March 9, 2013

Queer Review: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Director: Tom Shadyac
Writer: Jack Bernstein, Tom Shadyac, and Jim Carrey
Cast: Jim Carrey, Courteney Cox, Sean Young, Tone Loc, Dan Marino, Noble Willingham, Udo Kier

An overly transphobic and homophobic turd of a film from the mid-90's, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective commits the ultimate sin for a comedy; not only is it offensive, it isn't really all that funny.

When the beloved Miama Dolphins football team mascot (Snowflake) goes missing, the teams publicist Melissa (Courteney Cox) calls upon the services of Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey) to get the aquatic mammal back. His investigation will take him on a bizare path, one filled with twists and surprises.

The Queering
There is a scene in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective where Ace Ventura, while searching for Snowflake, comes across a large aquarium. Instead of an innocent dolphin swimming inside, Ace Ventura finds instead a giant man eating shark. This moment is clearly intended as a sublime metaphor for the films tragic denouement. It's almost as subtle as the one featured in the opening scene where Ace Ventura is shown kicking a package down a hallway, thereby destroying the contents. This scene is clearly meant to tell the audience that the film ahead is an empty, soul eating endeavor that will completely destroy all that is funny or humorous in our world.

Or perhaps not.

So, in any case some of the higher ups for the Bush administration openly cited transgender/transsexual people as a security concern. What's amusing about this, is that they're concern could have easily been based off of a juvenile plot twist from this film. Never mind that if one wanted to change one's identity, it's much easier to change things like eye/hair/skin color then it is to go through the surgical procedures to change one's gender/sex. Height and weight are similarly malleable, but lord knows, nobody ever brings up banning spray on tanning products, hair dye, colored contacts, diet pills, or any of the kinds of surgery one could use to change one's physical stature or THE TERRORISTS WIN.

Sorry, but I digress.

In any case, if there is a transphobic or homophobic trope that this film misses, I cannot think of it. The main "twist" of the film revolves around the fact that one of the characters transitioned from male to female. Or maybe not. It's not clear whether or not the writers are even aware of the possibility of someone wanting to undergo surgery to change their sex for purposes other than deception. So we have "deceptive trans villain". Check.

In one scene we have Jim Carrey wearing a dress in order to intimate to a medical professional that he has a mental illness. This is on top of the numerous times there is dialogue blatantly stating that the villain is mentally ill. So, linking mental illness and transgender and transsexual identities? Check.

Then there is the scene where Ace Ventura gets all upset over the fact that he kissed a person with a dick. When he reveals this little factoid to the other police officers (the villain here also happens to be a police lieutenant) all of the police officers present react negatively, as if they too had been making out with the female lieutenant. So the idea of queer sexuality as gross and disgusting present? Check.

I could go on, but it's really not worth it. In the end, I could not help but think about how Jim Carrey, more than a decade later, would star in the excellent I Love You Phillip Morris. It got me thinking about the number of filmmakers who have worked on incredibly transphobic productions later going on to work on gay friendly ones. For example, Johnathen Demme making Philadelphia following criticism of Silence of the Lambs. Also, there were at least two episodes of The X-Files that could be considered gay friendly (All Things and X-Cops), but I Want to Believe contained an obvious trans villain. Off the top of my head, I could not think of a single counter example of a filmmaker who had worked on a homophobic film and had ever made another one featuring a positive transgender or transsexual character.

This pet detective can only be taken care of properly one way, with a pooper-scooper.

The Rating
Zero out of ****


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  1. It may be offensive, but the film is extremely funny.

    1. Unless you happen to be a transgendered person. Or happen to have any empathy for transgendered people you may know. Or that you may not know. Or happen to have any empathy as a human being at all.

      Or if you happen have a sense of humour that continued to evolve past the age of twelve.

      So I guess if you're literally a child or have limited capacity for empathy, then yeah, I guess it's funny.

      Otherwise? Not so much.

    2. Ace Ventura can be seen as a funny film pretty easily. Surely it isn't high brow comedy but slap stick is perfectly fine to laugh at it and it has plenty of good parody elements of detective films/shows.

      To question someone's intelligence just for laughing at a film is kind of childish. And I know plenty of people (yes even those in the LGBT community who find Jim Carrey and his films including Ace Ventura to be very funny. A better article would probably be an article about why Jim Carrey's more recent film 'I love you Phillip Morris' was pretty much completely shelved.

      Basically just because you don't find something funny and someone else does find it funny does not automatically make that person dumber or less empathetic than you.

    3. The scene was a parody of the Crying game, Are parodies off limits for certain topics because the film was also heavily parodying detective film elements and certainly PETA to a certain extent. It's a comedy film that sure you can like or not like but I think that should be more to do with whether you like Jim Carrey's brand of humor or not and I don't think you can call someone stupid or unempathetic for laughing at Ace Ventura.

  2. I am so happy you posted this. Like most disney movies I loved as a child, I went back to watch this recently and an adult and I was gobsmacked at how offensive it was. Completely homophobic and transphobic. I also thought immediately of Jim Carey's choice of 'I Love You PM' a decade later. I don't think Jim, or even the writers of the movie, were educated enough on gay & transgender prejudice at the time. Safe to say, I no longer found it funny.


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