A recent episode of NBC hit 30 Rock makes light of a recent real-world situation in which comedian and actor Tracy Morgan made a number of homophobic remarks at a stand-up performance.
In the episode, Tracy Jordan (played by Tracy Morgan) sparks outrage after making some homophobic remarks during a stand-up performance. (In the show, he tells the audience that if he was turned gay, he’d spend all his time looking at his own “junk.”) His boss, Liz Lemon, played by Tina Fey, tells him that he needs to apologize— he’s a public figure and his words can hurt people, she tells him.
But when Liz Lemon makes a racist joke, Tracy Jordan demands to know why she can make jokes while he can’t. “Because no one heard me!” she responds.
Tracy complains: “I’m tired of apologizing for just being myself,” as if the homophobic remarks he’d said were just a quirky slip of the tongue, as opposed to serious homophobia.
Here’s what Tracy Morgan actually said in his June 2011 stand-up performance:
God didn't make gay people because "God don't make mistakes” … gay people need to stop being such “pussies” and whining about bullying and violence against them … that if his own son were to come out to him, he would “stab that little nigga to death.”
He also said some other, more vulgar things about how he didn’t care if he “pissed off … gays.”
Morgan later apologized, saying:
I’m not a hateful person and don’t condone any kind of violence against others. While I am an equal opportunity jokester, and my friends know what is in my heart, even in a comedy club this clearly went too far and was not funny in any context.
At the time, Tina Fey stood behind Morgan, saying that the material:
Doesn't line up with the Tracy Morgan I know, who is not a hateful man and is generally much too sleepy and self-centered to ever hurt another person. I hope for his sake that Tracy's apology will be accepted as sincere by his gay and lesbian coworkers at 30 Rock.
As for co-star Alec Baldwin? He tweeted “Oh that Tracy” in response to the outrage.
Of course Tracy Morgan and Tracy Jordan are not the same person. But the 30 Rockepisode is predicated on the fact that the audience is aware of Morgan’s past—and the idea that people are too sensitiveto issues of homophobia or political correctness.
The episode makes light of the severity of what Tracy Morgan actually said and implies that people take issue too readily with things that might not be politically correct. But what Tracy Morgan said was legitimately violent, offensive, and hateful. It diminishes the severity and integrity of Jordan’s apology to those he offended with his stand-up routine, and implies that hateful remarks—be they homophobic or racist—are OK as long as no one hears you say them.