Joe Bob Briggs, the iconic Horror alter-ego of film critic and comedian John Bloom and current host of The Last Drive-In, has become the target of accusations of homophobia, transphobia, and racism from members of the Horror community, with many of the allegations stemming from columns written by Briggs in which he defended free speech and questioned the benefit of the ever expanding ‘LGBT’ acronym.
The discourse surrounding Briggs’ character began on May 14th, when Killing Brooke actor and producer Johnny Donaldson published a Medium article which asserted in its headline that “Horror has a Leadership Problem.”
In his post, Donaldson claims that the Horror community “has a problem with the alt-right and letting bad behavior slide while patting it’s back for it’s [sp] “progressivism.”
Donaldson focuses his criticism on two individuals: A Ghost Story producer Adam Donaghey, who was recently arrested for sexually assaulting a teenage girl, and Briggs, who Donaldson accuses of “[spewing] hateful rhetoric aimed at marginalized communities.”
“The past couple days has seen two simultaneous bouts of drama rippling their way through Horror Twitter. One involves the furor surrounding the arrest of Dallas-based filmmaker Adam Donaghey for raping an underage girl who worked on a film he produced, 2017’s critically-acclaimed metaphysical drama A Ghost Story (a movie already burdened with the presence of another man accused of sexual malfeasance, Casey Affleck.) The other involves, as has become something of a norm nowadays, Southern-fried horror host Joe Bob Briggs, as an article he wrote in August, mocking the ways LGBTQIA folk opt to define and brand themselves, began to make the rounds again.
Both men have largely been supported by Cinestate, Dallas Sonnier’s Texas-based multimedia company that produces some of the most buzzed about films on the indie horror scene, films like Joe Begos’s war-vet siege film V.F.W. and Keola Racela’s testicle-popping Satanic comedy Porno, in addition to owning media companies like Fangoria, the newly back in print titan of the horror magazine industry, and Rebeller, an online film site that acts like a resource for “outlaw cinema” but has quickly taken on a decidedly right-wing bent. Sonnier has employed Donaghey on his films for several years, including on the two aforementioned films. Meanwhile, They’ve given Briggs a platform to spew hateful rhetoric aimed at marginalized communities, a platform enhanced by his frequent appearances on the Shudder streaming service — and the right-wing website Taki, a site owned by a known Nazi sympathizer.
The newly dusted off article about Briggs’s confusion with acronyms isn’t the worst thing he’s ever written, and taken on it’s own, can play like an old man’s misguidedly “humorous” take on his own attempts at dealing with a rapidly changing social sphere. But the article doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it exists on a continuum of incidents in which Joe Bob has proven himself to be less kind to marginalized communities than either he or his protege Diana Prince (aka, Darcy, the Mail Girl) try to make him out to be. The LGBTQ article is one of a piece with the kerfuffle he created over Black Christmas in December and an article he wrote about our “need” to listen white supremacist speakers — the latter, like the LGBTQ article, published on Taki.”
In the article in question, titled “I Knew a Guy Who Was LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ” and published in the self- described anti-“junk culture” outlet Taki’s magazine, Briggs criticizes the ever-growing nature of the acronym “LGBTQ—which, by the way, is now supposed to be LGBTQIA—is the worst acronym ever invented.”
“I’ve heard a lot of stories about weird sex and gender-blending and adolescent confusion and being a social misfit and changing your name 13 times and coloring your hair shades of the rainbow never conceived of by the Crayola company, and God bless every person who has to go through that in a world of harsh judgments and elder disapproval and bullying.
And yet I still don’t understand LGBTQ.
Can we begin by agreeing that LGBTQ—which, by the way, is now supposed to be LGBTQIA—is the worst acronym ever invented? I used to remember it by saying Largebutt, but that’s before they put the Q on the end of it. And when they did put the Q on the end of it, they couldn’t agree what the Q stands for.
Some say it’s Queer.
Some say it’s Questioning.
Has anybody ever really self-identified as Questioning? I suppose they have or it wouldn’t be on the list, but it sounds like something you do when you play World of Warcraft and sit around wondering, “Do I want to be a Paladin, a Mage, or a Rogue—I just can’t decide.” I mean, check your libido, it’s probably telling you something.
Either way, I say we don’t need the Q. Are we supposed to think that a Q is not represented by one of the previous letters? If a Queer—which, by the way, in my youth on the schoolyards of Texas, was a pretty harsh slur—is not also either Lesbian, Gay, Bi, or Trans, then I need some diagrams and some YouTube videos to understand just exactly what kind of physicality and sexuality is going on here.”
