On Tuesday, the celebrity-gossip site TMZ made its best attempt to bring down the career of yet another Hollywood star. This time, however, their plan may have backfired.
Jonah Hill, most well-known for his roles in Superbad, 21 Jump Street, Moneyball, and The Wolf of Wall Street, was taking a break from promoting his upcoming role in 22 Jump Street by strolling along the streets of Los Angeles in somewhat questionable shorts. Seeing the potential wardrobe gaffe as a prime tabloid opportunity, paparazzi immediately descended upon Hill and his friends, attempting to derive some sort of reaction.
Hill's response to the paparazzi's antics was more than they could have wished for.
After calmly dealing with the harassment from some random dude for quite some time (And not even losing his cool when the paparazzi made a derisive comment about his shorts), Hill had had enough and spewed forth a phrase which is never acceptable to say: "Suck my dick, you faggot."
And thus the media fire-storm began. Fortunately for Hill, though, he had seen this sort of celebrity fiasco unfold before (*cough* Alec Baldwin *cough cough*) and knew exactly how to handle the situation.
Hill's first act of reparation came Monday on Howard Stern's radio show.
It was here that we first heard Hill's account of the story. Apparently the paparazzi had been following him around all day, saying terrible things about his family and constantly filming him. It was this constant annoyance that finally sent Hill over the edge and led to the use of the slur. Despite his aggravation, though, Hill admitted the fault of his actions:
“I’m not at all defending my choice of words, but I am happy to be the poster boy for thinking about what you say. And how those words — even if you don’t intend them in how they mean — they are rooted in hate, and that’s [expletive], and I shouldn’t have said that.”
Knowing that an apology on a satellite radio station was not enough, however, Hill decided to make amends once again during his appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
After explaining the paparazzi's actions once again, Hill explains what led him to spout the phrase he did:
In response, I wanted to hurt him back and I said the most hurtful word that I could think of at that moment. I didn't mean this in the sense of the word. I didn't mean it in a homophobic way. How you mean things doesn't matter. Words have weight and meaning. The word I chose was grotesque and no one deserves to say or hear words like that... My heart's broken and I genuinely am deeply sorry to anybody who's ever been affected by that term in their life... I know I’m usually funny and stuff, but this wasn’t funny, it was stupid, and I deserve the shit I’m going to get for it.
Except now, Hill most likely isn't going to receive any shit for his actions. If one peruses the comments on The Tonight Show's video posted on YouTube, one can see how many people now believe Hill is an outstanding guy for owning up to his actions and apologizing. One can even find plenty of people commending his actions over on Twitter.
— GLSEN (@GLSEN) June 5, 2014
Jonah Hill is on arguably the most sincere celebrity apology tour ever http://t.co/4F190HGPVb
— The AV Club (@TheAVClub) June 4, 2014
— Mamamia (@Mamamia) June 5, 2014
Peggy Drexler, an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University, even went one step further and wrote an article placing the blame for the phrase upon the paparazzi themselves.
Regardless of whether one accepts Hill's apology or not, it still seems as if everyone in the media is missing the boat. We all know Hill did not use the phrase because that is what he truly believes. (Hill has been a gay rights activist for quite some time) So, the question must be, why did Hill hurl the pejorative phrase at the paparazzi bully in his moment of intense frustration?
Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the United States is still an extremely patriarchal and heteronormative society where phrases such as the one Hill uttered are quite common and accepted. If one is inundated and inoculated with homophobic phrases on a daily basis, whether it be from family, friends, the media, or XBox Live, it becomes an accepted norm and is integrated into one's lexicon, whether one likes it or not.
So perhaps instead of focusing on whether or not Hill's apology is acceptable or which individual is responsible, the media should be focusing on the macro aspects of the phenomenon. But, if that was to happen, TMZ would have less material and would potentially cease to exist; and we all know how important TMZ is...
Image via YouTube