A Plague on Both Your Houses: Freddy vs. Jason, Lawrence v. Texas, and the slur heard round the world

The Scene in Question

“All we can tell you is…we didn’t write it, and we were really shocked when we heard it in the movie. We complained about it after the first screening, but it was never changed. It’s a real stain on the movie, in our opinion.” – Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, the screenwriters for Freddy vs. Jason.

Freddy vs. Jason was released in August 2003. Early 2003 was a time of increasing acceptance for the LGBTQ community. That is until the landmark Lawrence v. Texas in June 2003 which led to the Supreme Court striking down the remaining anti-sodomy laws on the books – making gay sex legal across the United States.

Although it was a victory against discrimination, it came at the cost of reminding heterosexual people that their Sassy Gay Friend did more than just attend brunch and help them polish their appearances. They also had gay sex. And any buried or unburied revulsion at that thought had been freshly dug up in minds and research polls across America. Murmurs of a push for gay marriage began swirling. Most of that anti-gay rhetoric implied LGBTQ people shouldn’t even attempt to push for gay marriage lest they ruin the slim progress made with the Lawrence ruling.Support for gays rights took its first big dive in polls in years:

(Note: this information is from 2008 – so the “where it remains today” is referring to 10 years ago. Source: Gallup).

This is the setting Freddy vs. Jason was released in.

The horror genre has numerous queer fans but suffers from homophobia and particularly transphobia just like every other genre. And lets face it – Freddy vs. Jason wasn’t going to win any accolades for a progressive or nuanced depiction of anything. For the most part it was a silly and gory and as shoddily plotted as one expected for a fan service cash grab. Yet despite knowing exactly what to expect from this film, hearing Kelly Rowland’s character Kia call Freddy a faggot felt like a record skip – it was hard to believe they went in that direction.

Kia is a hard-to-like character throughout the film. Casting Kelly Rowlands was an easy way to increase the audience thanks to the success of Destiny’s Child. One would assume a popular singer would play a relatively likeable character since most crossover stars wouldn’t want a film character to tarnish the reputation they strive to build. But Kia is a tough character to fully like – she is abrasive towards her friends and seemingly unable to take a joke directed back at her in return for her jabs. It isn’t unusual for teen characters in slashers to be unpalatable to most audiences, but it is hard to know if Kia is meant to be a character we are amused or annoyed by. When she makes the choice to taunt Freddy, she is heroically distracting him from her friends so they can attempt to subdue him once and for all.

Freddy is in standard form with cringeworthy quips like “how sweet…dark meat.” Some viewers might argue Kia is simply giving him a dose of his own medicine. But Kia’s use of the slur feels like an escalation of the verbal taunts – one somebody on the film decided would go over well with audiences.

The fact that the screenwriters find it to be offensive enough to say it was a stain on the film indicates viewers did not take kindly to the line. The We Hate Movies Podcast Episode 221 has a discussion on how cringeworthy the line is around 82:36.

Some articles on the subject took cheap shots at the moment by claiming Jason deserved GLADD recognition for promptly murdering Kia after she said it. Comments like that ignore that Kia is the one character in the situation who is meant to be the everyday person as opposed to one of the psychotic killers.

So who put the line in and kept it? Kelly Rowland obviously said it. Any information I could find regarding her views on LGBTQ issues seem vague but slightly positive. Robert Englund mentions in the film commentary that she was jet lagged, exhausted, and in good spirits after just finding out she had a top hit the day the scene was filmed. He doesn’t comment on the line itself. Ronny Yu is the director so he was on board with the line but did he suggest it? It seems no one wants to admit to it but one has to wonder if that is only because it wasn’t received well.

The movie was shot in October 2002 before Lawrence v. Texas really took hold as a national news story on 2003 – leading me to believe it was just an intriguing coincidence that public opinion on gay rights declined right around the film’s release. It would be interesting to know if there were multiple takes with and without the line and if editing determined if it would make the cut.

The silver lining in the line’s inclusion is the fact that so many viewers are bothered by the line. The film was released following a groundbreaking moment in LGBTQ history and renewed interest in the struggle for gay rights. If mass media is a reflection of the culture it is created in, this reflection showed viewers an ugly truth about themselves they did not like.

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