SXSW: Will Ferrell’s ‘Get Hard’ Stirs Controversy With Gay, Racial Jokes

Kevin Hart introduced his latest comedy “Get Hard” at SXSW on Monday night by telling fans to give him their reviews on Twitter. “If you don’t like it,” Hart said with a sarcastic bite, “what I want you to do is go in the middle of the street and kill yourself.” His co-star Will Ferrell added that he wasn’t as involved with social media. “Send me handwritten notes,” Ferrell said. “Hopefully, on nice stationery.”

He might be getting a lot of mail. “Get Hard,” which Warner Bros. opens on March 27 , is packed with gay and racial jokes that had the audience in Austin laughing and cringing at the same time.

At the post-screening Q & A, a member of the audience stepped up to the mic and told director Etan Cohen: “This film seemed racist as f–.” Cohen look stunned as he stumbled for an answer about the film’s numerous jokes about African Americans. “The truth is, that was a delicate balance to find,” Cohen said. “When we were testing the movie, Ferguson was going on. It was hard to modulate … how far to push it.”

“Get Hard” may be the most high-profile comedy ever made about the subject of prison rape. Ferrell plays an L.A. millionaire who’s arrested on embezzlement charges, so he enlists the help of a stranger (Hart), whom he mistakes for a former convict, to help him toughen up and avoid being raped in jail.

What follows is a string of envelope-pushing gags, including a scene where Hart impersonates a Hispanic prisoner named Carlos and rattles off a list of racial stereotypes. In another one of the film’s more controversial moments, Ferrell turns to a white supremacist organization — called the Alliance of Whites — for protection (“I’m a big-time racist,” Ferrell says). That exchange takes place after Hart orders Ferrell to use a racial slur. “Call me the N-word,” Hart says, and he tricks Ferrell to say it by mistake.

The film is just as callous when it comes to gay jokes. As part of his prison-prep routine, Ferrell decides to try to perform oral sex on a guy, and he takes an older gentleman into a bathroom stall. “I’m going to suck your d–,” Ferrell says, but he’s so disgusted by the thought, the scene will feel homophobic to some viewers. Another running joke has Ferrell shove objects up his anus.

At the Q&A, the crowd in Austin didn’t let Cohen (who wasn’t joined by his stars) shrink away that easily. A second member of the audience wanted to know if the comedy was funny or perpetuating stereotypes. “When you do satire, that’s a big problem,” Cohen said. “That’s a dangerous thing. It’s a very small window — that’s what we’re trying to find.”

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  1. tevra1 says:

    defending this POS displays white privilege

  2. Madeline Althoff says:

    I think this is all ridiculous. There are no “gay jokes” in this film. Men raping men in prison has nothing to do with gay men at all. Nothing. Rape is violence, not sex. The vast majority of men raping men in prison are straight. It has nothing to do with being gay. It’s simply about men being caged up like animals and there not being any women for them to rape, so they rape men. Prison rape is NOT gay sex.

    I didn’t see anything anti-gay about this movie. The gay people in the movie were perfectly nice people eating in a restaurant. Kevin Hart’s character even becomes friends with the man who sits down at his table. It’s perfectly reasonable for a straight man to not want to perform oral sex on a man. It’s quite reasonable for anyone to be afraid of being raped.

    I thought the movie was hysterical. I actually thought it was a really excellent portrayal of white people’s unconscious racism. Will Ferrell’s character is obviously not a racist like the white supremacist bikers, but he has a lot of unconscious racist ideas, and I think it makes it pretty obvious for people to see. It’s a great movie. I recommend it.

  3. frodomacsqueezy says:

    C’mon people … this is 2015 for pete’s sake … gay jokes and black jokes are strictly verboten … you are only allowed to hate on white people now, preferably white males, with a steady job, between the ages of 18 to 35. Everything else is strictly off-limits ….

  4. Bill B. says:

    I hate movies in which every character in it is stupid doing stupid things, but that seems to be what the masses want. Over and over again. There is very little wit or intelligence anymore in American comedies. On top of that, this sounds as offensive as anything I’ve heard of lately.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Comedy is best when it has some bite. The best comedy can tend to make people squirm as well as laugh, which is a reason Lenny Bruce is considered an icon.

