I recently re-watched an episode of Doctor Who. Chris Eccelstone, northern accent, brilliant. However, at the end of I was jolted out of my familiar, happy, sci-fi zone when I heard ‘that’s so gay’, not from a villain but from Rose Tyler, the moral, grounding influence (I say Rose Tyler rather than Billy Piper because it was the character that said it not the actress, if you catch my meaning).
In recent years I’ve had friends warn me against re-watching the shows I loved as a kid, ‘Don’t watch Friends, they’re so homophobic…fat shaming…whitewashed’ etc, because viewed through a modern lens we see how problematic they are. I’m sure there were plenty of people watching them first time round that realised this but as a young, straight, white girl it wasn’t until I re-watched them (yes I ignored the warnings), with a greater awareness of my privilege, that I saw it.
This links into this blog post about the changing nature of language from the Eng Lang Blog.
It includes some interesting graphs looking at how words like ‘awesome’ and ‘gay’ have changed their meanings over time and about what they mean to people of different ages.
Is this just an issue that crops up when we re-watched old TV programs?
I still have to pull students up for using gay as a pejorative (insult) and whilst many understand, after a moments reflection, how inappropriate it is to use someones sexuality as an insult, I still get my fair share of blank looks or ‘it’s only a joke’.
What’s your opinion? Have you heard the word ‘gay’ used as in insult?
Please comment below.