Briggs’ contention with the extensive acronym is based on the “self-defeating” results of its application, as the inclusive exercise will ultimately divide the community due to the idiosyncratic nature of humans:
“Here’s my point about all this:
If you go deep into the sexual identity of anyone—cisgender, transgender, intersex, androgyne, bigender (please add a hyphen so we don’t think it’s big-ender), gender variant, pangender, transmasculine, transfeminine, butch, femme, stone butch, high femme, third gender, aliagender, boi, demiboy, demigirl, polygender, trigender, gender creative—in other words, if you go into the mind of anyone, anywhere, at any time, at any place on the gender spectrum, you will find a secret idiosyncratic place that makes that person who ze is. Unless you’re having sex with that person—and sometimes even if you are—you’ll never know what that idiosyncratic place is.
There aren’t just eight categories of “gender identity,” there are 8 billion.
Defining part of the population as LGBTQIA is self-defeating because it separates.
Come back to the family, people. Don’t make me label you. It’s all the same. It’s called the HTTFIOLFL community:
Humans Trying To Figure It Out, Looking For Love.”
The second article referenced, First Amendment 101, features Briggs speaking out against the rise of counter-protestors, particularly Antifa, who aim to shut down and silence speakers of an opposing belief system.
According to Briggs, by allowing “White Pride groups” to become a “despised minority who could be easily bullied,” free speech faces a threat as “city governments [only] go through the bare minimum of ensuring their free speech rights.”
“It’s been a rough year for stump speaking in general, but let’s make a resolution for 2018:
We need to start listening to these White Pride guys in the polo shirts and khaki pants.
And we need to start arresting the Antifa thugs.
Liberals and conservatives alike should agree that the pattern of these events over the past year has become obvious and odious[.]
As a result, these White Pride groups have become the Jehovah’s Witnesses of our day. The reason so many of the Supreme Court’s First Amendment decisions involve Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they were a despised minority who could be easily bullied because they were regarded as un-American cultists. (Among other things, they refused to salute the flag or let their children recite the pledge of allegiance.) The Alt-Righters are now a despised minority who can be endlessly bullied because they can be labeled “white supremacists” (some are, some aren’t) while city governments go through the bare minimum of ensuring their free speech rights.
But these people are spouting hate speech!
Yes, many of them are. That’s legal as long as it doesn’t involve clear calls for violence against the assembled crowd. All the calls for violence are coming from the other side. The number of times I’ve heard “Fuck him up! Fuck him up!” on YouTube makes me believe that this one phrase alone should be grounds for arrest.
But these racist organizations are provoking the counter-protesters by the disingenuous nature of their demonstrations and rallies!
Yes, they’re trying to provoke the left. The First Amendment doesn’t say anything about motives. Motives at political rallies are always impure.”
These articles serve as the sole basis for Donaldson’s accusations that Briggs’ “shtick” is truly “racist, sexist and homophobic,” with the Horror producer reasoning that “the jokes aren’t at his expense, or at least the character’s expense, but at the expense of members of his audience.”
“That all renders Briggs’s comments and his (and Prince’s) subsequent justifications for making the comments he makes, all the more suspect, as it does the defenses of his followers. This isn’t a one off mistake, or someone taking him a little too seriously; this is a series of incidents, repeatedly happening, and aligned with supremacist tastemakers. Briggs has a cowardly policy of refusing to make public apologies — in other words, refusing to take accountability for his behavior, actions and the ways they may make large swathes of his viewership feel genuinely unwanted by him. (This is probably the point where I should reveal that I am bisexual myself; thus as someone who — once — looked up to Briggs, while also being the target of his vitriol, this is a difficult place to find oneself in.)
People defend Joe Bob Briggs as a satirist and all of this as part of his shtick — but shtick that is racist, sexist and homophobic is still racist, sexist and homophobic. It is possible to make a satirical persona out of a bigot, but that requires more than just spouting off bigoted rhetoric and jokes, and requires a precise handling. Stephen Colbert understood this; he spent years playing a pompous right wing buffoon, but made sure the joke was always at the expense of the character he created, not at anyone else for their race, sex or orientation. John Bloom — the man behind Joe Bob — fails to do that. The jokes aren’t at his expense, or at least the character’s expense, but at the expense of members of his audience, particularly those that aren’t straight, cis white men.”
Following the publication of the post, some members of the Horror fandom community took to social media to voice their support for Donaldson’s assertions and hurl insults towards Briggs from a false sense of moral superiority.
