A good friend of mine is a diehard Kevin Smith acolyte. Doesn’t get why nonchalantly riffing on ‘porch monkey’ and ‘takin’ it back’ is irresponsible and, yes, offensive. Also believes it’s ok to say ‘yo, wut up my nigga’ because he’s being ‘ironic’.
Another follows South Park religiously. Can’t fathom why I don’t bust a gut at the unremitting barrage of j00/fag/nigga jokes (“d00d, it’s so not discriminatory – they hate on EVERYONE!”) Thinks ‘Stupid Spoiled Whore’ is astute social commentary, instead of vicious misogyny.
Yeah. Kevin Smith. His films, seminars, comic books, etc, cater to the same disaffected middle class white male demographic that SP does: people who resent the inroads made by POC and feminist activism.
And South Park – gotta admit to watching it way back in the day, before the omnipresent Republitarian hipster curmudgeonry became so fucking overwhelming. Parker and Stone’s snide ‘what’s the big deal’ take on race was the spine-snapping piece of straw that cause me to stop ha ha-ing.. Only so much you can take before you start to wonder why they’re so hell bent on putting us niggas/fags/j00s/whores in our rightful place . Effective, legitimate satire pokes at those who grasp the reins of power; one has to question the motives of those who deliberately and repeatedly attack the powerless (and/or claim the powerless are the TRUE power holders.)
A lot of purveyors of contemporary humour use the excuse that their relentless assault against the PC boogeyman is merely giving voice to unspoken thoughts- hey, just sayin’ what everyone (whitestraightmale) is really thinking. But approaching—and embracing—hatred and bigotry from a jocular slant doesn’t make one’s output neutral or benign.
There’s a reason why In Living Colour and Chappelle’s Show, two seminal black comedy series that crossed over into the mainstream, transcend crass minstrelry. The writers of these two programs confront the ‘unspoken thoughts’ of the white majority from a minority perspective, that of the resented, the other, appropriating stereotypes and throwing it back in the face of the comfortably numb suburban masses. And, as a young person of colour, I found myself cheering on so many occasions as the knotty subject of race was tackled in a manner that rang true while still delivering teh funny.
Sassywho (via email) nails it:
“[C]omedy/entertainment is supposed to be cathartic, portraying those of the non-colored persuasion acting in bigoted/outrageous dated stereotypes provides a great platform of what not to do, but where is the bite? One of the reasons that “In Living Color” was such a breakthrough show was “making fun of whitey”, which to many seemed to open the door to unleash the 90’s pent up “PC culture” and un-pc it, but without the rigorous analysis. Appropriating the humor of a genre that was created [out] of necessity, hurt, and struggle… using the excuse “well, if they can do it so can we” is not worth the time to watch because all it is just another form of mockery. “
South Park, Clerks, and similar bourgeois comedy franchises are designed to connect with a privileged demographic that claims to feel under siege, despite being the most courted consumer block (18-34 WSM FTW!!!1) Sure, Parker, Stone and Smith may feign indifference, but below the surface of their ‘politically incorrect’ creative output resides a blatant resentment of the ‘other’—women, ethnic minorities, LGBT folks—that highlights a Manichean view of race and gender relations. To them, it’s a power struggle, and those who currently wield power wield it jealously. Of course, seeing gender and race relations as a binary conflict (‘us’ vs ‘them’) is also very much part of the way the patriarchy dominates Western culture, popular or otherwise, and a large reason why the (whitestraightmale) status quo resists change so violently.
In other words: No, I can’t take a joke when it isn’t fucking funny.
Special thanks to Sassywho and Isabel for inspiring conversation and indispensable editorial assistance.