“Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.” That’s what people used to say before jokes became the most dangerous game on the Internet. But these days, those who can’t take jokes aren’t content with just getting fucked. They want your head. They want your comedy badge revoked. They want clicks. Some have noble intentions, but the loudest ones surely do not. They need vindication for having made it through life without having an impure thought. They want to stay in college forever and write think pieces that over-think fart jokes.
There are so many truly offensive and horrible things in the world that it’s a shame that so many sharp minds are so easily outraged and so loud about it. The Tweet giveth, and the Tweet taketh away so frequently you can’t keep track anymore. The world is full of real racists, sexists, and homophobes — truly frightening fuckers who unapologetically revel in their intolerance. But you know what those people do? The real bastards?
They don’t make movies. They’re too dumb to write scripts. And if they ever get the balls to do stand-up, they’re booed out of the open mic. But in the lair of film, comedy, and television, the scrutinizing modern hipster isn’t far removed from the loonies who once burned Beatles albums.
It’s no revelation to say that the movies that made most of your comedy and filmmaking heroes who they are couldn’t be made today. The cultural climate is far too over-sensitive to savor the crass films of the ‘70s and ‘80s that pioneered so much of modern comedy. Did we just forget how to take a joke and how to realize when somebody is on our side (the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt backlash comes to mind)? We certainly forgot what satire is.
Take, for example, Just One of the Guys, a cheeky little role-reversal movie that’s celebrating the 30th anniversary of its theatrical release this week. It’s chock-full of sketchy gender politics and other taboos that would undoubtedly raise the hackles on Twitter’s PC police. But should outrage dictate the kinds of films we produce? If the PC snake doesn’t eat itself soon, we’re doomed.
Because no matter whether they’re Oscar winners or low-brow comedies, films reflect our values, politics, and social mores. They’re historical documents, to be viewed through the lens of the society that produced them and to illuminate all the progress we’ve made over the years. By bullying studios into eliminating any content that makes us uncomfortable, aren’t we, in some small way, whitewashing our history for future generations of filmgoers?
Here are a few examples of movies (part significant/part trash) that couldn’t be made today because of you, the Internet. And no, they’re not making the world a more humane and tolerant place. But if you drop all pretenses, you might just feel the relief of losing that stick that’s been wedged up your virtual ass.
Freebie and the Bean (1974)
Story: Two San Francisco cops (Freebie’s the rule breaker, Bean’s by the book) break a lot of rules and destroy half the city in their pursuit of a crime boss.
Crimes against political correctness: Alan Arkin plays a Mexican-American, and he’s not the one named “Freebie.” Valerie Harper gets to play Mexican-American, too. And atop of every Mexican racial slur in the book, the movie lets homophobic slurs fly and gives us a villain who’s inexplicably a cross-dresser. It’s jaw-dropping.
Why it should get a reprieve: For better or worse, it’s the prototype of the modern buddy-cop comedy, and James Caan and Arkin make a charming and psychotic pair. Plus, it packs in a truly dangerous car chase where you can feel the stuntmen being crippled, and Caan’s unhinged Freebie makes Dirty Harry look like Andy Griffith. —Roy Ivy
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Story: In an attempt to displace the denizens of Rock Ridge to build a new railroad, the evil Heddy Lamar hires a new town sheriff. He’s named Bart. And he’s black.
Crimes against political correctness: Unapologetic and frequent use of the “N” word, Native American and German stereotypes, horse punching, gay jokes, white male patriarchy with flatulence, and slurs against everybody imaginable, including Methodists.
Why it should get a reprieve: If you find Blazing Saddles racist, you weren’t paying attention. This movie is a balls-out assault on racism and American culture, and it’s got more fangs than farts. Few people can get away with using racist jokes as a weapon against racism, and Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor are in that small club. —Roy Ivy
Animal House (1978)
Story: Snobs try to throw the slobby Delta fraternity off campus. Delta fights back.
Crimes against political correctness: Racism! (“mind if we dance with your dates?”), potential date rape chased with statutory rape (“I’m only 13”), objectification of women, horse murder.
