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66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)

I’d just sat down to watch The Bourne Ultimatum before deciding that someone who, two minutes prior had turned on their porcelain air diffuser and neon ‘love’ sign so that the ‘ambience was just right’, shouldn’t be watching something that, just from looking at the poster, should come with a punch in the face and a copy of The Sun. Here at GAY TIMES we have breaking news. As always, we come to you with the hard-hitting stories of heterosexual inadequacy, and today is no different.

Matt Damon, star of the aforementioned testosterone fest that are the Bourne films, has recently cropped up in the news for being what many just simply consider to be a human being. In an interview published this past weekend in The Sunday Times, he recalled a beautiful anecdote featuring his daughter, in which she schooled him on the usage of the F slur; one that is too often attributed to many a homosexual and frequently reclaimed as a three lettered badge of honour.

Recalling that it was just a ‘joke that he made’ in his 2003 ‘comedy’ film Stuck On You, he continued to explain how he hadn’t realised that the word itself was intentionally offensive to queer people. If I’m being honest, my main gripe with all of this is that the film Stuck On You has the strapline ‘brothers who stick together’, that is not in fact a subcategory on Pornhub. Baffling.

The crux of this story is that Matt Damon didn’t understand that ‘faggot’ was an offensive slur directed towards the LGBTQ+ community. It’s ignorance, but ignorance followed through with action, education and resolution. He didn’t realise it was wrong, listened to his daughter who told him it was, changed his behaviour and now doesn’t say the word. A thrilling tale of one man’s path to humility. It’s a non-story, but because the internet loves discourse and drama around language (see Fairytale Of New York), it’s spread evenly across every tabloid melting into readers’ minds. Mild hysteria ensues from all angles. Some can’t fathom the idea that a person has done something wrong, demanding that he now step down as a human man, and join Jeff Bezos on his next trip to the Moon to live out the rest of his years in shame at ever saying anything wrong. Others highlight his change in linguistic endeavours as akin to him using his mind to divert a meteor from hitting an elderly woman. A man reborn, shining as the picture of perfection.

Listen, we all love a news story that teeters with the idea that a famous household name is potentially falling from grace, but this (as I’ve heard the gays say) is not it. The headline should actually read ‘Man has embarrassing conversation with daughter, realises he’s wrong, changes his behaviour’. Instead, if you listen carefully you can hear Damon’s agent already on the phone with GLAAD to host their next benefit as Straight Man of the Year.

I asked some of the internet’s gayest people what they thought about the story, and if they’d have to take the day off work for compassionate leave after hearing the news.

Michael Chakraverty, Co-Host of podcast Menkind and writer, compared Damon to his Grandma.

“At least when my granny realised ‘lol’ didn’t mean lots of love, she had the grace to be embarrassed enough to keep it to herself. Unwittingly, she’d been sniggering through my heartbreak (‘sorry you didn’t get the job lol’) – but granted, the etymology of a simple lol hadn’t been top of her list,” he said.

“Faggot is far from a lol – it’s never been a term of endearment, which is why Damon’s ignorance is a bit of a surprise. He’s clearly never seen the annual Fairytale of New York outrage, or perhaps never met a gay person in real life. Regardless, let’s not laud him for doing the bare minimum. Progress should be so much more than dropping abuse from your vocabulary.”

GAY TIMES regular and host of MediaWatch, Shahmir Sanni, was outraged and had only one reasonable piece of advice for the film star to reclaim his career and prevent him from the inevitable cancellation. “If Matt Damon really wants to show that he understands why saying faggot is bad, he should release The Martian 2.”

Yes this is all hilarious to an extent, but we must also appreciate the context in which this conversation is happening. In a world where allyship is weaponised to sell movies and publicise tours, celebrities have magnetically formed themselves into all-singing, all-dancing allyship machines. Any slight comment that may be out of place from the early 00s on their dusty Bebo page is found and deleted in a manner that would even make Julian Assange gasp in gay shock.

But as I said at the beginning of this future Nobel Peace Prize-nominated piece of investigative journalism, my gripe isn’t with the straight white man for once. My gripe is with the media that have created an environment where men doing the bare minimum by apologising gives them the opportunity to publicly herald them as heroes when they admit their wrongdoing. If there was an Olympic sport for creating a culture where men being simply nice and not offensive means that they’re seen as Godlike figures, ‘The Media’ would be up there getting a hug from Clare Balding as it receives a gold medal.

Twitter Royalty and Gay Who Likes Football, Jack Remmington, echoed this, stating that it’s “so many layers of annoying how we hold celebrities on such a pedestal” and that the news coming out today that Damon never said the slur in the first place is “the ultimate gaslight” – which I do believe is Damon’s upcoming film starring him and Al Pacino, or potentially the name of a new fragrance.

All in all, it’s been an incredibly tough day here at GAY TIMES HQ on the Breaking News desk. I sit here withering away, dumbfounded and in awe at how the actions of mere straight men create headlines that are somehow bigger than ‘Tom Daley Knits Jumper’. It’s just another day on Planet Earth I guess.