Really, Liz Lemon? Am I the only one who thinks Tracy Morgan's homophobia shouldn't be comedy fodder?

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'tina_fey' photo (c) 2007, Andreas Matern - license: night’s episode of 30 Rock made like Law & Order and ripped a story from the headlines. It played on the real-life backlash against series star Tracy Morgan after he made violent, homophobic remarks during a summer stand-up performance in Nashville. In last night’s show, Morgan’s Tracy Jordan character mades a dumb remark about homosexuality during a performance and attracted the ire of the gay community. And then…um…comedy ensued?

I think the decision by Tina Fey, Morgan and the writers at 30 Rock to tackle this real-life controversy was a bad one. By doing so, they diminished Morgan’s earlier apologies and added insult to injury.

(Relevant content is at the beginning of the clip)
The problem is that last night’s 30 Rock appeared to be a defense of a good, but dimwitted guy, who sometimes says stupid things. The message seemed not just a defense of the Tracy Jordan character, but the real-life actor who plays him. The problem is that Tracy Morgan didn’t just perpetrate some thoughtless microaggression against gay people a la Jordan. (In the show, Jordan says if he were “turned into a gay” he would spend the day looking at his own “junk.”) Tracy Morgan said God didn’t make gay people because “God don’t make mistakes;” that gay people need to stop being such “pussies” and whining about bullying and violence against them; and that if his own son were to come out to him, he would “stab that little nigga to death.”

There was nothing silly and harmless about Morgan’s rant, but the 30 Rock story line encourages us to equate the two incidents. They are incomparable.

And I sensed a subtext in the narrative about how quickly groups are to take offense and launch protests in our “PC” society. After taking umbrage at Liz Lemon’s apology on his behalf that hinged on his idiocy, Jordan marshals his fellow idiots (including “guys who talk about diving all the time” and Denise Richards) against NBC. But again, in real life, the gay people and allies who spoke out against Morgan’s homophobia were not just being thin skinned. Morgan added to a culture of marginalization and violence against GLBTQ people. The implication is that organizations like GLAAD are indiscriminate and petty in the things they react to.

And I could write a whole ‘nother post on the stereotypical portrayal of gay men in this episode and Liz Lemon’s gender-neutral doll Terry–a gift from her new beau that came with a baby, a baseball mitt and interchangeable genitalia, that Liz referred to as “he/she.” So much fail.

I sense that 30 Rock’s writers felt they were indulging in equal-opportunity piss taking. But you know how I feel about equal-opportunity comedy. There are no two sides to be taken to task in the Tracy Morgan controversy–only one.

Now, Morgan did apologize for his stand-up debacle. He said (half-assedly):

“I want to apologize to my fans and the gay & lesbian community for my choice of words at my recent stand-up act in Nashville. I’m not a hateful person and don’t condone any kind of violence against others. While I am an equal opportunity jokester, and my friends know what is in my heart, even in a comedy club this clearly went too far and was not funny in any context.” Read more…

When asked about the controversy, Tina Fey said:

I’m glad to hear that Tracy apologized for his comments. Stand-up comics may have the right to “work out” their material in its ugliest and rawest form in front of an audience, but the violent imagery of Tracy’s rant was disturbing to me at a time when homophobic hate crimes continue to be a life-threatening issue for the GLBT Community.

It also doesn’t line up with the Tracy Morgan I know, who is not a hateful man and is generally much too sleepy and self-centered to ever hurt another person.

I hope for his sake that Tracy’s apology will be accepted as sincere by his gay and lesbian coworkers at 30 Rock, without whom Tracy would not have lines to say, clothes to wear, sets to stand on, scene partners to act with, or a printed-out paycheck from accounting to put in his pocket.

The other producers and I pride ourselves on 30 Rock being a diverse, safe, and fair workplace. Read more…

The idea that Morgan understands and is truly sorry for what he did, and that his friend and employer Fey does as well, is undercut by this episode that, I think, makes light of the incident and the people who were outraged by it.

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