Jenny Slate on her use of slurs: ‘You can’t use that language because it’s all flammable’

Jenny Slate at arrivals for THE SUNLIT N...

I sometimes wonder if I’m missing the Whimsy Gene. I rarely appreciate whimsy and I don’t live a whimsical life, or a life open to whimsy. When I meet whimsical people, they usually strike me as somehow false, or performatively twee. I think that’s always been my thing about Jenny Slate. I just don’t get her. I buy that she marches to the beat of her own drummer, that she’s (performatively?) eccentric and whimsical, but it just sort of falls flat to me. Different strokes, etc. Well, Jenny has a new book coming out called Little Weirds. She was profiled by the New York Times to promote it. And the twee just jumped off the page in so many ways. The book is not a tell-all memoir, nor is it a collection of funny stories. It sounds more like a collection of Slate telling stories about how quirky she is. You can read the full NYT piece here. Here are the parts which stood out to me:

On her story called “I Died: Bronze Tree”: “I was trying to say goodbye to my ex-husband, who is an important person in my life and a friend.” After her divorce from the director Dean Fleischer-Camp in 2016, she heard that sometimes, as a healing exercise, trauma survivors reimagine painful experiences. “I decided to write for myself what my life would be if I had a relationship that lasted till the end.”

On feminism: “Even though I grew up in a privileged situation — I went to private school, and my parents are both artists, and I had access to a lot of literature and art, and I had a really caring family and good health and safety — I don’t really feel like anybody directly spoke to me about feminism. I didn’t understand that it was important to say directly that you are a feminist, and I didn’t know what it meant.”

She was asked to read for the role of Pennywise in Stephen King’s It: “I had to put my computer across the room and look at it with binoculars and be like, ‘Sorry, I’m so sorry,’” she said, recalling her incredulity at the email. Then she began to envision a world in which she got the part. “Do I have boobs as female It?” she wondered.

On comedy-writing in the Trump era: “When Gabe Liedman, my comedy partner, and I first started doing comedy, we felt really free to use language that were slurs against women or Jews or gay people, because we felt that that empowered us. And now it’s like, I don’t want to hear that at all. We are in an emergency, and you can’t use that language because it’s all flammable.”

[From The NY Times]

There’s also a twee AF story about how she met her now-fiance Ben Shattuck through a mutual friend (only the story cannot be told that simply, of course not) and apparently she makes references to Shattuck in the book too, but not by name. Nowhere in this Times piece did anyone mention Chris Evans either – maybe she made zero references to him in the book and the interview. If so, good for her, I guess. As for being asked to audition for Pennywise… I… don’t believe that? Do you? And what she says about using offensive language – when she dated Chris Evans, his fans used to make a big deal about how she had gone through her Twitter account and deleted old tweets with that kind of offensive language. I wonder if that’s how she’s explaining it now? “We are in an emergency, and you can’t use that language because it’s all flammable.” She’s not wrong, but it implies that there will be a time when she will use that language again.

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28 Responses to “Jenny Slate on her use of slurs: ‘You can’t use that language because it’s all flammable’”

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  1. Zee says:

    I have no idea what twee means and at this point I’m too scared to ask.

  2. Valiantly Varnished says:

    This woman is so unlikeable to me on so many levels. No hun – that language was NEVER okay. It’s just that white comics felt perfectly comfortable using it in the pre-social media era because no one was calling them out on it. And I have a feeling the main reason she deleted those tweets while dating Chris is that he has an openly gay brother who he is very close to.

  3. kerwood says:

    I am so tired of privileged White people whining because they can’t use the same slurs dear old dad did.

    It’s a shame that this woman is so ignorant about feminism because if she was a bit more educated she’d know that many of the leaders of the mid century feminist movement (as well as the gay rights movement) came out of the civil rights movement. But she’s too privileged to care about things like that

    I have a feeling that Chris Evan’s took up with her because he wanted to appear intellectual. And she dumped her husband because she wanted to make other women jealous. A match made in privileged heaven.

    • A says:

      I agree with your theory about Chris/Jenny relationship. Chris always pulls out thesaurus whenever he wants to tweet something cause he wants you to believe that he’s smart. Back in 2016 when their relationship was first revealed a lot of people were going on about how deep/intelligent Chris must be because he doesn’t care about his girlfriend’ looks, only personality and I’m sure he loved that kind of attention. Jenny used troll like an immature 14 years old to let everyone know she bagged the trophy boyfriend. She was obsessed with the idea of making everyone jealous, that’s the reason why she is still hated in CE fandom.

      • Cantgoogleme says:

        She’s not Hollywood “hot” and that certainly painted the intellectual image – I totally see your point. But let’s not act like she’s a troll. She’s a very attractive young woman. Some of the comments here and in the posts about her and Chris act like she’s so hideous or something… like it’ so obvious she was in a sham relationship because she is Shrek. Lol, I’d kill for her body!

      • A says:

        @CantGoogleMe CE/Jenny supporters used to tweet things like “if someone like Jenny can get with CE then there’s hope me” and CE stans were like “If Chris is attracted to Jenny then he’ll be attracted to me too”
        I’m sure you can tell what was the general consensus about her attractiveness LOL. In fact the ‘average girl gets the hot dude’ angle helped their PR teams bury the extra martial affair angle.

