Vilify Me

Eventually the only source of humour that will be socially and politically correct will be bodily functions, spoonerisms and puns, and the sort of humour where people inadvertently slip on banana peels. And then the Cruelty to Foods that Used to be Alive people and the environmentalists will get all up in arms that discarding banana peels violates the banana’s rights to be composted and to rejoin the Cycle of Life, and that making fun of bodily functions disrespects the pinnacle of evolution/creation and is in Bad Taste. So we’ll be left with spoonerisms and puns, and trust me, NOBODY WANTS THAT.

At some point, we have to realise that part of the reason humour is humour is because it ridicules social taboos. Because it causes a specific area in our brain to light up (particularly when there is a juxtaposition of what you expect to happen versus what does happen). At the core of ‘humour’ is the ability to detect when something ought to be taken seriously. Some people simply do not understand humour, and there are as many theories about humour as there are people who think about it. That number being about ten.

One of these theories suggests that humour is a reaction to fear. You see this when someone is startled; they often begin laughing afterward (watch one of those movies where Something Weird jumps out at you every second scene. You’ll be quite sick of the giggles by midway through the flick). Part of humour is expressing the absurd. What’s absurd? Well, something that is absurd can range from something completely ridiculous to something illogical to something that is incongruous. Out of place.

“cenobyte, what’s your bloody point?” You’re wondering. “Where the poop did this come from?”

Well, I read a story this morning, where the author was heaping shame upon people for “laughing at transgender people”. Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating discrimination. I’m not saying that you’re a laughingstock just because you’re gay, androgenous, transgender, beige, pink, wearing traditional/religious togs. What I *am* saying is that there is a place for humour at the expense of people who DO discriminate because of those things. The example used in that story has to do with the main character making a Big Stink about a woman actually being  a man (juxtaposition). The main character then goes off into an extended display of homophobia (vomiting because he’d kissed the transgender woman) which isn’t supposed to be funny, IMO because it’s homophobic, but because you (the audience) is supposed to really grok how hateful and terrible the main character really is. You are supposed to be laughing at the main character because he’s an asshole, not because he kissed another dude. I mean, there are people who probably didn’t get that, but there it is.

And there are lines that can get crossed and people don’t understand humour, and the whole nine yards. But finding humour in someone being surprised that their lover is not what they expected them to be is, damnit, funny. It’s funny not because it’s wrong to be transgender (which it isn’t), but because it’s *unexpected*. It would be JUST AS FUNNY if someone’s lover turned out to be a flipping squid, for God’s sake. Like in “Mars Attacks”. The hot babe wasn’t funny because she was transgender; she was funny because she was NOT WHAT YOU EXPECT HER TO BE.

When my International Car Show Boyfriend made a sarcastic remark about Mexican cars, the BBC came to his defense, saying :

During the third episode of series sixteen, Hammond suggested that no one would ever want to own a Mexican car, since cars are supposed to reflect national characteristics and so a Mexican car would be a “lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight oaf.” Hammond finished with the remark “I’m sorry, but can you imagine waking up and remembering you’ve got a Mexican car?!”[10] Following complaints, the BBC defended the broadcast of this segment on the grounds that such national stereotyping was a “robust part” of traditional British humour.[11]

Go ahead and vilify me, but bloody kudos to the BBC. When I joke about rude things with people, I am doing it because I’m making fun of bigots and doosh begs. And yes, I understand there are people who won’t get that, and so I don’t tend to do it unless the people I’m with understand what I’m doing. I don’t think my International Car Show Boyfriend hates Mexican folks. I don’t think he thinks they’re all a bunch of overweight, feckless oafs. But damnit, that’s funny.

I will give you that there could very well be something very wrong with me, because of the sorts of things I find funny. “It’s okay, Gramma; she’s a midget” was the punchline from a true story that damn near killed me. I just think it’s a bit ridiculous to assume the words when it comes to humour. Sure, there are times you have to stand up and say, “I don’t find that funny.”

The sentiment of the article isn’t wrong. The point of it, though, should be that transgender people are normal. That homosexual people are normal. That no matter what moist and/or dangly bits and/or combination thereof spins your toque, that’s normal. Not “acceptable”. Normal. Not that it’s mean to laugh at people who use humour to force people to face their fear or to recognize a situation that may not make sense to them.

If you find something funny because it confirms your own intolerant or hateful point of view, I think you’re doing it wrong. If you find it funny because it’s ridiculous, that’s probably the point.

cenobyte
cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.

7 Comments

  1. Two big things wrong with this.
    1) Look at the political climate in this country. Transphobia, homophobia, and the like are not “politically incorrect,” they are toeing the party line.

    There is little more annoying than people who are called out on being douchebags referring to “not being a douchebag” as “political correctness,” trying to make it seem that these are stuffy academic issues that no real people are harmed by.

    2) The shows in question are marketed to the general public, not “Cenobyte’s friends that she assumes aren’t transphobic.”

    People don’t assume the worst because they’re spoilsports. They assume the worst because the worst is constantly proven correct, and they are sick of being surprised by it.

