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“You know Apple? They’re makers of wristwatches for dorks.” -Bill Maher
My retreat from social media
As you might know, I have taken a temporary retreat from active participation in social media. (These posts are passively posted to both my Twitter and Facebook accounts, but I’m not actively monitoring or contributing to those platforms). The major reason was that a recent cultural shift has made it uncomfortable for me to laugh at things that I like to laugh at.
When times are problematic (when are they not?) that’s when we need to laugh the most. And as Sarah Silverman recently said, “Comedy is not evergreen.” Things that I joked about years ago, that hundreds of people guffawed along with, will probably get me into trouble sometime in the future when the culture shifts again.
Silverman pointed to Steve Martin as an example, whose “King Tut” routine was hilarious in the 70s, but now considered xenophobic today. Martin never changed, the joke did not change; the audience did… for both better and worse. As Bill Maher pointed out, though, when Martin first did his routine, King Tut was only 3309 years old, whereas today he’s a much more mature 3349.
Even quoting Bill Maher is problematic these days. I’m on record of finding much of his attitude to be bigoted. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t also find much of his comedy to be poignant and hilarious. I have that apparent superpower of being able to see people as complex entities that are not defined solely by a handful of cherry-picked quotations and viewpoints.
It has become increasingly clear that my personal sense of humour might not have a home in mainstream society, at least not in society’s present overly-earnest incarnation. As an example, I draw your attention to a tweet by the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) one year ago, in which they drew a comparison between their product and, shall we say, diminutive breasts.
The shitstorm that followed was fairly intense, and IHOP felt compelled to delete their tweet and issue an apology.
I understand the reason for this, so please don’t feel compelled to email me to explain why people found this offensive. i.e., Please don’t jokesplain to me. I get it.
But, here’s my problem…. offensive things can be funny. And to me, the essence of the joke was not so much about allusions to problematic human behaviour and attiudes, but rather about two things (a) language and (b) naughty body parts. If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, you know that those are two of my most favourite topics.
The inability of a puritanical and/or kneejerk and/or simplistic audience to see past naughty words has been a thorn in my ass for some time. I draw your attention to a particular episode from my past, in which an employer objected to my creation of the word “fuckable” in this blog post.
In short, I objected to the word “deliverable”, as in “I have a deliverable due this week”, because, as I put it, it’s an adjective masquerading as a noun; it’s like calling one’s spouse a “fuckable”. For some reason, the employer felt that my opinions about grammar were relevant to his relationship with me… which infuriated me beyond description. Some years later, I described the fallout here.
Speaking of language and naughty body parts, KFC had tweeted a similar joke to that of IHOP, but about a male body part:
The social media response to this supposedly ill-advised joke? Comparatively, silence. (Interesting, no? Draw your own conclusions.) But, of course, I chuckled. In my head, the natural “jerk chicken” joke wrote itself. KFC still ended up apologizing and deleting the tweet, proving once again that the puritans are in charge.
I’ve commented recently about how, increasingly, audiences are unable to distinguish who the target of a joke really is. James Corden has my sympathy. (I’m not a Corden fan, ever since he went after Patrick Stewart; but this is not about that.) Corden recently made public jokes at the expense of sexual abuser Harvey Weinstein. My favourite of his comments was, “Harvey Weinstein wanted to come tonight, but he’ll settle for whatever potted plant is closest.”
How is it not clear that the target was the deviant Weinstein? Yet, Corden was attacked on social media from all angles, eventually forced to issue an apology for supposedly disrespecting Weinstein’s victims. In fact, Rose McGowan publicly called him a “motherfucking piglet” and was celebrated for the insult. Though how her insult is not fat shaming, I don’t know. (A few have since come to his defence.)
Mind you, it is possible to have mostly inoffensive comedy. I draw your attention to Patton Oswalt’s latest special, Annihilation, which is a very touching and amusing monologue about his grief over his wife’s death. I guarantee you, however, that someone is offended that he is supposedly “making light” of death and grief.
Comedy is the sharpest form of social criticism. Stand-up comedy is, in my opinion, the purest and most important form of socially relevant performance art. And yet we now apparently live in a new puritanical era in which (a) people don’t get the joke; (b) people can’t accurately identify the target of the joke; and (c) people can’t tell when something is a joke.
The last trend, that of too many folks not recognizing when an obvious joke is an obvious joke, is particularly tiring. Exactly one year ago, I tweeted this joke: “Did you hear about the sports stadium in Krakow? They had to tear it down, because no matter where you sat, you were behind a Pole.” And someone wrote to me to ask if it was true.
This is what I’m dealing with, people.
Anyway, this has just been more evidence for why I should not be tweeting or Facebooking any jokes anytime soon. Perhaps society has moved on, and I have not. Maybe the problem is me.
(By the way, if your first impulse is to write to me to wag your finger about how it’s inappropriate that I find some of this stuff funny… you are invited to fuck right off.)
Back before the revolution of superhero-themed content on TV and in movies, I was one of those losers who watched Smallville, only because in later seasons it finally went full comicbook. One of my favourite aspects of the show was Allison Mack, whom I found hopelessly beautiful.
How… interesting… it was to learn, in this sudden news era of celebrity sexual assault scandals, that she might be the leader of an extorting sex cult!
Also in superhero news, Disney might be acquiring some properties from 20th Century Fox. Which properties? Well, possibly the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and even the original print of the original Star Wars, since renamed Episode IV: A New Hope.
I don’t care about Star Wars. It can suck a dick. I was never a big Fantastic Four fan, but I think Disney/Marvel can finally do it justice if allowed back in the hands of people who care about the Richards family.
But the X-Men…. the X-Men are everything. The X-universe is the ultimate storytelling playground for a host of socially relevant narratives, as we see now with two excellent X-based TV shows, Legion and The Gifted. If Disney takes those rights, will those shows end? Will we cease to have innovative R-rated films like Logan and Deadpool? Or will those characters just be reassigned in service to the behemoth that is the Avengers movie serials?
It doesn’t really matter; these aren’t life and death questions. But this nerd like to think about them nonetheless.
The Overly Complicated Breakfast™
Yesterday’s breakfast was…
….an omelette stuffed with salsa and spinach fried in garlic, with broccoli sauteed in olive oil and garlic, and a bowl of homemade granola with full-fat yogurt. And, of course, a muthafracking drone.
Today’s breakfast was….
…spinach salad with two soft-boiled eggs, chicken meatballs, two avocados, and broccoli florettes sauteed in ghee and garlic. And I gave the drone away 🙁
Meanwhile, if science fiction literature appeals to you, check out my review of Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel, 2312.
I’m off to Boston tomorrow to get my genome sequenced. Yes, you read that right. I’ll be writing about this in the near future, so stay tuned.