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Vanity Fair Calls Glee Characters “Fags”

Posted on
vanity fair, brett berk, fag, animal, gay news, gay blog

"Foam party fags?"

In Vanity Fair’s Gay Guide to Glee: Season 2, Episode 15, “Sexy”, writer Brett Berk refers to gay characters Blaine and Kurt as “foam party fags.” Seriously, Vanity Fair?!

• “Animal” (Neon Trees) *** Nice singing. But how can having girls in the audience make these cartwheeling, foam-party fags straight-sexy?

We wouldn’t even tolerate homophobic nonsense like this from Fox News, and we certainly aren’t going to co-sign your use of the hateful pejorative. I know nothing about Berk’s sexuality, but would like to nip this excuse in the bud before it even gets tossed out there. I don’t care if he is “family” or a gay man himself, although that is unknown at this point. Vanity Fair is not his living room, and he’s not speaking his personal opinion to a group of friends. He’s using an internationally recognized publishing platform to espouse hate speech. No matter how you slice it, it’s not OK.

Vanity Fair must immediately terminate Berk’s position at the magazine, and discipline the editor who let this homophobic remark slip through the cracks. We’d also like to see a donation to GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, seeing as how Vanity Fair just defamed the shit out of our community.

Shame on you, VF. You should know better.

Via Vanity Fair

***UPDATE: Apologies galore.

Brett Berk:

I would like to apologize sincerely to anyone I offended with the use of the term “fag” (now removed) in this “Gay Guide to Glee” column. As an openly gay writer writing in an overtly overblown style, my intent in using the word in this offhanded way was to continue my consistent efforts to confront and challenge stereotype, to unpack the way in which language works, and to deconstruct the clever gender politics at play in the scene I described: teasing out the purposeful incongruity of this (foamy) attempt to make the conspicuously gay Dalton Warblers seem “sexy” to females. Anyone with even a whiff of familiarity with my writing will know that I am, and have long been, a tireless agitator, here at VF.com and elsewhere, for gay rights, as well as a huge supporter of everythingGlee has accomplished in advancing a meaningful dialogue about homosexuality in our popular culture—and in our youth culture in particular.

Vanity Fair:

With so many genuine homophobes stirring up trouble these days, the gay community doesn’t need any agita from an ally like vanityfair.com, so we are eager to set the record straight about the use of the word “fags” in Brett Berk’s latest “Gay Guide to Glee” column. Brett, who has repeatedly referred to himself as VF.com’s “fun and faggy editor” (a title the editors have declined to endorse), writes from a humorous and explicitly gay perspective, and his invocation of this complicated word was meant to critique the notion that the gay characters of Glee should feel obliged to “play straight” on stage. That said, we recognize that the column caused genuine offense to many readers, and we apologize unreservedly to them.

GLAAD:

“A cursory search on Vanity Fair’s website for the offending language turns up more than two dozen results, so it’s clear that this term has been a part of the publication’s allowed vernacular for quite some time. Moving forward however, given their clear understanding of the offense this word can cause, the magazine’s editors are now acknowledging their responsibility for keeping slurs like this out of its vocabulary. We commend their statement’s tone of respect and the implication that Vanity Fair will have a greater awareness of the impact of this word in the future.”

  • That’s just wrong. Isn’t stuff like this what Editors are for?

  • Auntytony

    VF has removed the word “fag” and apologized on their website. Click the ‘Via Vanity Fair’ link above

  • Adam Kuglin

    The apology is thorough from both the writer and the editors. Enough so that I’m willing to consider the case closed.

  • thank you to all those who spoke up to vanity fair, if people read gay people writing the word, then they will think we are comfortable with it, and i am not! there is still too much negative conotation on the word fag for people to use it in mixed context!

  • Anonymous

    “Vanity Fair must immediately terminate Berk’s position at the magazine, and discipline the editor who let this homophobic remark slip through the cracks.” McCarthy much, Heather? I know you’re getting your politics on, which is great, but I have to wonder how old you are. In time, I’m sure you’ll find that things are never as black and white as they might seem at first glance. And now I’m sure you’re really mad, if you weren’t already.

