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Comedy Does Not Win a Free Pass: Seth MacFarlane at the Oscars

I am sick to death of the idea that “it’s just comedy” somehow gives you a free pass when you’re saying things that are racist and sexist.

And I am sick to death of the idea that any transgression of social norms — no matter what those norms are, or why they exist — automatically transforms you into a comedic genius.

I thought I didn’t have anything to say about Seth MacFarlane’s performance as Oscar host that Spencer Kornhaber at The Atlantic didn’t already say. If you haven’t read his piece, read it now. Money quote:

It shouldn’t be hard to come up with a sensible position on this. Everything, including punchlines about the Jews cutting non-Jews out of Hollywood, snickers about women faking the flu to lose weight, and cracks that there’s no need to try to understand what Salma Hayek’s saying because she’s so hot, is “OK.” It’s a free country, etc. But that doesn’t mean those jokes aren’t hurtful, obvious, or dumb. It doesn’t mean they don’t make the world a worse place. Humor, after all, can be an incredible weapon for social progress, but it can also be regressive: The more we pass off old stereotypes, rooted in hate, as normal—as MacFarlane did again and again last night—the longer those stereotypes, and their ability to harm people, will be in place.

But I’m realizing — after linking to Kornhaber’s piece on Facebook and getting into depressingly predictable debates as a result — that I do have something else to say. It’s this:

I am sick to death of the idea that “it’s just comedy” somehow gives you a free pass when you’re saying things that are racist and sexist. And I am sick to death of the idea that any transgression of social norms automatically transforms you into a comedic genius.

Yes, artistic freedom in comedy depends on the ability to say or do anything, even if it runs counter to social norms. That’s true of any art form. Comedy isn’t special in that regard. And yes, of course, comedians should have the legal right to say whatever they want (within the obvious limits of libel laws and copyright laws and such).

Does this mean that comedians should get a free pass when the things they say and do are screwed-up? Does it mean that comedians — or any artists — should be exempt from criticism when the things they say and do dehumanize, trivialize, shame, reinforce harmful stereotypes, support and rationalize the unequal status quo, and otherwise injure entire groups of people? Especially groups of people who have already been hurt a whole hell of a lot, in this exact same way, for centuries?

Lenny_Bruce_arrestI think there’s a bad logical fallacy that some comedians make. They think that being transgressive and cutting-edge and iconoclastic typically means offending people… and that therefore, if you’re offending people, it somehow automatically makes you transgressive and cutting-edge and iconoclastic. They think that because they’re offending people and making them angry, it means they’re Lenny Bruce.

It doesn’t work that way. To be iconoclastic, you have to destroy icons. To be cutting-edge, you have to push cultural boundaries in a way that moves society forward. To be transgressive — at least, to be transgressive in a meaningful way — you have to cross lines and break rules that deserve to be broken and crossed.

And to be Lenny Bruce, it’s not enough simply to offend people. You also have to be brilliant. To be Lenny Bruce, it’s not enough simply to say things nobody else will say. You have to say things nobody else will say — and which are also the truth.

The notion, expressed in Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar performance, that all African-Americans look alike? That Hispanics are hard to understand, but that’s okay as long as they’re attractive to look at? That women are unforgiving in relationships, and never let go of anything? That Hollywood is run by a Jewish cabal that only hires other Jews? That the nudity of female actresses exists primarily for the sexual enjoyment of men?

That’s not breaking icons. It’s reinforcing them. That’s not pushing our culture forward. It’s dragging us backward.

It’s not brilliant.

And it’s not true.

Kika posterWhat’s more: I’m sick to death of the notion that, if you critique something a comedian says or does for being hurtful and fucked up, you need to “lighten up,” “stop taking things so seriously,” and “get a sense of humor.” I remember years ago, Pedro Almodovar responded to feminist critiques of one of his movies (the critiques had to do with rape jokes, if I recall correctly) by saying something along the lines of, “Why are feminists like this? Isn’t it possible to be a feminist and still have a sense of humor?” To which I wanted to respond, “Isn’t it possible to have a sense of humor and still not think your jokes are funny?” This idea that having a sense of humor means giving all comedians a free pass on criticism for anything they say, ever… it’s bullshit. It’s a “Shut up, that’s why” argument. It’s a reflexive attempt to shut down any criticism — artistic as well as political or moral — before it ever starts.