Why it should get a reprieve: Besides the stellar cast and wistful portrayal of college in the early ‘60s, Animal House earns its canonization due to: John Belushi smashing a folky’s guitar; John Belushi’s battle speech; every scene with John Belushi; Elmer Bernstein’s score; Harold Ramis’ script; Neidermeyer; “Food fight!”; the Deathmobile; inspiring “Homer Goes to College”; Donald Sutherland’s ass. Oh, it’s lost a lot of magic over the last 38 years, and you can blame it for all of life’s toga parties, stupid “College” T-shirts, and dents on your forehead from crushing beer cans. But, like Belushi, you can’t help but love it, even when it burps and spits eggs in your face. —Roy Ivy
Story: When food poisoning takes down the crew of Flight 209, it’s up to a shaky ex-fighter pilot, Ted Striker, to save the day.
Crimes against political correctness: African-American stereotypes (jive talking), African stereotypes (basketball in the jungle), the effete comic relief of Johnny, insensitivity towards alcoholism/PTSD/drug abuse, child endangerment, child molestation jokes, objectification of women, violence against women, religious intolerance, balloon fellatio.
Why it should get a reprieve: There’s no message. There are no ill intentions. Just a nonstop tsunami of laughs and quotable quotes that never lets up if you just give in. Much like your grandfather, Airplane! is raunchy, but lovably old-fashioned. If you want to beat up on Airplane!, you might as well ban Mad magazine and prosecute the corpses of Ernie Kovacs and Milton Berle. —Roy Ivy
Story: Nerdy Barney (Scott Baio) develops telekinetic powers in a lab incident, and he uses them to get back at bullies and get laid.
Crimes against political correctness: Non-stop objectification of high school girls (sure, they’re all played by 30-year-olds), gender and racial stereotypes, statutory rape by a guidance counselor, animal abuse (getting rats stoned).
Why it should get a reprieve: As telekinetic stoner comedies go, this one’s better than most Cheech and Chong affairs. It’s a kids movie at heart (I sure loved it when I was seven) that shows you what it’s like to be horn-dogged by the cast of Charles in Charge. It’s Carrie with a boner that’s been lubed with Flubber, and you gotta give it credit for that. And I’ll take the scene when a stoned Scatman Crothers goes biking with Albert Einstein over Neil Patrick Harris on a unicorn any day. —Roy Ivy
Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
Story: Bespectacled college students Gilbert (Anthony Edwards) and Lewis (Robert Carradine) get kicked out of their dorm and tormented by the Alpha Beta fraternity, so they lead a ragtag group of nerds on a mission to exact, well, revenge.
Crimes against political correctness: #YesAllWomen haven’t been body shamed (those poor Omega Mu gals), harassed, or tricked into having sex with one of these nerds (Seriously, Lewis, wearing a mask and pretending to be a sorority girl’s boyfriend? Not cool.), but enough have been to cause a stink.
Why it should get a reprieve: Like Animal House before it, this is a crass college comedy, so it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. But if you can look past the panty raids, there’s a fine little anti-bullying, be-yourself-kids message thrown in here. Plus, from a socio-historical perspective, I’m pretty sure Revenge of the Nerds inspired a whole generation of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to price poor people out of San Francisco and create robots to take our jobs. Well played, nerds. —Adriane Neuenschwander
Story: Venkman, Stantz, and Spengler bust ghosts; busting makes them feel good.
Crimes against political correctness: A 75% white male cast; elder abuse (Peter Venkman asks an elderly lady if she’s menstruating), attempted date rape (“no” means “no,” Peter Venkman, and why do you carry 300ccs of Thorazine around with you?); sexist language; sexism towards the elderly (well, prehistoric); anti-EPA agenda; possibly responsible for global warming.
Why it should get a reprieve: Because it’s Ghostbusters, and you can’t please everybody. Good luck, Paul Feig. —Roy Ivy
Just One of the Guys (1985)
Story: Teenage sexpot Terry Griffith (Joyce Hyser) goes undercover as a boy, so she’ll be taken seriously as a journalist. With help from her perverted little brother, Buddy (Billy Jayne), she dupes the whole high school, only to find out that her writing sucks no matter what her sex.
