You are viewing slate_canada

What was he thinking? He missed out on EVIL.
this space available for rent
 
19th-Jul-2009 03:49 pm
baby phone
Humour is a strange thing, it is often misinterpreted, misunderstood, and of course sometimes it just downright offensive. The problem is how to know which is which? I do think there is a bit of an art in creating a joke that is complex enough to walk the line. Satire is funny because it does that. It is also problematic because we live in a world of extreme viewpoints and so it is difficult to differentiate the intentions of the speaker without previous knowledge or proper context.

Yesterday one of my Twitter jokes made Leaderboard, which happens often enough but this one made page one. Many people thought it was hilarious and some people were outright offended which caused an internet shit-storm most of which I didn't even know about until someone told me a day later. Ironically, none of the people offended sent me a single message personally letting me know they were bothered by what I said. Instead I took all the "stars" I was getting as confirmation of a popular joke.

The gist of it, same as what I put on facebook: "On the plane, single mom across the aisle of Downs Syndrome Child that screams every ten minutes and startles me awake. Why do bad things only happen to me?"

I realize if you happen to be the parent of a handicapped child this may be a sensitive point for you. On the other hand you may also be the kind of parent in that situation that sees the ridiculousness of my narcissism, the pure outrageousness of my ableism to be nothing but satire and would find the humour. Eye of the beholder I guess.

I discussed this today with my friend BJ, he told me the story of wearing his tee shirt in NYC with a picture of the pyramids and the words "Slavery Gets Shit Done". His shirt offended some people of colour; he never had a chance to engage them in a discussion and that seems a shame. I think the humour is brilliant exactly because it is preposterous in its honesty.

But at the end of the day, I don't think I really want to have to explain satire to people, it is tiring, just as tiring trying as explaining to people why some jokes really are offensive.

Comments 
20th-Jul-2009 06:47 am (UTC)
Your Twitter lament amused me, and your friend's tee-shirt made me laugh out loud! I totally agree with your last sentence.
20th-Jul-2009 09:24 am (UTC)
Your friend's T-shirt showed not only its audience's ignorance of the joke on its face, but also because a good knowledge of the true history of the pyramids would tell them that they weren't built by slaves. The absurdity of the claim, therefore, is beside the point of the efficacy of slavery; the saying doesn't even factually refer to the monuments pictured.
20th-Jul-2009 09:25 am (UTC)
I sometimes think that if someone is finding themselves frequenlty being offended then there is likely to be a correlation with intelligence (even though that in itself is a contentious consept!). The reason why I think this is that some folk rally do only have one narrow, media soaked, viewpoint and believe that things that don't conform are 'offensive'. Ironically, though rather more rare I have found, is that uber intelligent peeps can be offended frequently in relation to their vast understanding of history and the origins of phrases and ideas!! Oh dear, am I advocating, 'AVERAGE' FTW!?!?! LOL
20th-Jul-2009 11:12 am (UTC)
I'm more offended that you use Twitter than by your amusing tweet.
20th-Jul-2009 01:40 pm (UTC)
LOL. *hides facebook URL*
20th-Jul-2009 03:34 pm (UTC)
Wait a second. You're not interested in what I just fed my cat for breakfast?
20th-Jul-2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
If you really cared about your cat, a description of its breakfast -- the most important meal of the day, according to both my mother and my grandmother -- would require more than 140 characters. So, it's not tweeting that makes you shallow, it's your lack of genuine commitment to feline cuisine.

20th-Jul-2009 12:38 pm (UTC)
I remember that tweet. I can see where people who don't know you might get offended, but I wonder how much of that is a function of their own internal hang-ups they don't feel they can express. There are people who will say that and mean it. There are people who will think that, not say it, and pretend they never thought it.

The fact is that if some kid is screaming every 10 minutes on a plane people are going to be bothered by it, and a lot of people will complain. But the minute they find out the kid has Downs' they pretend to be all magnanimous as if they weren't annoyed at his/her screaming just like everyone else was.

They just don't want to appear selfish and uncaring because when they thought 'why do bad things only happen to me?' they couldn't care less about how difficult that kid's life will undoubtedly be, and then they feel guilty that they don't care.

If you cared about everyone on the planet you'd probably bury yourself in horror and guilt until you wanted to kill yourself. Being human means being self-centric to a certain degree, but being a part of our society means pretending you're not.

20th-Jul-2009 03:33 pm (UTC)
And that was exactly the joke, making fun of the human condition and our frailty. I wasn't mocking a handicapped child I was mocking myself. Clearly it was one of those, "Wow I think you're hilarious until you talk about [insert subject that is a sore spot for me]"
20th-Jul-2009 03:50 pm (UTC)
yeah, and I don't know what to say to that. People get offended. So many things are on the 'do not talk' list that it's hard to keep up. Personally, I think people need to take the time to determine whether someone is being satirical, ignorant, malicious, or what and respond accordingly. And if they are offended then why exactly? Does it somehow affect them personally? If not, then why are their panties in a bunch?
20th-Jul-2009 02:56 pm (UTC)
Do you like your Irish babies barbequed, or roasted with a little garlic butter? (Not that they *need* garlic butter to be tender ...)
20th-Jul-2009 03:31 pm (UTC)
OMG..*BLOCKED**
20th-Jul-2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
I'd agree that context plays a big part. There are probably people that feel beleagured & narcissistic about being inconvenienced from someone else's handicap that have no sense of irony about the situation. It seems to me (I don't know - I don't twitter) that the line alone - stripped of the author or knowledge of the author might cause someone to think it came from the heart? Dunno, maybe the way something hits Leaderboard would imply by its popularity that it is a joke, intended as a joke.

And I guess part of the idea of the joke that makes it funny is that there is no easy way to tell apart a twitter from a cretin and a wit? or the quarter-second it takes to understand it must be funny is part of the social-discomfort that helps make it funny?

I find myself usually attempting to be funny to a small audience of people I know and am okay with the potential of driving someone away or needing to apologize. I certainly have overstepped bounds on occasion. It seems like you are right, the nice thing to do if someone had a problem would be for them to tell you so, so there could be a dialogue.
This page was loaded Oct 22nd 2014, 8:08 am GMT.