Well, you don’t get to have it both ways. You don’t get to say that comedy is an important form of artistic expression, a valuable contribution to our cultural landscape in which artistic freedom is necessary and paramount… and then say that everyone just needs to lighten up, and what comedians say and do isn’t that big a deal, and it’s ridiculous to call them to account for it.

Some social norms are there for a reason. The social pressure to (for instance) not act like a racist asshole — that’s there for a reason. It’s there because racism is bad. It’s there because, as a society, we are in the process of changing our minds about race… and exerting social pressure against racist ideas and behavior is part of how we learn to do that, and teach each other to do it.

And this idea that any violation of social norms automatically makes you courageous and transgressive… it’s childish. It’s adolescent. It’s a cheap, easy way to make yourself feel rebellious and edgy… when you’re actually squarely in the center, reinforcing the very structures you’re pretending to rebel against.

Comments

  1. mithrandir says

    In the end, without actually diminishing Seth MacFarlane’s own responsibility for his actions, I consider the Academy ultimately to blame. They’re the ones who either didn’t know, or didn’t care, that this has always been his entire schtick – to make one extremely puerile joke and repeat it over and over, long after it stops being funny to even the most immature of viewers. If you’re lucky, it’s just a pratfall that repeats over and over and over… if you’re not lucky, you get his ‘performance’ at the Oscars.

    I suspect it’s “didn’t care” in this case, because they couldn’t possibly have not known what Seth MacFarlane was, given that they’d heard of him at all. They wanted juvenile and low-brow, and he exceeded (subceded?) their lowest expectations.

  2. koren says

    I’m not of the mind to say that racy or sexist jokes every now and then can never be funny, comedians just need to make sure they don’t over do them and that they don’t actually believe themselves as they’re supposed to be jokes; also they better be damn funny or they’ll just be awkward.

    That aside I haven’t seen Seth’s speech and well go look it up now, the above statement was just my general feeling towards said humour.

  3. says

    I’m reminded of your Gadfly Corollary: if I’m pissing people off, I must be doing something right! Doesn’t work for fringe theories, and it doesn’t work for comedy either.

  4. says

    A couple years ago the Harvard Humanists named Seth MacFarlane the Humanist of the Year and gave him a big award. Every time I mentioned that he’s responsible for some of the most mainstream racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic material someone would undoubtedly say “it’s just a joke, lighten up” or something of that variety. Usually something about it being a satire showing that such behavior is unacceptable.

    Family Guy (and his other films and shows) is not a satire. It’s a meanspirited romp through angry, hateful rhetoric, punching down at the little guy and then telling them it’s supposed to be funny why aren’t you laughing.

  5. unbound says

    As a couple of others pointed out, it is Seth McFarlane, the writer of exactly the type of “humor” used at the Oscars (Ted, Family Guy, American Dad), so it really was expected by the Academy who only cares about ratings anyways (IMO, the Oscars are nothing more than an extended commercial for the films).

    Same group that trotted out Kirk and Uhura for all of 2 minutes to show footage about the science & technology awards. Rather cliche with that as well.

  6. voidhawk says

    I think it IS possible to do –ist jokes but it’s a very thin line to walk, you have to know that you’ve built up enough of a rapport (A genuine rapport not just going “Hey girls, don’t be offended, you know I love you, right?”) with the targets of your joke that they aren’t going to feel hurt and betrayed by them.

    You also have to know when to apologise if you *do* overstep the mark, if you did misjudge your audience, if there was a layer of offense you didn’t know you were responsible for. I don’t think most people will hold it against you if you say something offensive but come to realise that it is offensive and apologise for it – we all screw up.

  7. says

    I remember “can’t you take a joke” to be one of the worst, hurtful and, yes, effective silencing techniques my mother used.
    She would say something imensely hurtful and when I reacted hurt I needed to “calm down” and “just take a joke”. It means the person who objects can’t win. They either take the hurt and the abuse, or they can protest and be a humorless, overreaction person.

    Katherine
    Well, the question is, does he use “bad wördz”? If not that’s OK, because it’s civil

  8. antialiasis says

    Generally, I think racist/sexist/etc. humour where the punchline is the racist/sexist/etc. idea itself is unfunny and harmful, but you can do relevant, biting humour about racism/sexism/etc. where the humour value comes from the idea that the relevant -ism is ludicrous, outdated and absurd, and in certain forms they can look pretty similar.