    I’m sorry, but GLAAD’s crackdown here comes across as rather humourless and rigid. It’s exactly the kind of victimized reaction the term “politically correct” was coined to describe, which set the gay rights agenda back years, in my opinion. We’ve come a long way, baby, it’s okay to be a fag now, just relax and it won’t hurt so much. I definitely flip-flop on this one, and there are times, maybe most times, when the use of the word “fag” is innapropriate and hurtful. Those wounds heal slowly, believe me, I understand. It’s been used against me more times than it’s been used for me, but now the word belongs to me and I can use it as I please. I see it as being akin to blacks referring to themselves and each other as niggers, which only the most hysterical ideologue could object to. As others have mentioned, every alleged instance of defamation has to be taken in context. In this case I don’t think the writer intended it to be innocuous; he intended it to be funny. Is that okay with you?

  • Devin

    As a gay man, I get confused and distressed over this issue. There is a very “out” section of the gay community that calls itself fags. My friends and I have jokingly used the pejorative on one another. However, I think this is like blacks calling each other the n-word; using it in private between friends who know what you mean is one thing; using it when targeting a large and wide-ranging audience is another. The word has long been used as an insult and propagates homophobia. It is used against gay men as a slur and also against straight men by other straight men when trying to degrade their masculinity. The possibility for misinterpretation is quite high. In a country where free speech is paramount, I don’t feel comfortable telling Brett Berk what words he can and cannot use. I do think that we all must remeber that words are very powerful, and we must take great care when we use such a powerful instrument. This is particularly true for anyone who has a public forum and the ability to influence many. Is it possible that my words could be misconstrued or misunderstood? I strongly support free speech and am sometimes frustrated by “political correctness”. But I also would never want to cause unintended harm. I err on the side of caution. It sounds like Brett Berk has listened and considered this author’s response, and will be mindful of that in the future; he even apologized for any offense caused. Termination from his job is excessive punishment. Tolerance, compassion, forgiveness, respect, and brotherly love must be applied to every person and every situation in abundance. Brett Berk deserves all those things as much as anyone he may have offended.

  • Anonymous

    Black people call them selves the n-word and gays call themselves the f-word in an effort to make it somehow hurt less, but it doesn’t really work, does it? Words like those just plain hurt us all the time every time – don’t use them, people – rise above the very thought of using either of them and while you’re at it – eliminate name calling from your life. Using words as your sticks and stones still makes you a bully. Be bigger than that!

  • Gus Anderson

    How dare he label these characters as members of the *foam party* community. That’s a case of defamation of character.