Joe Bob Briggs is a homophobic bitch and it’s fucking stupid that the horror community gives him a pass just because he’s an icon of the genre. https://t.co/MpnOVsw34r
— Gabe Gonzalez (@DeathByToilet) May 13, 2020
I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around how anyone can defend Joe Bob Briggs, a man who said “We need to start listening to these White Pride guys in the polo shirts and khaki pants” in 2017. Why does Shudder (or anyone else) put up with this guy?
— Frederick Blichert (@FABlichert) May 13, 2020
It’s a microaggression. It’s hate. It’s the same as the “mangled dick” comments and the racist shit. He hides it under a guise of freethinking while being hateful against these groups.
Patton Oswalt has a similar bit in one of his stand-ups but he understands to not punch down.
— Danielle Ryan 🖼🔥 (@danirat) May 13, 2020
it’s absolutely WILD that there are still people pretending that joe bob briggs isn’t a complete piece of shit.
— s.j. bagley (@heksenhaus) May 14, 2020
A second blog post accusatory of Briggs, written for gay- and horror- news blog Gayly Dreadful by site founder Terry Mesnard, quickly gained circulation in the wake of Donaldson’s original post. In Queer Mutants Deserve Better, Mesnard dismisses the nuances of Briggs’ writing and frames his comedic rhetoric as “the singular need to punch down, whether it’s at women filmmakers, people of color or the LGBTQ community.”
He also claims his continued career is “a stifling presence in the horror community.”
“It’s about Joe Bob Briggs, spouting off some nonsense about the LGBTQ community again and again. It’s punching down. No. Worse. It’s punching down and then silencing any opposition.
I don’t care whether it’s Joe Bob Briggs or John Bloom talking. I just don’t give a shit. It’s meaningless. The words are coming out of a living man’s mouth or fingers and it hurts people I care about.
Take that Joe Bob Briggs mask off and you have John Bloom. And I’m tired of him getting away with it. Of silencing, whether knowingly or unknowingly, people who raise a question.”
However, Briggs also received a generous outpouring of support, with fans noting his long and continued support of LGBT+ communities and criticizing Donaldson for associating Briggs with Donaghey, an alleged sex offender.
Honestly, it all boils down to this…
JB doesn’t express himself in a way that we’re used to hearing in 2020. But the meaning behind it is what we are all actually striving for…equality, acceptance, and love. He just thinks we should still be able to laugh at ourselves, too. https://t.co/aeic2wzE8O
— Diana “Darcy the Mail Girl” Prince 🤠🧟♂️🧟♀️🖤 (@kinky_horror) May 14, 2020
People are talking about Joe Bob Briggs and Adam Donaghey in the same breath, if they even bring up Donaghey’s accusations.
If a guy saying “I used to remember LGBT by saying large butt” is making your angrier than a child molester, maybe you’re the problem in horror.
— Emilio Amaro (@EmilioAmaro92) May 14, 2020
Joe Bob Briggs has been a defender of the LGBT community since he was writing articles under the name John Bloom for the Dallas Times Harold and they wouldn’t publish his defense of trans people. He has been an Allie longer than you’ve been alive, https://t.co/280UFlEXVT
— Jack Schmit (@WithSchmit) May 15, 2020
Lumping @therealjoebob in with a rapist is not only bad journalism, it’s slander. Joe Bob Briggs is as welcoming as they come. I have a trans friend that Joe Bob personally messaged and supported after she was doxxed. Being confused over acronyms does not make someone hateful. https://t.co/qUzqbqDyef
— 🦇 GORY B MOVIE 🦇 (@GoryBMovie) May 15, 2020
Facing waves of denouncements and personal attacks on his character, Briggs took to his personal Twitter account and asked his fans to not “attack the author of that article or anyone else sharing their opinions,” reaffirming that “#TheLastDriveIn is a place for everyone, all identities, races, [and] beliefs.”
Hey guys. The reason I haven’t been engaging is that I’ve been listening to everybody. The important thing is, I do NOT want the Mutant Family to attack the author of that article or anyone else sharing their opinions. The Mutant Family is not a mob. . . .
— Joe Bob Briggs (@therealjoebob) May 15, 2020
#TheLastDriveIn is a place for everyone, all identities, races, beliefs, and we’re all about love not war. (Well, except for tonight–the first movie is Troma’s War!) But don’t answer with hate. So stop. Stop right now. IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN AND I KNOW YOU DO.
— Joe Bob Briggs (@therealjoebob) May 15, 2020