They say laughter is the best medicine and well, world, I’m dying here. I need my medicine. I need to laugh. I need to be entertained, but it seems every time I try to chuckle these days, someones standing right there to make me feel bad about it.
Over the last few weeks in this column, I’ve mostly pointed the finger at big corporate entities bowing to some outside force, whether it’s a perceived notion that they must be politically correct to the point of being historically incorrect or whether it’s removing a joke that probably cost thousands of dollars to animate to not offend a small handful of people in a far off land with a disease that’s rapidly disappearing.
Today, I point my finger elsewhere. I point it at you. I point it at them. I point it at us, a society that has lost its sense of humor – and that is a damn shame.
The other day I was listening to the whopping two nominees for Best Original Song for the upcoming Academy Awards, “Real in Rio” and “Man or Muppet.“ I came to the logical and correct conclusion that “Man or Muppet” is a vastly superior song. I would be outraged, confused, and saddened if “Real in Rio” somehow won, to the point I came up with a humorous and sarcastic tweet that I never sent: “If Real in Rio beats Man or Muppet I will burn this town down.”
Sarcasm. Hyperbole. Terrorist threat? I never sent the tweet. I don’t live too far from the Kodak Theater and in light of a recent story where two British tourists where detained and deported by the Department of Homeland Security over some joke tweets about “destroying America” and digging up Marilyn Monroe. I don’t think I’d take any tweet about “destroying America” seriously since Twitter probably isn’t the communication method used by terrorists, at least not without private tweeting turned on.
Is that the world I live in now? Some guy says something meaningless to maybe 2,000 random people on the internet and the United States government scoops him up at the airport and then, presumably discovering he is not a terrorist, promptly puts him on a plan back across the ocean? You can see why a guy who is advertised as being “angry” on the Internet and lives within walking distance of the Kodak Theater might not want to make a joke about burning anything down over a Muppets movie and a couple of computer generated birds. I’d end up in chains drinking water out of a dog bowl.
Where the fuck did our sense of humor go? The general fucking lack of it is so severe I self-censored a harmless joke and that is not okay.
Not so long ago I called Aardman Animation a bunch of pussies for deciding to pull a joke about lepers from their historical comedy about pirates. That same week I ran that article, Family Guy ran the exact same leper joke – a leper had a body part fall off. I must have missed the hooplah surrounding that, or maybe there was no hooplah since no one complained. I also recall a scene in Men in Tights where a bunch of guys literally lend their ears by throwing them up on stage – was that a veiled leprosy joke?
Whether or not lepers actually find any of those jokes offensive, why should it be removed? Who out there, other than lepers and people who are paid by organization to defend the rights of lepers, are saying that joke should be removed? Hopefully you’re not a citizen anywhere where freedom of speech is guaranteed or, you know, art exists.
There are plenty of things I disagree with in the world, plenty of things I don’t find funny – but they have every right to exist. People have every right to make jokes of things. Look at Idiocracy, which basically makes fun of all America and the road we’re on. I love America and I love that movie, because I have a sense of humor. I can differentiate something mean-spirited from something meant to be funny. Even if a joke falls flat and no one laughs, it was still a joke.
Gilbert Gottfried made jokes about the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 about three weeks after the event. Too soon? Probably. But he wasn’t arrested as a co-conspirator or for planning future terrorist attacks. Jokes used to be jokes, even ones in poor taste. Why aren’t we laughing anymore?
We get mad over everything. It’s like a self-righteous race to the bottom. It’s in poor taste to laugh at anything risque, rather let us take the high ground and feign offense so we can point fingers down on the material.
In Transformers 2, the Twins were very poorly received by the majority of people. They were a couple of idiots. I actually laughed at them quite a bit, but much of the critical community thought they were racist caricatures. Wait, what? It’s one thing to not find them funny, but it’s another entirely to point a finger at Michael Bay and everyone involved in the making of that movie (literally a dozen or more people have to give the thumbs up) and say “that’s racist.” How exactly was it racist? Plenty of people walked out of that movie completely stupefied that someone would call them racist characters. I sure as hell didn’t see it myself, though after hearing what others say at least understand where they’re coming from.
But when you have an orange and a green metal alien robot doing goofy things, I think it says a lot if you project race onto them. To me, they were Autobots. What is it saying about a person who projects another race on top of that? I think what it says is they lost their sense of humor, or were looking for something to hate.
Similarly, when The Dilemma first appeared it created a small internet uproar over the use of the word “gay” in a derogatory way. Vince Vaughn’s character said “Electric cars are gay.” Now, clearly, cars don’t have a sexual orientation, so this seems like a pretty unoffensive joke, but in a culture where it’s better to be offended and have moral high ground than laugh and just get on with life, this became a thing.
