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You Might Have Loved These ‘Funny’ Movies, But They Are Actually Pretty Fucked Up

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Often, we don’t spare a second thought to the things we choose to laugh at, especially when it comes to mainstream visual media. There are so many “comedies” that, in the name of raking in cheap laughs (and commercial success), resort to extremely problematic rhetoric —often being sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist and so on. Here’s a list of 7 comedies that you may have thought were funny, but were actually far from it:

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007)

chuck and larry

In the hunt for problematic and downright offensive Adam Sandler movies, one is really spoilt for choice—but this one just takes the cake. In an attempt to increase his life insurance policy, a New York City firefighter Larry (Sandler) coerces a male colleague to enter a civil union with him, and eventually get married to keep up the ruse. But troubles arise when the straight pair is investigated by City officials, and along the way, have to also deal with homophobia. In theory, this could have been a great way for a straight man to realize the various hurdles a gay man has to face in his daily life. But no—instead, this film plays on age-old homophobic stereotypes, asserting again and again how, for two straight men, pretending to be a gay couple is lowering themselves to the most humiliating low imaginable. There is a constant reiteration of the “Having people think you’re gay is gross” trope, and there is also the “If you’re gay you have an excuse to be close to women” syndrome in the most disturbingly perverted manner. Just, stop already Adam Sandler.

The Hangover Part II (2011)


This franchise is already notorious for terribly insensitive jokes, but what makes this particular movie utterly repugnant is its horrifying transphobia. While on a trip to Bangkok, an intoxicated Stu (Ed Helms) has sex with a transsexual woman or “ladyboy”, and when he realizes the next morning while sober that she is not cis, he is so horrified that he exclaims, “I had sex with a dude with titties!!”—which is blatant misgendering, and is demeaning to ANY trans person. The joke here is supposed to be that though the woman is attractive, her penis makes her “disgusting” and that anal sex is the worst thing that can happen to a straight man. This view of trans women as sexual predators or deviants has been used in many films as a comedic device. When will Hollywood realize that this is decidedly not funny?

Norbit (2007)


For some utterly unfathomable reason, there was a period in the 2000’s when almost every famous black comedian decided it would be hilarious to dress up as an overweight woman and make sexist and body-shaming jokes (see also: the Big Momma franchise), and comedian Eddie Murphy was no less. He plays a triple role in this film, amongst which is a domineering overweight woman named Rasputia. There are enough jokes about her weight to make you want to scratch your eyeballs out, but as if that wasn’t enough, Murphy adds insult to injury by turning her into the most despicable human being possible, and a walking, talking stereotype. But even that isn’t the end—Murphy further adds to the disgusting quotient by also playing an old Chinese man while sporting yellowface. Why couldn’t you just stick to being Dr Doolittle, Eddie Murphy?

Aladdin (1992)


Disney’s history of whitewashing and cultural othering is a fact widely acknowledged by now, and this beloved classic is perhaps its biggest example.”Arabian Nights”, the opening musical sequence, states that Arabia is a place “where they cut off your ears, if they don’t like your face”—which is seriously messed up. This is just the beginning. Aladdin’s skin colour actually gets fairer (just, UGH) once he wins the heart of Jasmine and defeats the evil Jafar in the happily-ever-after conclusion. Also, Jasmine’s costume is socio-historically inaccurate, and serves more to objectify her rather than represent the times she lived in. How is this aimed at children?

Sex and the City 2 (2010)


While the Sex and the City TV show became a cult hit as the feminist comedy which articulated the experiences of life as a single woman in New York City, its film counterparts regressed a million steps back and turned these erstwhile complex characters into snobbish, entitled, first world whiners. The second film in the franchise is so glaringly problematic that this list would be woefully incomplete without it. In the movie, the four protagonists travel to Abu Dhabi for a vacation, where Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) takes issue with Arab women who wear abayas (black robes). She jokes about how hard it is to eat fried food (after one robed woman keeps lifting her veil to eat some french fries), constantly passes comments about their clothes, openly disapproves of their cultural traditions,and ever stops to invest in these women as people—reeking of sexism, racism and white privilege. So, in a movie that should have been about celebrating womanhood, they end up ridiculing and othering womanhoods that are not their own

Me, Myself and Irene (2000)


Jim Carrey can be problematic too, and this movie proves it. This film faced a lot of outrage from mental health groups when it released, and rightly so. In the movie, Jim Carrey’s character, after suffering from a phase of depression, develops a violent split personality called “Hank” who goes around attacking everyone who had previously wronged him. It perpetuates the common misconception that schizophrenia is a condition that’s only about developing multiple personalities, along with reasserting the myth that mentally ill people are inherently violent and obscene. Infact, the word “schizo” is thrown around in the movie as a casual slur. In a time where mental health disorders are still largely vilified, this film exposes neurotypical privilege at its worst.

Get Hard (2015)

get hard

While some of Will Ferrell’s movies are great, some can go horribly wrong, and this one is perhaps his worst yet. The plot follows the story of a rich and unlikable white guy who hires a black car washer (Kevin Hart) in order to prepare him for his upcoming prison sentence. This leads to nearly three hours of extremely cringe-worthy racist and homophobic jokes that circle primarily around Ferrell avoiding the inevitable rape he will undoubtedly face in prison. In one especially unsettling scene, Kevin Hart’s character tells Will Ferrell that he must now learn how to perform oral sex on men in order to survive prison—because prison is full of gay men who are sexual predators and will rape you—and takes him to a men’s bathroom to teach him the same. This leads to a bevy of homophobic stereotypes and jokes that will make you want to gag as much as Ferrell does at the mention of gay sex.

These are only a few examples. There are so many more films and TV shows out there that are meant to be humorous, but are actually really hurtful to one marginalized group or the other. It is an age old debate about whether or not comedy should be politically correct, and whether pushing certain boundaries is considered okay if the intention is to draw laughs. Comedy can be an extremely subversive tool, so why not use it to challenge the problematic elements within society rather than perpetuate and reaffirm the same? So, next time you laugh at something, think twice about who you’re actually laughing at—the systems that cause oppression, or the victims who face the same oppression.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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