We’re not sure if you heard, but Jonah Hill made poor use of his extensive vocabulary this weekend. After being goaded by a paparazzo, the actor used a homophobic slur, which was promptly blasted on TMZ.
It might seem like an odd thing to suggest, but this scandal actually came at the perfect time. In fact, this is the sort of thing that is the perfect jumping-off point for many LGBTQ-centered discussions for you, your family, and your friends.
Let us explain.
After news of the interaction broke, Hill immediately issued an apology. Even though he’s already apologized profusely, the actor, who has long-since been an outspoken ally for the LGBTQ community, he’s made the media rounds to explain to various hosts why he was wrong.
As Hill has emphatically explained, it doesn’t matter what his intentions were behind saying the words; his words carried weight even if he didn’t mean for them to come across as homophobic.
It might seem like the media is letting Hill off the hook for what was, undoubtedly, a mistake, but his sincere, profuse apologies carry weight. His past actions have spoken louder than his unfortunate words, and it seems like audiences are willing to forgive and let him move on from the potential crisis.
Perhaps his apology was so quickly accepted because, as some see it, what happened wasn’t worthy of the normal condemnation that surrounds Hollywood stars that make similarly poor vocabulary choices. As J. Bryan Lowder explains in his Slate magazine article, this is not some “wild-eyed homophobic tirade,” just a “bad word tossed off under one’s breath in a moment of frustration.”
In Lowder’s mind, what TMZ is doing by “crying ‘homophobic slur’” is actually more “exploitative of the gay community than it is supportive.”
Regardless of where you land in this debate, this is the perfect time to think about the words you use and the words you allow others to use in front of you. We need to hold ourselves accountable for the messages we communicate when we reach for words that can hurt others.
If you hear someone say a homophobic slur, even in jest, we hope you stand up and forego silence in order to urge them to choose better words.
Head to lookdifferent.org for more examples of bias, what you can do about it and additional resources.