Was anyone hurt by that remark? Did Vaughn call the owner of a car gay? Did the writer of the screenplay mean to hurt the feelings of Prius drivers everywhere? No, of course fucking not. It was a joke, and one without any bad language in it at that. How is this worthy of controversy?
After my piece about “going full special” and the use of retard in film and art, a reader took the time out to flatter me with some praise before telling me I was wrong. If you ever want to correct someone, that is the way to do it: flatter first, correct second.
In my defense of the position, I responded with the following, which I’m reprinting here as I think it’s totally applicable to art, jokes, and movies:
When it comes to words like ‘retard’ and ‘gay,’ my point within the article was basically that these are extremely watered down words compared to the real curses of the world. Yes, they are offensive to many people, but again, this is in context within a movie. If you look at a movie like “The Dilemma” (terrible movie, don’t look at it), Vince Vaughn calls the Prius gay. That made some people mad, but I think it really defines the type of character he is – immature and jockish. The same goes in a movie like “Waiting” where the wait staff call each other “fags” or “faggots” in the manner of douchey college frat boys. We’re not meant to hate them for using these words, but I think it clearly works towards establishing their characters. You can tell a lot about a character through his word choices and that’s where the authors are coming from.
Man, to me, that goes way past “Hey man, have a sense of humor about things” and shows some real, honest to goodness thought about why some jokes are made. Does that apply to every joke? Nah. Does it apply to my joke about burning down Hollywood if Real in Rio wins? Not really, but I think it’s worth bringing up.
There are things in this world that are said to hurt people. They are offensive remarks. Then there are things that are said to illicit laughter. They are jokes. Some jokes can be offensive, generally in terms of taste. Look at Whitney Houston, who recently passed away. If last week you made a Whitney Houston crack joke, it was hilarious. If you made it today, you’re an insensitive asshole. What changed? Why was it okay then but not now? The joke is the same. The timing is perhaps questionable, but is it something that should offend people? No. But people want to be offended to get the high ground.
Brit Hume once said “in America today, if your sensibilities are offended by something that has happened, you get an enormous amount of credibility and are taken very seriously.”
Spot on. Being offended by something gives you attention. In a crowd of people laughing, no one hears your laugh, but they’ll damn well hear your boo. It’s time to stop booing and start laughing again.
What does being offended help? I instantly think of the saying “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” It’s something that was drilled into me at an early age. This doesn’t mean we sacrifice or hurt people, but we understand that there are somethings bigger than ourselves. What if I say “the laughs of the many outweigh the boos of a few?”
If two million people laugh at a leper joke and twenty-two are offended, should we really rob the millions of a chuckle? It’s not like they’re laughing at a person, they’re laughing at an idea. 105,125 people gave Tropic Thunder 7 or more stars out of 10 on IMDb.com. I guarantee you that those 105,125 people don’t think mental retardation is funny and I guarantee you that they don’t laugh at or mock handicapped people. But those 105,125 people have a sense of humor. They get that jokes are meant to be funny.
Yes, jokes often come at the expense of someone else. Whether it’s the fat, the blonde, the dumb, or whoever, someone is always the butt of a joke. Do we get rid of all jokes? Of course not. You can tackle bullying and if you catch someone mocking a kid with special needs, by all means punch him in the face to teach him a lesson, but don’t get offended at a movie. Don’t try to censor it. Don’t get your panties in a twist. Just try to have a laugh.
Getting offended gets you nowhere. Well, except the center of attention, but quit it. Overreacting gets you nowhere. Well, except to the front of the laughing stock line. Where has our sense of humor gone and how do we get it back?
I’m calling upon all people to chill out and not get your ass all in a bunch over things. Yes, me, the guy who rants about something new every week – but you know what I never rant about? Being offended. Freedom of speech. Someone telling a joke. I’ll take exception to certain things and argue against them, most definitely, but I will never say that something is too extreme, too rude, or too whatever and that it needs to be removed. Because frankly, if something actually upsets me that much in the entertainment world, I have the ability to not watch. To not listen. To not help them profit. But I don’t want to hurt them. I don’t want to stand in the way of someone’s ability to be artistic or creative, even if that means sculpting Mohammed out of feces and crashing radio controlled planes into it.
Seriously, stop being so serious. Have a good laugh. All this fucking nonsense about people being offended and over reacting to things said in jest has me as far past my boiling point as I can go, 1032 Kelvin mother fuckers.
It is very, very easy not to be offended by a book. You just have to shut it. – Salman Rushdie