    Somebody saying they can’t tell black people apart, depending on how it’s played, can be a good joke – when it’s obviously at their expense, mocking the idea that any flesh-and-blood modern person would still think that. Mocking problematic ideas until they become ridiculous in the eyes of the public is a good thing – I like that quote from Mel Brooks where he said that he would make fun of Hitler until nobody could ever take his ideas seriously again. And a good comic could play it self-deprecatingly, so that they express the racist/whatever position themselves – but then, of course, there would have to be well-done setup to make it actually work out that way, instead of just “haha THEY ALL LOOK ALIKE!”

    But without having watched the Oscars personally, I doubt that’s what Seth MacFarlane was doing.

  9. hexidecima says

    “And this idea that any violation of social norms automatically makes you courageous and transgressive… it’s childish. It’s adolescent. It’s a cheap, easy way to make yourself feel rebellious and edgy… when you’re actually squarely in the center, reinforcing the very structures you’re pretending to rebel against.

    Exactly. i find most supposed “comics” just poor hateful little men (and some women) who have nothing funny to say at all. They just want attention.

  10. says

    antialiasis

    Somebody saying they can’t tell black people apart, depending on how it’s played, can be a good joke – when it’s obviously at their expense, mocking the idea that any flesh-and-blood modern person would still think that.

    Punching up vs. punching down.
    I think the “they all look alike” would work extremely well if you reversed the roles, say, Denzel Washingtone mixing up Leonardo di Caprio and George Clooney saying something along the lines of “ach, Caucasians, like peas in a pod”.
    Or maybe Colbert could do it.

  11. kevinalexander says

    America’s Funniest Home Videos has been running for many years and is very popular. I never watch it.
    Too many of the videos are of someone falling off something and landing of their ass (funny) face (funnier) or crotch (funniest). None of these are funny. Someone’s getting hurt yet that always gets a laugh.

  12. kevinalexander says

    Giliell @11

    That joke’s been done. In an old Charlie Chan movie his son gets beaten up the police ask him if he could describe the assailants he says “I don’t know, white guys all look the same to me.”

  13. Klebbster says

    I’m sorry, but I can’t help but to find MacFarlane’s jokes funny. They are no doubt juvenile and they definitely play on a plethora of stereotypes, but they make me laugh. I think it is unfair for anybody to completely dismiss the validity of someone saying, “lighten up, it’s just a joke” – to a large extent, most humor is rooted in some type of injustice or unfairness.

  14. says

    @Klebbster:

    When that injustice is aimed square at you, it’s not quite so funny.

    Let’s look at a Family Guy episode for example, where Brian becomes enamored by Quagmire’s mother – only to find out that Quagmire’s mother was trans*. Cue basically five minutes of him vomiting his guts out. Is that funny? How is that not transphobic?

    It’s that way with everything, with basically every joke. The few that work and are actually funny are the ones that punch up (usually involving playing up some aspect of Lois’s father’s life – since he’s a rich, white, straight, elderly gentleman.) Beyond those jokes, they’re all vicious and cruel.

  15. doublereed says

    Firstly, the fact is that comedy has to try things out. It’s not always easy to figure out where the line is and it’s not always easy to figure out what’s funny and what’s not. But this isn’t a stand up club. This is the Oscars, and quite frankly I think Seth knows perfectly well where the line is and when he’s stepping over it.

    Secondly, it seems to be that audiences are pretty fickle. People seem to allow a degree of offensiveness as long as there’s a degree of humor. So if you can be really really really friggin’ funny, you can say more offensive things. So the problem honestly seems to be that his jokes weren’t all that funny. They were bland, boring, and dull, with very little subversion or interest.

    Lastly, humor is not automatically virtuous. Gang rapists laughing at their victim are not good people because they are laughing. Humor includes jeering and taunting. Person A is not superior to Person B simply because A laughs at something that B does not.

  16. says

    Humor is subjective, assuredly. However, humor that uses an eight year old girl as the butt of a pedophile joke is not funny. Some fretted over making George Clooney look like a pedophile. But Quvenzhané Wallis who was used as the means to embarrass Clooney? So many didn’t even bring her up or care that the joke was suggesting Clooney was molesting her. Nope, gotta protect the reputation of a power white man because obviously that’s more important that harassing a little black girl.

    I’m sorry, Kelbbster, but the fact that you can laugh at jokes like that suggests to me that you have a great deal of privilege and aren’t aware of it. That you can laugh over the suggestion that Quvenzhané Wallis was molested is quite sad.

  17. chasstewart says

    Greta Christina said: “The social pressure to (for instance) not act like a racist asshole — that’s there for a reason. It’s there because racism is bad. It’s there because, as a society, we are in the process of changing our minds about race… and exerting social pressure against racist ideas and behavior is part of how we learn to do that, and teach each other to do it.”

