps out to sound the alarm and demand MTV remove the offending reunion show footage. What a bunch of bullshit.
This isn’t about equal rights anymore. It’s about special treatment. GLAAD demanded Ron Howard remove a gay joke from his movie. Now they’ve demanded MTV remove a disrespectful scene on a persistently disrespectful show because it compared a straight man’s dressing up as a woman to that of a gay man dressing up as a woman. What the hell else were they going to compare it to? About once a month, I end up suffering a horrible, epic stutter in front of a large group of people. I don’t know what happens, I don’t usually have a stuttering problem, but for whatever reason, it rears its head on occasion. And you know what my friends do? They tease me by bringing up other people we’ve known with stuttering problems. It’s not the most original joke. It’s not a perfect comparison, but it gets a few laughs and we move on with our lives. That’s all Jersey Shore did. There was a situation with a man who dressed up as a woman; so, they obviously referenced the time one of the other roommates dressed up as a woman. It seems like that stupid joke wrote itself. It’s exactly like my friends saying “Who’s the stutterer now?”
If you want to stop watching Jersey Shore because it’s a hateful program, good for you. If you think Jersey Shore should censor the offending footage because GLAAD told you it was offensive to the GLBT community, you should be ashamed of yourself. Since the beginning of time, people have been persecuted, and it is our duty as defenders of freedom and liberty to stand up for the marginalized. It’s our duty to fight for their equal rights, as if they were our own, but we’re not talking about essential rights here. We’re talking about whether a stupid show should have to censor itself from making stupid jokes about one particular group of people. And the answer to that question has to be no. If we can’t laugh at trannys on TV, that means we can’t laugh at Mormons or Satanists or dudes with early male pattern baldness. If we can’t laugh at trannys on TV, that means we can’t laugh at anyone, and if we can’t laugh at anyone or any concept or anything that someone might find offensive, there’s not anything left to laugh at.
There’s no doubt in my mind that GLAAD has good intentions. Right now, same sex couples are being denied basic human rights in all corners of the globe. It’s an outrage, and in response, GLAAD and other civil rights groups have gone on a crusade to prevent further injustices. But being made fun of for who you are or where you come from isn’t an injustice. It’s just hateful and kinda sad. Being either of those things isn’t a strong enough reason to censor, it’s just a good enough one for decent people to change the channel.
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Mack Rawden is the Editor-In-Chief of CinemaBlend. He first started working at the publication as a writer back in 2007 and has held various jobs at the site in the time since including Managing Editor, Pop Culture Editor and Staff Writer. He now splits his time between working on CinemaBlend’s user experience, helping to plan the site’s editorial direction and writing passionate articles about niche entertainment topics he’s into. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in English (go Hoosiers!) and has been interviewed and quoted in a variety of publications including Digiday. Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, a great wrestling promo and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.