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"Dated" terms - offensive?

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PirateJenny View Drop Down
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    Posted: 19 Apr 2019 at 1:58pm
Hello, Noob Jen here again!

My screenplay is set in 1970. There is one scene at a gay bar. I know from movies of the era that it was common to refer to gay men as "queers." Obviously the term queer is considered more offensive now than it used to be. How to handle this in dialogue? I want to stick to the lingo of the time period, but don't want anyone freaking out either.

How have you handled issues like this?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Random Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Apr 2019 at 2:11pm
Originally posted by PirateJenny PirateJenny wrote:

Hello, Noob Jen here again!

My screenplay is set in 1970. There is one scene at a gay bar. I know from movies of the era that it was common to refer to gay men as "queers." Obviously the term queer is considered more offensive now than it used to be. How to handle this in dialogue? I want to stick to the lingo of the time period, but don't want anyone freaking out either.

How have you handled issues like this?


If I write a story about a hard-core racist, sexist, homophobic character would it work if she used inclusive, tolerant, accepting language?

You characters are who they are, and they behave appropriately.  If they are offensive they speak offensively.  It just is how it is...be true to the character.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote cheezopath Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Apr 2019 at 2:33pm
Yeah, the only thing you need to be careful of is the message of your story, which is separate from what some of the characters might say
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PirateJenny View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote PirateJenny Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Apr 2019 at 4:15pm
Thanks! You all are totally right of course. I'm new here so wasn't sure how PC I needed to be. I also find that I am rarely offended by anything and don't have a great sense of what comes across as offensive.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Snarkmaiden Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Apr 2019 at 4:56pm
I've come up against the same issue in mine, which involves a casually racist and homophobic character using terms that aren't acceptable, and another character unthinkingly using some of those same words because he's never been pulled up on them.

I don't want to sacrifice authenticity and impact - still, I'm prepared for the judges to ding me for it, or at least say something to the effect of "these are offensive words you're using here". I've had it happen before with a short story...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BarbaraFL Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Apr 2019 at 6:18pm
I personally feel that if your character is a racist, homophobe, etc. you have to make the character be a racist, homophobe, etc - but I'm not at ALL a fan of trying to make one's fiction writing PC - the characters are the characters and there are bad people in the world. I don't know what the judges would think, but I hope they would appreciate the authenticity, especially given the time period!

Edited by BarbaraFL - 19 Apr 2019 at 6:19pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote PirateJenny Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Apr 2019 at 6:33pm
I went back and forth on whether an African-American character in 1970 would refer to herself as Black, Negro, Afro-American, or something else. My research was inconclusive. I settled on "Black," capitalized. 

For the gay bar scene, I ended up using both "homosexual" (spoken by a gay man) and "queer" (spoken by a straight man).

I guess I'll see if I get dinged or not. 
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