Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Humor me

Just over two years ago I read about Native actors walking off of the set of Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous Six.

I supported their action. A big part of that is that Native American women have the highest rates of rape and assault. Giving Native women names that are sexually dehumanizing supports that. Art matters.

The other thing that I couldn't help but think was that it didn't sound that funny. I was recently able to see that was true. I saw a clip, and it was so stupid. They also oversold the joke, indicating that they knew it wasn't funny enough on its own, but the producers still thought it was worth alienating a group and losing cast members over.

I have enjoyed many Adam Sandler films, though I have seen enough stupid humor that I can believe he would stick with a stupid joke over doing the right thing. What I really want to get at is this idea that political correctness is the death of humor.

I like Seinfeld too. I have enjoyed many episodes of his show. Nonetheless, if he and Chris Rock and Larry the Cable Guy don't want to play college campuses because the college kids are too politically correct and they think that is a problem with the college kids, they are wrong. Jokes that rely on racism and sexism are the lowest-hanging fruit there is. If those kids are saying that you need to do better and you can't, that's your problem.

I don't particularly like Ralph Nader. I think he has done some good things, but I am afraid he is undoing them really quickly. When you say the two parties are exactly the same because you are mad about the flaws in one party, it really strengthens the party that is mostly likely to undo the Clean Water Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. That was true even before the guy who suggested that for each new regulation you have to roll back two got in.

I referenced Ralph Nader in yesterday's post on trigger warnings, but in the same interview he also spoke against political correctness and lamented the loss of ethnic humor joke books because that's how tension was defused. (Also a problem, not being able to catcall women.)

No, the tension that you have now is that the people who once never had to question that they were on the top, or that there were any problems with them being on the top, now are having their superiority questioned. Previously they didn't have to say they were superior, because it was understood. They didn't have to think about who was below and whether there was anything horrible about that.

It happens all the time, especially with older white men, that you ask them about the achievement of someone else and they just can't admit to it. So Jerry Lewis doesn't think that women are funny - including Lucille Ball - because women are baby-producers and can't be aggressive enough. John McEnroe sounds every bit as asinine as Bobby Riggs, saying that Serena Williams would be 700th in men's rankings. And then they walk it back, because there is all of this flack they weren't prepared for, but it hurts them to believe that accomplishments can be for someone else, too.

There is a level of oafish stupidity there that is unlikely to come up with really great humor. Sure, sometimes the stupid stuff gets a laugh. Also, sometimes you can subvert the old racist and sexist tropes and mine the humor out of turning them upside down, but there's a lot of stuff going on in the world that you can joke about. Is pushing down people who are already being pushed down really the way you want to go? Is that the loss you are going to mourn?

I remember a bit from Eddie Murphy when he was chastised by Bill Cosby (paragon of virtue) for using the F-word in his comedy. He called Richard Pryor to ask about it. I'm paraphrasing, but...

Pryor: Did the audience laugh?
Murphy: Yes.
Pryor: Did you get paid?
Murphy: Yes.
Pryor: Then tell Bill to have a Coke and a smile and shut up.

They're not really talking about the same point, but some of the self-assurance comes from having an audience. If there's not one for you, or your current audience is limited, is that the audience or is that you?

Frankly, we don't have enough people who are done being sexist and racist yet. If college students are at least being more discriminating in their humor, I am going to be grateful for that growth.

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