Last week, I finally got around to watching The Wolf Of Wall Street. I thought it was a fine film – a bit too long and a bit too flamboyant, but a fine film. It had something to say, it was laugh out loud funny and its central performances were truly outstanding. I was as blown away by Leonardo DiCaprio as everybody else, but it was another character that really caught my eye. As crooked investment banker Donnie Azoff, Jonah Hill simply soars.
The thirty year old actor is fast becoming one of the hottest properties in Hollywood and it’s not hard to see why. With outstanding performances in Moneyball and The Wolf Of Wall Street now behind him, it’s hard to deny that Jonah Hill has come a long way since his breakout role in Superbad. He even looks different – Google Jonah Hill, cycle through the range of images and you’ll be astounded at how good he looks these days. The weight is gone, the glasses have disappeared and that scruffy, scrubby beard had been replaced with a Hollywood shave and a set of pearly whites.
As Donnie Azoff, Hill is a revelation. Whilst struggling with an absurd set of fake teeth and a series of denim outfits so eighties, they’d make Ralph Lauren blush – Hill manages to be almost unrecognisable, despite having one of the most recognisable faces on the planet. His voice is different, his mannerisms are alien – as far as character acting goes, he nails it. Now, for the bad news.
This burgeoning character actor is currently making headlines for all the wrong reasons. This week, TMZ released a video which showed him yelling at paparazzi to ‘Suck my dick, faggot’ – cue a hasty public apology and a promise never to use such inflammatory language again. Now, I don’t believe that Jonah Hill is a homophobe and I don’t believe he used the word ‘faggot’ as a gay slur. There is no evidence to suggest either of the two photographers were gay, nor is there any evidence to suggest that Hill did anything but get pissed off and make a lazy decision to use a lazy, harmful word.
I actually feel pretty sorry for the guy. He’s been forced to do the obligatory walk of shame, the endless run of television
appearances reminding people that he’s sorry and that he genuinely loves gay people, he always has done. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again – it’s nothing new, but it is difficult to know just how far this curious brand of public humiliation should be allowed to go.
How guilty is Jonah Hill, even if he didn’t use the word ‘faggot’ as a gay slur? He was certainly aware of its connotations, of the fact that it is still considered to be a homophobic term. He claims to have no issue with gay people, but he used the word ‘faggot’ as an insult. He did it knowingly and seemingly without much thought. Does it really matter whether he intended to use the word as a homophobic slur, if went ahead and used it anyway?
This is one of those moral quandaries that really gets me thinking. I sympathise with Jonah Hill, I do – I believe that, like lots of words, the term ‘faggot’ has changed and will continue to change. In ten years time, there’s every chance that it might not be the derogatory term it is now and that would be brilliant. We cannot and should not want to put a halt to the evolution of language. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the word faggot, cunt or nigger – they’re just words, just sounds on the tongue that we can change in any way and at any time that we choose.
To be afraid of a word, is to accept the notion that it can hurt you.
I’m glad that the word ‘faggot’ is used so frequently these days. The more the word is used, the less fear there will be and eventually, calling somebody a ‘faggot’ will be no more offensive than calling somebody a ‘queen’ or a ‘fairy’ – eventually, it’ll be nothing more than another lazy word, used by lazy people with small vocabularies. It won’t have any power to hurt, because it won’t be shocking and it won’t be taboo.
That being said, I’m glad that Jonah Hill hasn’t gotten away with his foolish rant. I don’t like the fact that he’s now being labelled as a homophobe, after using one silly word. Yet, he should know – he and all the other Hollywood stars, with their dollar lined pockets – that money and fame don’t give you a pass. If your career is entirely reliant on the fans who made you, it’s not much to ask that you set an example for the rest of us. It’s not much to ask that you think before you speak, that you choose your words carefully and that you live with an awareness of your actions.
We all get pissed off and say stupid things from time to time – it’s the only thing that Hill is guilty of here, if we’re being honest. The difference between Jonah Hill getting pissed off and using a foolish word in public and a housewife with three kids doing the exact same thing, is the fact that he gets paid to watch his tongue. Those fancy cars, that big house, that supermodel girlfriend – I think they’re probably worth forcing a smile or two for the paparazzi, at least until you’re home.
Then, you’re free to unleash a bit of a linguistic belter – “I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”
What do you think? Is Jonah Hill guilty of more than a foolish tongue?