Academy Awards Shakeup

Brett Ratner

Film director Brett Ratner has resigned in disgrace as producer of the telecast for the 84th Academy Awards following his use of a gay slur and a sexually raunchy interview earlier this week on the Howard Stern radio program, in which he boasted about his “big balls” and sexual prowess with women. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which sponsors the Oscars, released the following statement: “Brett Ratner submitted his resignation as a producer of the 84th annual Academy Awards to Academy President Tom Sherak. Ratner then issued an open letter to the entertainment industry in which he explained his decision.” In a public apology for saying at a q+a session following a screening of his new film TOWER HEIST on Friday night that “rehearsing is for fags”, he declared that “being asked to help put on the Oscar show was the proudest moment of my career. But as painful as this may be for me, it would be worse if my association with the show were to be a distraction from the Academy and the high ideals it represents.”

Academy President Tom Sherak commented that “he did the right thing for the Academy and for himself. Words have meaning, and they have consequences. We all hope this will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the harm that is caused by reckless and insensitive remarks, regardless of the intent.” Ratner has pledged to work with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to host a series of public discussions about anti-LGBT jokes and slurs in films and on television. Don Mischer, who was hired with Ratner to produce the awards, remains on board. In a late development on Wednesday, actor Eddie Murphy announced that he is dropping out as the host of the Oscars telecast, less than 24 hours after Ratner stepped aside.  amid a storm of criticism over his use of an anti-gay slur over the weekend. The hasty departures represent an embarrassing collapse of the Academy’s plans for the Oscar presentation and left it with just over three months to fill key roles for one of the most elaborately staged television shows of the year.

The brouhaha is an opportunity for the industry and its spokespeople to examine the effect of offensive gay jokes and insensitive slurs. It is also a testament to the fact that gay slurs are no longer acceptable and that there are repercussions for those of limited minds who casually insult and hurt members of the gay community.

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