Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rape jokes and good comedy

So a few weeks ago, a comedian made a rape joke and incurred the wrath of the Internet.  I find this kind of controversy intriguing because there is disagreement about what actually happened.  I don't find the resulting discussions worthless, though, just because the facts that started the conversation are unconfirmed (similar to another controversy I wrote about.)   Regardless of what actually happened, people were able to discuss something important about the meaning and purpose of something (in this case, comedy), and some excellent points were made.

Roxane Gay sees it this way:
'Rape humor is designed to remind women that they are still not quite equal. Just as their bodies and reproductive freedom are open to legislation and public discourse, so are their other issues. When women respond negatively to misogynistic or rape humor they are “sensitive” and branded as feminist a word that has, as of late, become a catch-all term for, “woman who does not tolerate bullshit.”'
The issues of "censorship" and "freedom of speech" were trotted out.  I liked what Roxane Gay and Guante had to say about that:
"We are free to speak as we choose without fear of prosecution or persecution, but we are not free to speak as we choose without consequence.. . . . Sometimes, saying what others are afraid or unwilling to say is just being an asshole. We are all free to be assholes but we are not free to do so without consequence." - Roxane Gay 
 '“Edgy” comedy or art shouldn’t just be about saying naughty words and pissing people off; it should be about pissing people off in order to make a larger point.. . . Truly edgy writing pushes people out of their comfort zones, sure. But it pushes them toward something, some deeper truth or observation about humanity.' - Guante
 Curtis Luciani had a rather good extended metaphor you should check out (very effective but containing lots of language).  His conclusion:
"[C]ausing pain is quite a different f-ing matter. Your job as a comedian is to take us through pain, transcend pain, transform pain. And if you don't get that, you are a f-ing bully, and I've got zero time for bullies."  
And finally, a reminder of why we need comedy that pushes boundaries for the right reasons:
"Humor that makes us laugh and makes us uncomfortable also makes us think."
- Roxane Gay 

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