Let’s be honest here, there are many movies and television shows that we watched when we were kids would not be allowed today. Many old movies and TV programs are full of racists, misogynistic, and homophobic themes and stereotypes that would cause an absolute uproar today. The most recent of these to come under fire is comedian Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Millennials are calling out the 1994 hit for its trans and homophobic scenes, and for body shaming, to say the least.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective was an instant hit when it was released in 1994. Many consider it to be actor Jim Carrey big break. After that film, Carry’s career really seemed to skyrocket. His performance in Ace Ventura was, undoubtedly, incredible. What wasn’t so incredible, as we are seeing now, is how offensive some of the material is. (1)
Now that the movie has returned to Netflix, many millennials are watching the movie again. This time, however, they are watching it as adults and with a bit of a different lens. They have realized that, sadly, one of their favorite childhood movies is actually grossly homophobic and transphobic.
If you haven’t watched the movie (and want to), we will warn you now that the scene that has caused the most alarm is the climax – the big reveal at the end of the film. That is to say that if you are concerned about spoilers, consider this your spoiler alert: We are about to reveal the movie’s big surprise.
The big reveal at the end of the film is that Detective Einhorn (Sean Young) is actually the bad guy Ray Finkle in disguise. Finkle had been disguised as a woman the entire time and had some relations with Ace. When Ace figures it out, he spends a whole scene reacting in horror because he had kissed a man. He then strips Detective Einhorn down to her underwear and reveals that she is actually Finkle, a man, to the police. The police then react in the same manner that Ace did.
There is so much wrong with this scene, it’s hard to know where to begin. For starters, it is slut-shaming and objectifies Sean Young’s body. Obviously the even bigger themes there are how incredibly trans- and homophobic the scene is.
This movie was made in the early 90s, when jokes about being gay or trans were rampant. While the conversations surrounding being part of the LGBTQ+ community were starting to change, in Hollywood they were much further behind. At best, homosexual characters were made to be stereotypes and side characters only. At worst, being gay, lesbian, or trans was made to be a joke or, even worse, a danger to society. Something terribly bad that people should try and stay away from.
Many of us were only children when the movie came out and didn’t necessarily have the capacity to understand why Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is offensive. That doesn’t mean that everyone was sitting around saying “well, it’s just a sign of the times!”. Quite the opposite, actually. In fact, people actually protested the film because of it’s trans- and homophobic themes. Some even wrote this open letter to the LA Times explaining why the film was so offensive. (2)
“I don’t laugh at characters that behave as though homosexuality is revolting and subhuman. There are at least four such “jokes,” including one montage where Ventura discovers that he has kissed another guy and runs into a shower to cleanse himself. Ha, ha, hmmm,” wrote one person. “How unfortunate that even with Hollywood’s recent strides toward gay tolerance, it still spits out such insulting, insecure “entertainment.”
“The clear message that comes across is that to be “cool” like Ace includes despising anything remotely homosexual, an attitude that leads to discrimination and condones physical violence against gays.” wrote another letter contributor.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is not the only older movie that can be most politely described as incredibly outdated. Others include Breakfast At Tiffany’s, which has been called racist over its use of yellowface. This is because the film made a white actor look like an Asian man to play a role that was incredibly stereotyped and offensive. (3)
American Beauty involves a grown man fantasizing about a teenage girl, and Driving Miss Daisy has a white person telling a black man’s story. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Dumbo, and many other Disney classics have many complicated racist themes.