    That’s supposed to make it funny (doesn’t mean that it ends up funny but that’s the basis for so many jokes). The fact that the person up there on the stage in front of the world is doing things that normal don’t and shouldn’t do shocks our senses. It’s shock factor and the performer ends up making fun of themselves. The audience is supposed to think about the actresses’ full careers knowing that to focus on their boobs is silly and the person saying so is wrong to do so. Haven’t you ever laughed at something Louis CK says (like the n-word) while thinking or saying “that’s so wrong!”? The joke centered around the actresses boobs wasn’t about how shameful it is that women show their breasts but about the juvenile nature of many men.

  18. says

    Haven’t you ever laughed at something Louis CK says (like the n-word) while thinking or saying “that’s so wrong!”?

    No, because it isn’t wrong. Louis CK does not make racist jokes (at least, I’ve never heard him make one). Even his jokes about the n-word aren’t racist. Unless of course you think it’s inherently racist to simply utter the word…

    The joke centered around the actresses boobs wasn’t about how shameful it is that women show their breasts but about the juvenile nature of many men.

    Considering the reaction, I’d say that didn’t exactly come across. Just this morning I heard it described as a song about how actresses “show their boobs” in movies, and how it’s a fact that many of them do show their boobs in movies, so the speaker doesn’t get what all of these women are upset about.

    So, yeah. If it was a joke aimed at juvenile men, it apparently was a lousy one because nobody– neither intended targets nor those apparently hit in the crossfire– understood it as such.

  19. ladychillax says

    My problem with this as an atheist is that the majority of the people in this country who are religious and christian would include George Carlin and Eddie Izzard in the verboten offending categories. Walk into a randomly selected crowd in a randomly selected mall in America and start spouting some of that stuff. I can assure you there would be some social norms being transgressed. You can expand this to all forms of art and expression such as Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ. Mayor Giuliani sure didn’t see the truth and brilliance there. Who decides?

  20. leftwingfox says

    Haven’t you ever laughed at something Louis CK says (like the n-word) while thinking or saying “that’s so wrong!”?

    Are you saying that to a hypothetical black person? Because to the folks who hear that word without irony, with malice, anger and violence behind them, aren’t usually the ones laughing.

    Transgressive might get a giggle, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be regressive. Poop jokes are transgressive too, or at least were before they became mainstream. Bill Hicks takes on drugs were transgressive for the time, but in a way that pushed a positive vision. Comedy culture affects mainstream culture, especially since many comics become writers, actors and producers of mainstream comedy shows. Pushing transphobia, homophobia and racism in comedy helps normalize that as well.

    It’s comics who manage to subvert expectations, play with offensive idea, pull out recognition at it’s use, point at the absurdities, and turn it around in unexpected ways that become memorable.

  21. chasstewart says

    @Gretchen – I don’t use the n-word in any context not even in an academic sense so yes all forms of saying the word is verboten and seen as racist.

    I understand that the joke didn’t come across to some and that many were offended or used it for their bigoted ways but just because a joke fails does not mean that comedian is wrong for even broaching the subject. They can’t all be legends all the time.

  22. jonlynnharvey says

    The comparison with Lenny Bruce is right on!

    Humor like Seth McFarlane’s becomes marginally acceptable if it is in a self-effacing dramatic context, such as in Seinfeld where we both laugh with and at the characters’ anti-social tendencies. When characters there act vaguely homophobic or racist, we are both recognizing our own residual faults in that area and at the same time “exorcising” them- recognizing they are wrong.

    I’ve never seen McFarlane’s show “Family Guy”. Maybe it supplies this context- maybe it doesn’t, but that was woefully lacking at the Oscars. McFarlane may have gotten a bit of a pass from some viewers because of his boyish good looks, a sort of handsome version of Alfred Newman’s “What-Me-Worry”. But that wore thin very quickly. What ultimately lingered was just bad air, as if Mr. Nice-looking let out a really smelly fart.

  23. says

    chasstewart said:

    I don’t use the n-word in any context not even in an academic sense so yes all forms of saying the word is verboten and seen as racist.

    So you think that Louis CK is actually being racist when he says the word, but that’s okay, because it’s funny?

    Ummm. Wow.

    I understand that the joke didn’t come across to some and that many were offended or used it for their bigoted ways but just because a joke fails does not mean that comedian is wrong for even broaching the subject. They can’t all be legends all the time.

