Ron Howard Refuses to Remove Joke from 'The Dilemma'

Universal Pictures addressed the furor over its trailer for 'The Dilemma,' in which Vince Vaughn's character calls an electric car gay, by yanking the clip and editing the remark out of a newly released version.

But tweaking the trailer is apparently as far as the studio -- and Ron Howard -- intends to go.

The director has penned a lengthy statement to an L.A. Times blogger, philosophizing about his own dilemma: cut the line from the finished film, as requested by GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and its supporters, or preserve the inflammatory wisecrack, even if he personally disagrees with the sentiment.

The upshot is that Howard will keep the joke in his final cut. Sources say he considered the matter seriously, consulting various advisers within his studio, his cast and "the larger comedy community," before taking a stand.

"I believe in sensitivity but not censorship," Howard says, as he defends both the studio's choice to modify the trailer, and his own choice to keep his movie (due in theaters in mid-January) intact. "I don't strip my films of everything that I might personally find inappropriate....I defend the right for some people to express offense at a joke as strongly as I do the right for that joke to be in a film. But if storytellers, comedians, actors and artists are strong armed into making creative changes, it will endanger comedy as both entertainment and a provoker of thought.

Meanwhile, GLAAD isn't buying it. "At a time when so many in our country are speaking out against the bullying of gay youth," said Jarrett Barrios, president of the organization, "Universal was right to acknowledge the offensive nature of this 'joke' when it removed it from trailers. Unfortunately, by leaving it in the movie, they are now contributing to the problem."

"The conversations started as a result of the community's response to this slur will help schools, media and parents understand the impact of the word 'gay' being used as a pejorative," he continues. "Hopefully in the future, Universal and Ron Howard will recognize the power of their words and use their films to bring people together rather than drive us apart."

Thousands signed a petition last month to ask Universal to edit the joke out of the trailer. It remains to be seen whether more 'Dilemma' protests will advance the dialogue about anti-gay language in our society, or merely boost publicity for the film.

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