    I’d like Mel Brooks to be proven wrong, and that something like Blazing Saddles could be made today.

  6. JimmyFitz says:

    Ummmmm, Comedy….Jokes….WTF is wrong with these idiots? If you can’t laugh at jokes of your ilk, your life is over. Grow a brain.

  7. Chris says:

    Of course, they play safe by having Ferrell propose giving head to “an older gentlemen,” to make it more disgusting to the delicate sensibilities of the straight guys in the audience. It would have been more daring if he had offered the same service to a Taylor Lautner type.

  8. Mitch says:

    No umpteenth GLAAD award will be given out for this film, and so what? Sometimes a sophmoric comedy is just that. I’ll see it, and I am sure I will laugh, because I won’t be going with my panties already twisted in a bunch looking out with eyes of an eagle for the slightest thing that might offend me so I can complain about it later.

  9. Briang9581 says:

    If you agree to watch a movie entitled, “Get Hard”, you relinquish any right to complain.

  10. Roy says:

    The usual adolescent humor that Will Farrell trades in. Frat boys everywhere will find it funny. Everybody else, not so much.

  11. Jacques Strappe says:

    Maybe not racist or homophobic in this supposed comedy but it all sounds lamer than lame which is the most offensive outcome coming from 2 talented and funny guys like Farrell and Hart. This is the best they can come up with, tired racist and gay stereotype jokes. Why not throw in some fart jokes, too–they always seem to resonate with the man/boys with the brains of a 10 year old. That’s very sad. As far as nothing being off limits in comedy, I don’t disagree but unpredictable timing with current events makes racist and homophobic humor a tenuous endeavor. Making these types of jokes as a form of social commentary is one thing but just making these types of jokes with no other purpose than to be vulgar and offensive for laughs is quite another.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t know when you think a good time for race/sex humor would be… the issues never go away, they just get more or less attention based on current events.

  12. Jimmy Green says:

    another desperate attempt at humor but in reality just an exercise in juvenile movie making by “grown men” trying to appear relevant.

  13. Juan Carlos says:

    This is just a lie, no one was cringing in the theater. The entire place was bursting with laughter, the only time the audience cringed was when that pretentious douche got up and said it was racist as f***. However he did say it was also hilarious, convenient that you bend the truth to frame the story to fit your agenda.

  14. Comparing Blazing Saddles to this Odious Clunker is a ‘stretch’- which BTW was a fun little film..

  15. Truth Teller says:

    There is no story here, so there shouldn’t even be an article acting like there is.

    Almost anything is fair game in comedy UNLESS the jokes aren’t done for laughs, and ARE DONE INTENTIONALLY TO HURT very specific people or groups. Clearly that is not the case here unless some viewer decides to go way out of their way to believe Will Ferrell (one of the nicest people living in Los Angeles) is actually trying to hurt gays, Hispanics, the French, African Americans, etc.

    NEWS FLASH: He’s not!

    OBVIOUSLY the premise is a clueless rich white guy is going to prison, so they’re the joke at the heart of it all.

    IT’S NOT “HOMOPHOBIC” to have a straight guy be “so disgusted by the thought” of giving another guy oral sex. In fact, that’s exactly how most straight guys, bordering on all, would feel BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT GAY. How this could be even the tiniest bit controversial forgoes logic

    • Mickey says:

      Totally agree with you, Truth Teller. Every word.

      • Truth Teller says:

        @ BART
        You’re 100% correct and the fact that Blazzing Saddles would never be allowed to hit theaters today shows one way American society has gotten way worse.
        And Clevon Little and Richard Pryor were so much of the reason that film had great jokes and material that make it an all time classic!

        The PC Police should be let go without pensions!

      • Bart says:

        I’m sure the jokes from Blazing Saddles described out of context would sound exactly like this. There weren’t PC police back then or anyone telling you why you shouldn’t laugh at something. I guess Gene Wilder smearing shoe polish would be called “racist” and “insensitive” in our present climate. What no one seems to notice is how ridiculous the depiction of white people is in this stuff. Still, the filmmaker sounding like he had his tail between his legs implies he didn’t think about this enough and perhaps didn’t have the clearest intentions. I’m sure this isn’t another Movie 43/

  16. Lucy in the sky with diamonds says:

    Sounds hideous.

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