When the trailer for the comedy film ‘Zoolander 2’ was released it was met with criticism as some felt that the depiction of the androgynous character played by Benedict Cumberbatch was problematic.
The scene features Cumberbatch playing an androgynous model called All, who is introduced to the film’s protagonists Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. Stiller asks, ‘Are you a male or female model?’ To which Cumberbatch replies, ‘All is all.’ Owen Wilson quickly jumps in to ask, ‘I think he’s asking if you have a hotdog or a bun?’
Some members of the LGBT+ community were quick to condemn the joke, claiming it to be awful and unfunny, stating that it pokes fun at the increasing amount of androgynous, transgender and non-binary models.
Following these accusations, and the launch of a petition to boycott the film, which is close to reaching it’s 25,000 target, the films writer, Justin Theroux has spoken out.
Theroux has insisted that he intended no offense towards the transgender community by including Cumberbatch’s androgynous character. ‘Our target is not, and never was to disenfranchise anyone,’ he said in an interview with The Wrap.
‘I don’t know what to make of it, because it hurts my feelings in a way. I take great care in the jokes that I write, and the umbrage being taken is out of the context of the scene. I wish people would see the movie first. Satire is a thing that points out the idiots, and we went through it on ‘Tropic Thunder’ with the ‘R word’.’
Theroux also wrote the script for the film ‘Tropic Thunder’, that received criticism not only for having a character in blackface for the majority of the film, but for the use of the word ‘retard’. Whilst both of these issues were raised as concerns at the airing of the trailer for ‘Tropic Thunder’, as like ‘Zoolander 2’, they were still hotly debated as being offensive after people had seen the film itself.
Talking about the ‘Tropic Thunder’ controversy, Theroux said; ‘The goal is not to mock or be cruel to the mentally challenged, but exalt in the stupidity of people who use the word. I’m all for letting words be ugly when the target is correct. With social media and all the rest of it, people’s issues need to be heard…at the end of the day people are looking for bandwidth. People are looking for places to inject their voice. But our target is not, and never was, to disenfranchise anyone.’
The petition against the film not only slams the jokes used as being offensive, but also points out that if the creators of the film wished to make a commentary on the presence of androgynous, transgender and non-binary people in the fashion industry they could have approached some of these real life models, such as Andreja Pejic, rather than cast a cis man in the role.
‘Zoolander 2’ is set for release in February 2016.