  • Anonymous

    Quick backstory before anyone feels shortchanged by my two cents: I’ve been out since 1977 and have been honest to family, friends, jobs, community since then. I have used the word fag and a host of other deplorable, toxic perjoratives to garner the cheapest of chuckles among friends and people I’ve tried to impress with my provocative, yet thoughtful, candor. However, I still squirm when I see “fag” in print, whether by a straight or gay or any LGBTXY&Z (et al, otherwise I’ll hear about it) person. I also cringe when I read or hear “queer,” even though it’s been reclaimed, like shag carpeting after its unpopular three-decade spell. In my opinion, there just aren’t any good words available for things anymore. Look at the kerfuffle Randy Jackson has giving accolades to a female singing contestant on Idol: “Dude, that was dope.” But one thing I blieve we can accept is that Vanity Fair is a friend to the gay community. (Regrettably, not in that friendly way that most of the gay community is ever going to get invited to those swank parties featured every month, but in the way that we’ll still fork over cash for the three year subscription plan to save a few bucks on annual renewals.) Flip open to most any page and you’ll see LGBT with $ trotted out in featured social flourish. (Has an issue EVER been printed without the smouldering, brooding veneer of Tom Ford gazing back at you with a pleasant grin but no teeth showing somewhere within its hallowed and socially progressive pages?) Even that crumudgeon Andy Rooney, no, not him, the other one… Dominick Dunn, seemed like he’d have hooted it up with a bevy of drag queens as long as one of them murdered a member of exiled royalty and they stowed their feathers and beads in a Fifth Avenue aerie. For Vanity Fair, it’s never been who they slept with but rather, WHO they slept with. But, truth be told, I do get squirmy when I read the one page interviews by George Wayne. It’s not because he hopped off a roving Pride float to join his subject for a tete-a-tete, but because he swats the folks about the head with the beads he got tangled up in. Some of his shit is just trite and… well, breezy, whirlwind, “I’m in-I’m out, I get to write thin when I no longer am,” silly…and often uncomfortable…fluff. But that’s just me. He gets to write for Vanity Fair and I don’t. I’m not (too) bitter, I just don’t think I can be that gay. And THAT’S the rub. That’s the “gay” folks want prominently displayed, the High-Steppin’ Fetchits. From Jack on Will and Grace to Carson Kressley from Queer Eye to Kurt on Glee… the obvious, we can see you/you can’t hide gay. Now, I’m not a dolt, I know there is value here. I’ve certainly known gay folk that were one Steven Sondheim role away from a Tony Award dining room table centerpiece, and I venture to say most of them could probably break my arm that I punctuate with, but that’s the part we don’t see. Most of the queens I know could beat the living tar outta anyone who shoves one last nerve out of place. But we don’t ever see the strength borne from the troubles inherent with fabulous. We always see weak, frivolous, insipid, and infinitely OUT THERE. And while each character I’ve mentioned has heart and talent and real value as a human being… maybe some ungots would be a nice accessory to go with the boots, feathered fedora, and Von Trapp-by-way-of-International-Male-ensemble that Kurt’s been known to wear (for exactly what reason) in high school. Yes, I know, value judgements on apparrel is wrong… Bad me… (And maybe I have stupid, luggish friends who are gay… But “that’s HOT” from them toward Kurt is as likely to occur as a Tennessee high school drama club mounting “La Cage aux Folles” for its annual production.) That’s where “fag” resonates harshly in that action speaks, and draws condemnation, louder than words. The cartoon depictions of asexual, overwrought eunuchs scream the desperation of “otherness” louder than any Phelps inbred corrosive corner crooner can. The only inclusion message being sought is “let the jester eat at the same table…as the jester.” And that isn’t enough, it’s too selfish and self-absorbed a mission. Separate but equal doesn’t work when trying to be part of the whole. By example, dad can love his gay son, but dad also wants him to also mow the lawn occasionally. Participation in the key to acceptance and inclusion. And maybe Berk’s “foam party fags” was more of an indictment of the self-indulgences seen at a circuit party fete which the show attempted to weakly pass itself off as a device to dupe the straights. The show’s writer was on a slippery dance floor with that one, not Mr. Berk.

  • Kenneth Anthony

    Dear GLAAD: Get over it. It’s not that offensive. Thank you. PS, I’m a fag.

  • John R. Petrozino Jr.

    Did anyone see South Park’s “F-word”? It was so fabulous in dealing with this very issue – I highly recommend it and that every fag get over him/herself so that we can move on with life!

    Love,
    John “faggy” Petrozino

  • Christen Bob Gottschlich

    It’s nice to see that not everyone agrees with UB’s reaction to this. I for one am not happy about this PC movement (although I think it’ts starting to let up) that judges hateful speech based on word use instead of intent.

  • Since when are the Warblers “conspicuously gay”? Blaine and Kurt are gay, yeah, but as far as I know none (or at the very least most of the others) are(not) gay.

    So I really don’t see the problem of the Warblers wanting to appear sexy on stage, or Blaine and Kurt who are part of that Glee club participating…

    But apart from that misconception, I’ve no problem with that statement after the apology given. Then again, maybe it’s because I’m French and the word ‘fags’ makes me think of cigarettes (english slang for ‘a cigarette’ is ‘a fag’) before it makes me think of a rude way to call homosexual.

  • Candy Ohara

    What a clever ploy…stating that you would expect ‘homophobia like this’ from FoxNEWS implies…that either there is, has been or will be ‘homophobia like this’ from…FoxNEWS. As there is no such homophobic commentary on FoxNEWS, or use of the word ‘fag’…continue to expect…yet retain an expectation…unfulfilled. Odd that Vanity Fair DOES use it…yet even in that ACTUAL case…FoxNEWS MUST somehow be proven homophobic…by something Vanity Fair wrote. NICE.

  • C'pher

     It’s pissy sh*t like Kevin’s whiny article that gives us fags a bad name. Lighten up.

  • Inneresting

    When was the last time you read n-gger in a magazine? I rest my case.