    Nobody said it was wrong to “even broach the subject.” There are a number of ways the subject of female nudity in film could have been talked about, even joked about, without appearing to be at the expense of actresses (and women in general). It’s highly charitable of you to think this was a case of the joke simply failing, but it doesn’t sound to me like it failed at all. It sounds like it just wasn’t about what you say it was.

  24. CT Chimako.27 says

    ” “it’s just comedy” somehow gives you a free pass”

    I struggled to explain this to my teenage son. That “funny” doesn’t mean it’s not racist.

    Then I told him some of the things my father’s generation thought were super funny. He was horrified and said “but that’s so messed up and wrong!” Then he got it. Teaching the uber privileged how to see something like this can be a challenge. I think I did okay but it took me like three tries to come up with a method.

  25. glodson says

    It’s comics who manage to subvert expectations, play with offensive idea, pull out recognition at it’s use, point at the absurdities, and turn it around in unexpected ways that become memorable.

    This.

    Humor can be a great tool. Joking about an issue so that you show the absurdity of the problem is great. You want to laugh when someone says “hey, that’s gay” without irony? Fine. It is stupid and harmful, and you are laughing at a bigoted and stupid joke that does nothing but normalize the bigotry. It is a waste.

    Make a joke where the joke is on the bigot, where we subvert these ideas, this is both harder and worthwhile. It points out why the bigot is stupid, and we even get to laugh at the bigot while the bigot misses the point of the joke.

    Macfarlene is a hack.

  26. says

    I don’t use the n-word in any context not even in an academic sense so yes all forms of saying the word is verboten and seen as racist.

    Seen as racist by whom? Many scholars of race, literature, and even people critiquing pop culture use the word specifically to unpack it. A lot of those people are fans of CK to boot. Your inability to separate appropriate usage from inappropriate usage is not universal.

    I will say that Louis CK is an absolute genius, and even he crosses the line sometimes. His purpose is in holding up powerful things to scrutiny and ridicule. McFarlane (evidently – I didn’t watch) didn’t do that.

  27. Greta Christina says

    The fact that the person up there on the stage in front of the world is doing things that normal don’t and shouldn’t do shocks our senses. It’s shock factor and the performer ends up making fun of themselves.

    My problem with this as an atheist is that the majority of the people in this country who are religious and christian would include George Carlin and Eddie Izzard in the verboten offending categories. Walk into a randomly selected crowd in a randomly selected mall in America and start spouting some of that stuff. I can assure you there would be some social norms being transgressed. You can expand this to all forms of art and expression such as Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ. Mayor Giuliani sure didn’t see the truth and brilliance there. Who decides?.

    chasstewart @ #18, and ladychillax @ #20: Yes, I understand about shock humor and transgressive humor. The issue here is that, if you’re going to do shock humor or transgressive humor, and if you’re going to do it well, you need to put some time and effort into thinking about what sensibilities are being shocked, what lines are being transgressed. Are you breaking taboos that should be broken, taboos that are nonsensical or harmful? Or are you breaking taboos that are there for a good reason — such as the taboo against being a racist asshole?

    And who is it that you’re tearing down? Are you tearing down people who are powerful, and who wield that power in stupid or cruel or harmful ways? Or are you tearing down people who are already down, and who have been kept down for centuries in part by the exact ideas you’re expressing?

    As for “the performer ends up making fun of themselves”: Yes, of course, that can work. Steven Colbert is a great example: his “I don’t see race” schtick mocks the very attitude he’s pretending to adopt. But you need to be careful and thoughtful about making it clear who you’re mocking.

    MacFarlane was not careful or thoughtful. He didn’t put the time and work into deciding which lines should be crossed, which sensibilities were worth shocking. He went for easy, lazy shock humor, without putting the work in that’s needed to turn it into genuine social criticism… or at least, that’s needed to make it not just regressive and hurtful.

  28. says

    Crommunist said:

    Seen as racist by whom? Many scholars of race, literature, and even people critiquing pop culture use the word specifically to unpack it. A lot of those people are fans of CK to boot. Your inability to separate appropriate usage from inappropriate usage is not universal.

    chasstewart’s use of “seen as” leads me to believe that not even he/she believes that Louis CK is being racist when using the word, but has accepted that wider society believes that every use of it is racist, therefore it must be. Therefore racism must sometimes be funny. Therefore in order to avoid the cognitive dissonance caused by the conclusion that racism is okay, the brain concludes that:
    1. Funny things are not always okay things, and/or
    2. This particular funny thing is not a racist thing, or
    3. This particular thing isn’t funny, because it’s racist and therefore not okay.