    1. Hrm. I don’t think I was suggesting that transphobia and homophobia are politically incorrect. I think I was suggesting that talking about them and being able to laugh at backwards people like Tom Lukiwski are politically incorrect.

      cenobyte doesn’t assume the worst, which is always part of the problem, I suppose.

      1. Still a fucked up use of a phrase that used to mean something.
        Still telling people who are hurt by bigoted jokes that they just have their panties in a bunch.

        Still fucked up that you refer to a trans woman as a man in this article, and revulsion towards her as “homophobia,” when the gay community doesn’t really fare any better than the straight community regarding their attitudes towards trans people.

        1. Actually, my comment about homophobia was a point I was trying to make that the reason why the character in the movie was vomiting after having kissed “the dude” was, in my opinion, a display of homophobia (in that instance, the character went on for a while about how horrible it was to have kissed a man). Because it is homophobia. It’s probably also transphobia.

          And I don’t think I said anything about people having their panties in a knot. What I said was that there is a place for humour in ridiculing bigots. And certainly, I have never said, I don’t think…maybe I have inadvertently, that people who get their knickers in a knot over being hurt by bigoted humour have nothing to complain about.

          I did, however, title this post ‘vilify me’, so I guess I asked for it.

          Back to dick and fart jokes it is. And puns, of course!

          1. That is what you connote when you complain about “political correctness.”

            The reason having trans women be the punchline of a joke is not acceptable is because this is something they are raped and murdered over, and that most of the world is either completely indifferent to it, or laughs at the ‘fucking trannies who get what they deserve.’ And then the newspapers refer to them as men, pissing all over their memories.

            And then supposedly “liberal” people tell jokes that reinforce these attitudes, and tell anyone who takes offense that they are just being “politically incorrect” because “obviously” they don’t really intend any harm, and hey, intent is fucking magic and makes everything okay, and liberal subcultures are totally post-bigotry places (newsflash, they aren’t, and I’ve learned this the hard way about people we both know).

            Yes, racism is a part of traditional British humor. Racism is a part of mainstream British culture. Claiming that your racist humor is really poking fun at racism, when it is obvious that, no, it is mocking racial minorities, is a staple of I’m-sorry-you’re-offended non-apologies put out by the BBC.

            And fuck the BBC. I mean, I love me some Doctor Who, but you obviously don’t know much about the history of the BBC and bigotry, and it isn’t just their dickhead comedians that are the problem. They’d interview a Klansman for a story on race relations and if anyone complained, they’d call it “getting both sides of the story.” You’d think that I’m being hyperbolic. That is what they said when they interviewed a man who supported the death penalty for gay people about Elton John adopting a kid.

            1. Well, really. I mean name ONE media conglomerate or station that hasn’t or doesn’t use inflammatory language in some kind of lip service to ‘unbiased reporting’. Vilifying the BBC for doing the same thing every other media outlet/television station does is ludicrous.

              Racism is, I think, a part of EVERY culture. Again, I can’t think of a single culture or group of people who DON’T engage in picking on, or in making fun of, or in hating, some other group of people.

              Until we, as a species, get to the point where we’re no longer threatened by things we don’t understand or don’t agree with, I think it’ll always be a struggle. Some folks choose to use humour to try to break down those walls, and sometimes, that humour is effective. Not everyone agrees, and I think that’s fine. It’s in where you choose to draw the line and in what you choose to stand up for that makes the difference, I suppose.

              It’s like people saying : “It’s okay for me to tell this joke about Ukrainians, because I’m Ukrainian”, and sometimes, no, that isn’t okay. If you can take the race, creed, gender, religion, mental/physical ability, etc., out of the joke and still have it be funny, I guess that’s okay. And then that leads me to think, “if it’s not okay to tell the ‘how many X culture people does it take to screw in a lightbulb’ joke, then is it okay to tell the ‘how may philosophers does it take…’ or the ‘how many goths does it take…’ or the ‘hoe many conservatives does it take…’ jokes? And that leads me to wonder, IS there humour without poking fun at others?

              And if there is, how do we get to a point where that’s the ONLY humour that’s around? Is that even possible? If we declare something ‘not funny’, does that make it *actually* not funny? Or does that make it fucking insensitive and insulting if you *do* find it funny? Which then makes me think, well, how do you change someone’s sense of humour? Or is it the entire *culture* that has to change? I mean, there’s an entire wing of German humour that deals entirely with passing gas that I just don’t get. Well, I *get* it; I just don’t find it particularly amusing.

              You know, it’s kind of cool when things cause more questions than they answer.

            2. I do want to know more about the myth that “liberal subcultures are totally post-bigotry places”. I think that’s a really interesting statement. Certainly, one should never assume that just because a group’s status has moved from one level of public acceptance to another, doesn’t mean that group is magically free of bigotry. I’m more interested in the idea of ‘liberal subcultures’ – do you mean liberal as in “liberated”, or liberal as in “open-minded” (supposedly), or …?

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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