    • Val says:

      it’s so odd the number of comedians that come from privileged backgrounds. No wonder why they all tell the same jokes. There’s no diversity.

  4. BANANIE says:

    I have to feel like there’s a range of twee-ness out there and some of it is legit. I find Zooey Deschanel twee and it gets on my nerves at times, but it does feel somewhat authentic to her.

  5. Tourmaline says:

    She’s a twee rich girl doing twee rich girl performativeness…..yeah her dad is an artist, also was a corporate tech executive.

  6. Anon says:

    She’s a Jewish woman, and her writing partner is gay. I took this to mean that they used slurs that would be used against Jewish women and gay men, like themselves, in their comedy. And that this reclaiming of the words empowered them.

    • Wilma says:

      Yeah, I think that’s the correct reading.

    • Oc says:

      She used slurs against trans people and plus size people too.

      • Snowslow says:

        So many comedians do that. It all depends on where you take it. Some are just gross, others are insightful and honest about everyone’s biases. We all have them unfortunately and comedy is a way to take them out, lay them on the table and appreciate how far we are from being good and caring.
        Ali Wong, who is praised beyond measure on this website, makes fun of how Arab (or Indian?) men are hairy etc. But because she is a ‘minority’ she is almost sanctified on this website. But she is just using the same strategies that people like Sarah Siverman also use to descontruct biases, ingrained racism / homophobia etc.

    • Snowslow says:

      Yes, same interpretation here. The bias against this woman here is starting to feel very fishy to me. I started watching her special on Netflix and 3 mis in turned it off. She is not for me. However I have nothing against her and everything she says in the interview sounds genuine to me. privileged people who do not do much more than freestyle about their privileged lives are quite boring – and a bit performative -, but that’s all I can say about her.

    • tealily says:

      Yes, that’s what she’s saying. I think one can still argue whether that was appropriate or not (I have no idea of the context, so I won’t insert my own opinion), but what she’s saying is that it’s not a question to her anymore. Those words are too barbed to even touch. Which I think is 100% true.

  7. India Rose says:

    I watched her new Netflix special. I cringed a lot – but I also laughed out loud, felt empathy for her and cried a little. I found it insightful about her vibe.

    Her YouTube videos of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On are fantastic, but warning: a little whimsical.

  8. deadnotsleeping says:

    I tried to watch her new Netflix special, but I couldn’t finish it. The actual comedy parts were okay, but it was intercut with her interviewing her parents and sisters in her childhood home and it was just too much (and also boring).

  9. Oc says:

    She makes references to Evans on the book, but doesn’t mention his name.

  10. Jordana says:

    Is she funny, ever? She has a “comedy special ” on Netflix. I tried. I lasted 3 minutes. It was so bad. Awful. Terrible. Did it get better? Did anyone watch it???

    • India Rose says:

      What Caty Page says below. It was informative about her background rather than a traditional, funny comedy show. I am glad I stuck out the awkwardness at the beginning and watched the whole thing. Her songs about the difference between Catholic and Jewish holiday songs were very funny, especially followed by old home movies showing her family singing. But to each their own. She might not be for you.

      Other than her one appearance on SNL, I first knew Jenny Slate from the film Obvious Child, directed by Gillian Robespierre. It addresses a woman’s experience having an abortion without melodrama. She and co-star Jake Lacy are really good and it’s a strong feminist movie.

      And as I mentioned above, her Marcel the Shell with Shoes On videos are very sweet. The videos were a big hit with my kids when they were younger. Jenny’s ex-husband animated them, though, so that’s probably all done.

  11. Caty Page says:

    I like that she seems self-aware about her awkwardness. I think it’s vulnerable to just be yourself and embrace the “weirder” parts of you that others might shun.

    I’ve always really liked her: she made the most progressive romcom I’ve ever seen and she says she’s learning and trying to be a better feminist. Her character on Parks and Rec KILLS me every time!

  12. Lightpurple says:

    I find nothing twee about her.
    I do find her annoying.
    I haven’t seen her latest stand up routine but I found some of her early ones to be gross.

  13. A says:

    OK so she’s using empowerment excuse for her use of slurs against gay and Jewish people. What’s her excuse for fat shaming, sl*t shaming and transphobic jokes she made in her past? her publicist better come up with something good cause her faux feminism is getting old now. Also please stop with “my parents were artists” bs, her dad was VP and CEO of two companies. Stop being so confident about your lying skillz, Jenny.

  14. MangoAngelesque says:

    I only ever found her funny on Parks and Rec and that’s because her character was intended to be wildly obnoxious. I have nothing against her as a human being, I just don’t find her brand of comedy very funny. *shrug*

  15. Denver D says:

    I absolutely loved her new Netflix show. For any of us who were quirky, felt emotions to 1000% percent and it never really changed in adulthood, I felt like it was honest and real and self reflective. I also laughed so hard I almost tinked. I just love her – I think if she were 5’10″ and had a deep voice and were just as quirky, she wouldn’t get this twee label. I think she’s hysterical and honest.