  • Martin B

    Sorry, fail. They are ‘fags’ – to the nth degree of the word. They do not represent me or anyone I know. The protrayals are stupid, ridiculous and m,isleading to entire generation of young people. We should be respected for being respectable, not forcing people to choke down anything the Hollywood bilge machine can invent – this is internalized self-hatred at its worst.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe Fox News just shows different programming on your planet. How fortunate!

  • Kat

    And? That makes it less offensive?

  • Kat

    THANK YOU. And even if you did, it certainly wouldn’t been in a magazine whose demographic is predominantly white, even if it was an African American writer…. Using the term “foam party fags” (even by a “fag” himself) may have a tongue-in-cheek place in a light-hearted, funny GAY-centric magazine geared at 20somethings, but it certainly has no place in a magazine like Vanity Fair, which is srs bsns.

    Wanting to reclaim derogatory words as empowerment is fine. I’m totally for it. But when you do so, you REALLY need to understand the audience you’re saying it to and they need to know that you’re doing it at all.

  • As a recovering hate addict, I hope we can get passed calling fowl every time someone uses a derogatory term. Especially when it’s a term used for gay men written in a gay-friendly article. Just as we must not judge based on religious orientation, we should also veer away from hysteria. To be honest, it’s sorta faggy. 

  • i think so is cool..to be..no problem…i think is cool

  • saloli

    Actually, as a Gay man, I find this term as offensive as calling someone a ni&&er or a k!ke, etc etc. How in the hell is the word f@g not considered offensive!!!! you obviously have no clue as to the history of that word and how it has been used against the GLBTQ population.

  • Actually? I’ve seen a Fox anchor or two defend the gay community. There are decent people. Painting Fox with a broad brush is no different than some hetero-normative jerk-wad sticking up their nose or worse in the direction of the LGBTQIA community. Think about it. We need to make friends with these people and change their minds – we’re not here to make war.

  • You know, I do not agree with the “reclaiming” of the “other f-word”. First of all, the word just sounds ugly. Second of all, there are those of us in the LGBTQIA community who do not associate their identity with the word, nor will they ever, and I belong to that party. I don’t even agree with the “n-word” being reclaimed. The practice in general I perceive to be completely regressive and ridiculous. 

    In order for this “reclamation” to be effective, you have to be aware of your audience (and an audience is never fixed, it is always plastic and ever changing now, thanks to social media and the internet), and even then to address a “specific” audience leaves people on the outside. How do we determine who our audience “really is” and who they “aren’t”? Isn’t that selfish? And really, how different is that from segregation? Implicit or explicit, omission should never be the aim of the LGBTQIA community. How can we justify fighting for our right to be included when we will take pains to have a “specific” audience? We’re back to desperation here, folks. Where is the sacredness that we are supposed to have for our own entities? I’ll tell you where mine isn’t – the trash, and neither is my dignity.

  • Anonymous

    You know, that is a good point. You don’t show people that it’s possible to live in tolerance or even be friends if you treat them and everyone like them as an enemy. I do believe there’s some strong anti-gay sentiment on Fox new shows and commentary – or at least resentment towards ideas like gay marriage. But I have some personal friends who are avid Bill O’Reilly fans but also very supportive of gay rights – and who have gay friends like myself.

  • I feel bad for Brett. He made a bad word choice and now this hyperactive website (with it’s own obnoxiously silly title) wants him fired. Poor kid. It was supposed to be a gay guide, and he is most likely gay himself. Get off your high horse Unicorn Booty!

  • Anonymous

    i dont feel he made a bad word choice at all…much like african americans and the n word…if we can refer to ourselves as fags(my friends and i do it all the time) then straight people can refer to us in the same tone

  • Anonymous

    the history of the word? you mean when it used to be defined as cigarette, or bundle of sticks? which history are you referring to? if gay men/lesbians can refer to gay men as fags, then straights can too…as long as it is in the same context…if its derogatory(which it’s use in this article its not) then sure

  • thank you! seriously! i am obviously not a gay man… but when i hear that word i cringe… i personally have had two males yell at me and my partner when we were with our child and asked where us dykes stole our child… i realize that people my not see the word dyke as offensive… but when you actually hear it screamed at you… man it changes your outlook… as i am sure the word fag would for a gay man… 

  • Nick Sawatsky

    I agree with him. I am not a self-loathing masochist. I think Glee only affirms the cliche gay stereotype that makes it so every time I come out to someone they gasp. “I couldn’t even tell!” they say. Couldn’t tell what? Sorry I left my limp wrist, Cher records, and effeminate vocal chords at home. A Gay-Guide in a mainstream magazine is progress. Floundering over the word “fag” is tired. Let it’s power die. I’m with with both Brett Berk and Brett Easton Ellis on the Glee phenomenon and I think gay men standing against blatant stereotypes is paramount over cooing at a three letter word.
     

