Electric Cars are Gay

October/12/2010 16:49PM
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Vince Vaughn said this line in a trailer for his new movie, The Dilemma. The trailer was re-done editing this out. Pressure was brought to bear quickly.

It struck me that a car named the Leaf was certainly different from the car names of my youth. Mustang, Charger, Thunderbird, etc. Muscle cars that had names that appealed to the connection young males had with their cars. Now, with the leaf, what is the connection?

Below is an article from Vanity Fair magazine. This author seems to take the Vaughn comment to a whole new level.

I, personally, belive electric cars are a bad idea. Since most of our electric power comes from coal and will for the foreseeable future, despite the wishes of the Obama administration and his EPA head, Lisa Jackson, there are far better alternatives to transportation dependence on foreign crude, like natural gas. GM is going to try to market the Volt, maybe better than Leaf, but still far from Mustang, and the jury is still out on the willingness of the public to buy the Volt, even with the heavy government subsidies to buy the car. For Hollywood to call an electric car gay is a big step. Amazing.

Universal Pictures found itself in on the receiving end of a steaming pile of Pink Rage this week, when both the Silver Ferret, Anderson Cooper, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) took it to task for a pejorative use of the word “gay” in the trailer of its upcoming movie The Dilemma. In the clip—and, one supposes, in the correlative movie—a character played by box office-Kryptonite Vince Vaughn is discussing consumer perceptions of electric cars and says “electric cars are gay.” He then goes on to qualify, piling insult on injury: “Not homosexual gay. But my-parents-are-chaperoning-the-dance gay.”

Shudder. At a time when numerous stars, pseudo-stars, and not-for-profit organizations like the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) are attempting—successfully, studies show —to change kids’ behavior with regard to using gay as a synonym for lame, ugly, moronic, or distasteful, the extraordinarily intentional use of the term in this way seems not only mean-spirited, douchey, and desperate, but formidably un-funny. (Sort of like Vince Vaughn!)

Yet as the author of a weekly gay car column here at VanityFair.com, I can almost hear the hear morons-who-love-to-intentionally-ignore-all-context asking So how come you get to call cars gay, and the blowhard bloat from The Frat Pack doesn’t? Well, for those of you who have never taken semiotics or been made to understand the basic underpinnings of the First Amendment, I’ll explain: All speech is not equal. It has different shades of meaning depending on who is saying it, in what condition and situation it is being delivered, who is in the intended audience, and whether or not it has objective humorous merit. When I’m writing about gay cars—and I always am—I’m talking jocularly, facetiously, and farcically about them actually being gay, as in, homosexual: handsome, well-designed, predatory, promiscuous, virile, muscular, and/or likely to be the lust object of an male, man-loving autophile. In this frame of reference, calling a car “gay” is not only specific, sarcastic, overtly nonsensical, and rooted in a particular community (mine, the gay one), it’s also, generally, complimentary, and (hopefully) comical. An overhyped, underperforming, straight actor calling electric cars “gay” solely as an insult, in yet another pathetic and doomed bromance flick, doesn’t meet any of these criteria. (Particularly when he’s playing a character we’re meant to like. If he was supposed to be a total a-hole, the situation might be different.)

Perhaps more important than any of this, creating and delivering insults for electric cars, in whatever form, is an increasingly lame and outmoded proposition. Production cars like the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, Fisker Karma, and my stalking partner the Tesla Roadster are already moving the bar of consumer perceptions toward the positive, practical, and sporty, and hot and hunky future vehicles like the Porsche 918, Audi E-Tron, and Jaguar C-X75 promise to continue that trend. As my friend Jamie Kitman recently wrote as his (winning) entry in a New York Times debate on electric vehicles, “the advantages [of EVs] are hugely relevant and undeniable.” He was talking mainly about their energy efficiency compared to the internally combusted. But add in quiet operation, projected enhancements in battery range and technology, and instant-on power—electric vehicles deliver all of their accelerative thrust the moment you hit the gas—and I’m confident we’re going to be jump-starting joules of consumer conversions in the next few years. The gays are known as early adopters—we pioneered urban revitalization, disco, and manscaping, to name just a few major societal innovations—so I’m grabbing this one back from Mr. Vaughn. I’d like to state for the record: Electric cars are gay. As in homosexual. And this is no insult; it’s a pink-and-green rallying cry. So watch this space in the next few months for more extensive electric-vehicle coverage.

[Hat-tip to Ray Wert.]

Brett Berk writes gaily about culture, politics, and cars for VF.com, and is the author of The Gay Uncle’s Guide to Parenting. Visit him at www.brettberk.com or follow him on Twitter.

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