So you're 16 years old, with a little time and baby-sitting money to burn. And so you head with your bestie to Forever 21 -- or, I dunno, Dolce & Gabbana, because you live in Los Angeles -- to try on the hot new fall collection. Your bestie slips into a shimmery rose top you do not like. "It's totally gay," you say to her. (You always talk like this.) She laughs, knowingly, but then who should walk by at just that moment? Hillary Freaking Duff.
Wait a minute, who put this pop tart in your dressing room?
Maybe you are surprised and a little bit excited. Maybe you are confused and speechless. I really don't know. The closest I've come to meeting Hillary Duff is interviewing RJ Helton from the first season of "American Idol." Anyway, Duff says to you:
"You really shouldn't say that … It's insulting."
Whoa, Duff is dropping some knowledge! And she's right. "It's totally gay" is a bankrupt phrase. I've been guilty of using it, much like (more frequently) I've been guilty of saying, "It's so retarded." But recently, Broadsheet's own Lynn Harris wrote a terrific piece for Salon about the latter phrase that has really made me rethink my flippant use of the term.
Actually, this PSA reminds me of a Sarah Silverman joke from early in her VH1 sitcom, in which she says something to the effect of, "That's so gay!" Then, realizing her homosexual friends are listening, she adds, "Oh, I don't mean gay as in gay. I mean gay as in stupid."
But as Nancy Updike pointed out in a 2000 Salon story about the resurgence of the phrase, there is something gratifying about saying it:
"Everyone loves it," says Cris Beam, a 28-year-old writer in Los Angeles. "I remember saying it at the Gay Pride Parade this year and it was hilarious -- everyone was so thrilled to have it come back, because we'd all forgotten about it. We wanted to say it again and again and again."
Duff's take was a bit more bracing and schoolmarmish: "When you say that's so gay, do you realize what you're saying?"
Hey, kids, the more you know [cue rainbow graphic]…
Watch the PSA here: