22 Jump Street star Jonah Hill is in major hot water after calling a paparazzo a homophobic slur. And while we detest the word and the fact that Hill used it, here’s why we’re inclined to accept his apology and chalk this ugly incident up to a seriously poor choice of words, not malice.
Historically, his actions have spoken louder than these words
We find it a tad hyperbolic to say, as one media outlet put it, that Jonah Hill “pulled an Alec Baldwin” or, as another put it, that he “went on a homophobic rant.” Unlike Baldwin, Hill doesn’t have a history of hurling homophobic slurs at people. As far as we can tell, this was an isolated incident and one in which he made an extremely poor and unfortunate choice of words.
However, as Hill referenced in his apology, he has been an outspoken supporter of the LGBT community in the past. In addition to being part of the Human Rights Campaign’s “Love Conquers Hate” initiative, Hill told E! of his activism, “I have tons of gay friends, gay family members. It’s like saying, ‘Why do you think people should breathe?’ I support anybody doing whatever they want to do to be who they are.”
Accordingly, he lamented that it “would break my heart that anyone would think, especially with all the work I’ve done and all the loved ones I have, that I would be against anyone for their sexuality.”
The paparazzi are ruthless
Like Hill says, the behavior of the paparazzi is no excuse for his own. However, we feel it merits mentioning in light of Hill being vilified by a paparazzi-friendly source that there is more to the story where the paparazzi are concerned.
“Now, you saw a 40-second video. This person had been following me around. Just to give it some context, not excusing what I said in any way,” Hill elaborated. “This person had been following me around all day, had been saying hurtful things about my family, really hurtful things about me personally. And I played into exactly what he wanted and lost my cool. And in that moment, I said a disgusting word that does not at all reflect how I feel about any group of people.”
We’d be willing to wager there was much more not included in the video that was very deliberately edited out (the footage seems pretty choppy to us).
Again, Hill’s response was extremely unfortunate and in no way excused by the paparazzi’s prodding. It does give a little context to his state of mind, though. “If you call me ugly, if you call family members of mine drug addicts and maniacs, I’m eventually going to lose my cool,” Hill said.
He started a dialogue about thinking before speaking
Almost immediately after TMZ released the video footage — within an hour — Hill apologized for the “heartbreaking situation” during an interview on Howard Stern’s Sirius XM Radio show.
“I’m not at all defending my choice of words,” Hill stated, “but I’m happy to be the poster boy for thinking about what you say and how those words — even if you don’t intend them — and how they’re rooted in hate, and that’s bulls*** and I shouldn’t have said that.”
Unfortunately, words like the one Hill used are all too frequently the fallback words in people’s derogatory vernacular — they’re used as interchangeable insults, without the person using them truly realizing that they are, in fact, “rooted in hate,” as Hill points out. This group of words includes terms like “retarded” and “b****”, which are heard so much in movies and media that their caustic meanings are lost on younger generations who haphazardly toss them about.
Which is why we were relieved to see Hill fess up and say, “I’m happy to take the heat for using this disgusting word.” Our hope is that out of this ugliness comes some good — that people will take a minute to think about how deep their words can cut before slicing away.
It’s pretty clear from the comments about Hill’s remarks that hate begets hate, and that is certainly something that needs to be addressed. One person reprimanding Hill for his behavior commented, “He put his foot in his mouth… it looks like he also put in pizza, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, tacos, fried chicken, french fries…” Another, who referred to Hill as a “hypocritical” bigot, went on to call him a “little porkchop.”
We would all do well to remember that bigotry applies to any person who regards the members of another group — whether they are gays and lesbians or “fat” people or any other manner of people — with hatred and intolerance.
Here’s the rub. We’d all like to believe that we would never, under any circumstances, utter a slur. But who among us hasn’t said something inappropriate or hateful that we wish we could take back? Something we sincerely didn’t mean, but that slipped out in the heat of the moment? We’re of the “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” camp.