  • Patrick

    And yet, I find Kurt to be VERY representative of what a lot of youth go through.  Hell, I identify with him frequently.  You do not speak for the entire population.  

  • Larry S

    I think as a gay writer and as a gay person, you sometimes see the situation and you think it is appropriate… As a gay person, I did not find that offensive because I think he was trying to create a visual element of the story.  However, if was a standalone term, then it would be offensive. 

    What you have to understand about the F word is that when it is written to be mean then it needs to be a cause for alarm.

    Finally, the biggest problem with Glee is that I find the characters too feminine and I don’t see how Blaine could find Kurt even remotely attractive.

    It would make more sense if Blaine and Dave Karofsky got together over Blaine and Kurt.  It just does not make sense.

  • Larry S

    Hate is very subjective and I do not feel this author meant the F word as a hate, more as a section of the new and every expanding Gay Community.

    I realize by his use of the term, it could lead others to use it for their hate filled rants.  However, in this case, I do not feel his intentions were that of hate.

  • Tucker Walden

    freedom of speech….only as long as no one is offended…

  • I’m gay… who cares? Its a word. If you don’t like their use of it don’t read their publication.

  • Reynaldo Rivera

    i remember the comment from dame edna on spanish being the language of the gardener .i dont remember if glaad said anything about that..

  • Reynaldo Rivera

    i remember the comment Dame Edna made in in Vanity Fair on Spanish being the language of the gardener…i don,t remember did GLAAD said anything about that?

  • Harley Rae Peyre

    You are right. You burn bundles of sticks and cigarettes. Now lets take a quick look at what history has to offer us and see what kind of horrid persecution the gay community has endured. Google Homosexuality in the Holocaust.
    As far as you thinking straight people can use it, then im sure you think its okay for a white person to drop the N-bomb right?

  • pdxuser

    I always feel a little bad for the targets of GLAAD, because GLAAD never offers an inch of public understanding, always a mile of public condemnation and demands. (Whether their tone is different in private, I don’t know.) But there is a reason GLAAD operates the way it does: it’s effective. At this time last year, professional athletes knew there would be no consequence for tossing around the word “fag.” Now, they know there will be. Sure, Kobe may have gotten some outsized outrage for that particular incident from GLAAD and Twitter, given that he and others had routinely gotten away with the same thing for years, but now everyone is keenly aware that they can’t throw that term around. That’s effective.

  • Mark Mann

    see my other post where i stated “i dont feel he made a bad word choice at all…much like african americans and the n word…if we can refer to ourselves as fags(my friends and i do it all the time) then straight people can refer to us in the same tone…”  if you’re black and you dont want a white person using that word…then you yourself shouldnt use it…same with us gays and that word…if we dont want straight people using it…then we shouldnt use it…far as gay history, i’m not some punk teenager that is gay doesnt understand what gays went through during the holocaust, or stonewall…i am very up on my gay history…i just want equal rights, not special rights…and using a word that we dont let people of other ilk use, is asking for special rights

  • Censorship at the hands of the literal-minded. This homo (my comment would probably be removed if I dared refer to myself as anything saucier) is offended. Do you really think Vanity Fair is homophobic? Do you think the writer, the gay dude, is homophobic? Vanity Fair should not have kowtowed to these GLAAD thugs.

  • What about the “foam” part.  Off to the urban dictionary.  Rick Santorum says gay people caused the recession.  Better get to work on that one.

  • they are fags

  • ultrazilla2000

    Since when is it overtly feminine guys with only other feminine guys?  I know plenty of “middle road” or butch (though Blaine is NOT butch!) men who like the more “festive” men.  Both characters have a passion and talent for singing, sometimes that’s all it takes to make a spark.  Stop using such silly stereotypes!