Crimes against political correctness: The film’s directed by a woman, Lisa Gottlieb, but you wouldn’t know that from all the lingering close-ups on Terry’s ass and boobs. In fact, this whole movie sexualizes teens in a dry-heave-inducing way. The teachers joke about holding back the pretty girls just to watch them develop more, instances of statutory rape are implied more than once, and then there’s the character of Buddy. Buddy is one of filmdom’s grossest horndogs, constantly sexually harassing his classmates and ogling Playboy centerfolds.
Why it should get a reprieve: Just One of the Guys means well. It’s trying to show us that women are equal to men, that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and all sorts of feel-good cliches. Plus, the movie is surprisingly progressive when it comes to same-sex relationships. Terry’s best friend thinks he/she’s gay and doesn’t mind. And when Terry outs herself as a woman, the girl she recently made out with (Sherilyn Fenn) also doesn’t seem to mind. Hell, even William Zabka, as the requisite bully, never hurls the macdaddy of gay slurs at the waifish he-Terry, though you expect him to at every turn. Nope, even the bully hates Terry for who he/she is, not for what he/she is. And that’s a step in the right direction. —Adriane Neuenschwander
Soul Man (1986)
Story: Mark (C. Thomas Howell) gets accepted into Harvard, but he can’t afford it. So naturally, he decides to overdose on tanning pills until he’s dark enough to pass as African American. That way he can apply for — and win — a blacks-only scholarship.
Crimes against political correctness: This movie’s actually as bad as it sounds, despite the inexplicable appearance of James Earl Jones as Professor Banks and the even more inexplicable remake of the song “Soul Man” by Lou Reed. Given all this, it’s entirely explicable that the film’s distributor has swept it under the rug. In fact, it’s almost impossible to find this doozy on DVD, Netflix, or television nowadays.
Why it should get a reprieve: After all his jive-talking shenanigans, I think that Mark learns a lesson in the end. Like, it’s not as easy as you think to be black in today’s society, or something along those lines. If nothing else, Soul Man acts as a shameful historical document, a glimpse into the horrible mindset of coked-up ‘80s movie execs during the Reagan years. It presents a world where rich white kids aren’t rich enough to pay for ivy league schools, so they wear black face to steal affirmative-action benefits. Shame on you, Gipper. —Adriane Neuenschwander
Monster Squad (1987)
Story: Preteen horror nerds discover that a group of real-life monsters are about to wage war on humanity, and only they can stop it.
Crimes against political correctness: If this movie was released today, parents’ groups would demonize it, and NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre would build a shrine to it. But back in the late ‘80s, director Fred Dekker and screenwriter Shane Black weren’t constrained by today’s hot-button gun debate. That’s why Monster Squad features children armed to the teeth with stakes, crossbows, and shotguns. These kids are constantly in real danger, not only from their own arsenals but from Dracula, who hurls dynamite at them and even picks an 8-year-old girl up by the throat while calling her a “little bitch.” These kids curse, they body shame their fat friend, they use gay slurs, they peep on half-naked chicks. These are badass, violent little shits — the kind that could only exist in a movie released prior to Columbine.
Why it should get a reprieve: Let’s face the facts: these kids act like real kids. I live next to a junior high, and I’ve heard language coming from that playground that I couldn’t repeat to Andrew Dice Clay without blushing. Like all Shane Black scripts, this movie crackles with wit and quotable lines (“Wolfman’s got nards!”). And because it has the balls to arm its young protagonists and put them in actual jeopardy, the film’s action sequences are actually exciting — in a Die Hard way, not just a Goonies way. In an age where audience oversensitivity is forcing filmmakers to neuter their art, maybe we need more movies like Monster Squad. We need movies that push our buttons, make us reconsider our preconceptions, and ultimately win us over with an exceptionally told story. In other words, we need more movies with nards. —Adriane Neuenschwander