Jimmy Kimmel's Back-to-School Prank Relies on Gender Stereotypes and Homophobia
Having a fresh outfit for the first day of school is a must, but what would you do if your parents suggested you wear something incredibly embarrassing instead? Catching the horrified reactions of kids being presented with terrible outfits on camera was the premise behind a recent prank from the Jimmy Kimmel Live show, "Hey Jimmy Kimmel, I Got My Kid a Horrible Back-to-School Outfit."
Like most Kimmel pranks asking parents to send in video of their kids' reactions to "terrible, out of style, or embarrassing back to school outfits,"it straddled the line between cruelty and comedy. But the montage of submitted videos, which Kimmel aired on his show Tuesday night, dived deep into the murky waters of gender and homophobic stereotypes.
During the four-minute video, we saw several moms handing their sons outfits our society deems unacceptable for boys to wear. "What boy would have flowers on their shirt?" one youngster asked after seeing what his mom had picked out. "Even the teacher would probably laugh at me."
It’s proof that for every parent who supports their child's desire to wear clothing that doesn't adhere to our rigid gender norms, boys dressing up in girls clothing is still a punch line—one dad even asks if Kimmel’s going to be paying for a psychiatrist for his son. No wonder the boy figures he'll be mocked.
Then at the 1:52 mark an upper elementary-school aged boy is shown wearing a shirt with a rainbow on it that says "I'm So Gay I Shit Rainbows." The confused boy says he thinks it's inappropriate for school and he might get detention. The audience, predictably, erupted into hysterical laughter. But, as the blog Towleroad points out, "is the point here that it would be 'horrible' for the kid because so many are bullied for being gay, or are gays the actual punchline? The point here would seem to be the latter, but maybe watching too many anti-bullying videos has made me lose my sense of humor."
On Kimmel's YouTube channel the video has been set to private and is no longer available but a little digging on YouTube turns up the video submissions. Watching it is pretty cringe worthy:
It's tempting to say it’s all just a joke and folks shouldn't be so sensitive but while these kinds of stereotypes are good for a low brow laugh, the consequences for bullied kids are all too real. Indeed, perhaps viewers sent in a deluge of complaints on Wednesday or someone at the Kimmel show or ABC realized that the prank clips are pretty offensive. We shouldn't laugh at stereotyping that ends up hurting kids. Good for them for taking it down.