    If you think that this particular thing is funny, then you must discard #3 and, it seems, are forced to accept #1 or #2 if you want to maintain that both a) I think this particular thing is funny, and b) I am not racist.

    And the same loosely applies to sexism.

    This leads me to believe that a good portion of people trying to avoid being racist or sexist is just them not wanting to seem racist or sexist, without having a very good concept of what racism and sexism are to begin with.

  29. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    Look Dave Chapell if rumors are to be believed, thought HE failed and was promoting racism rather than attacking it. This is how narrow the line is.

  30. sambarge says

    I was very unlikely to watch the Oscar’s anyway but McFarlane hosting was the nail in the coffin. He is terrible and it sounds like he lived down to his expectations. The best thing I’ve heard was that he wasn’t “as bad” as some people thought he would be. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

    Comparing McFarlane to Carlin or Izzard is a false analogy. The people that Carlin and Izzard laugh at were/are in power. That’s why it’s funny. Satire is funny because it speaks to power, not from it. When you speak from power and “satirize” a person or people, you’re just being a bully.

    And, for the record, I have found very little funny in Louis CK’s “humour”. I was very disappointed when I watched a stand up show of his; aftering hearing so much praise it was a hell of a let down. I haven’t pursued more of his work because I figured it wasn’t worth my time. Why is he considered such a genius or referenced as an example of a worthwhile comedian with a controversial show?

  31. says

    No person who says things on a public stage should ever be allowed to have a free pass from criticism, but they should not be denied the right to open their mouths. The notion that it’s always OK to say X but never OK to say Y is way too simplistic and infringes on freedom of speech.

    Comedy that consists solely of jokes, that uses stereotypes and does reveal any truths, is pretty empty and worthless. To the extent that it makes us chuckle it’s fine, but if it is delivered with no subtext then the prejudices or insults it reveals should also be taken at face value.

    However, comedy can have underlying worth that transcends its immediate content. Historically, clowns in many cultures existed to puncture the egos of those in power and cause people to question the way they think, even though their acts may just have appeared to be bawdy slapstick. For a really interesting take on this, I recommend Stewart Lee’s book “How I Escaped My Certain Fate”. He is a comedian whose routines, taken at face value, skirt the lines of acceptability, but are constructed skillfully with a view to making the audience truly question their attitudes or beliefs. He can have an audience laugh along at crude or even insulting content and then throw that acceptance back in their faces.

    Seth MacFarlane might do that in some contexts. Perhaps the intention of the scene in Family Guy mentioned above was to portray such an excessive reaction that the viewer is made to think ‘come on, it’s no big deal really’. He might even think he was doing that on Oscar night with the boob song. However, trying to do that on a platform like the Oscar show was probably misguided, and delivering his jokes with their own commentary as he did on many occasions certainly tended to reinforce the idea that we were only supposed to take them at face value. It suggests to me that both he and those who hired him were misguided and deserve criticism.

  32. says

    Humor is a very powerful tool for both good and evil, which is why I take it seriously when it’s about serious issues. Bigoted jokes reinforce bigotry as normal and makes casual bigotry that much easier. Progressive comedians can turn humor around to make the bigots the butt of the jokes and rightfully ridicule them into shame where they won’t be comfortable expressing their bigotry in the open, which means it won’t spread so easily.

    Being told to “lighten up” for humor irritates me all the more because it’s an insidious way bigots can gain ground when we should be holding the line. It’s a conflict of attrition where every little bit adds up over time.

    Definitely too much use of the Gadfly Corollary going on in the world, and it has synergy with the Freeze Peach memes. I think if you’re not shocking anyone, that means you’re not doing anything and can be ignored. If you are shocking people, you have to pay close attention to see whose toes you’re treading on and why they’re shocked.

  33. Greta Christina says

    No person who says things on a public stage should ever be allowed to have a free pass from criticism, but they should not be denied the right to open their mouths.

    Rich Baldry @ #33: Is there anyone in this conversation who’s said anything different? I don’t just mean this conversation in this blog. I mean in this conversation about this topic everywhere.I have not seen one single person say that MacFarlane should have been denied the right to say what he said. We’re simply saying that it was fucked-up, and we are speaking against it.

    The notion that it’s always OK to say X but never OK to say Y is way too simplistic and infringes on freedom of speech.

    Again, I don’t see anyone (or hardly anyone) saying “it’s always OK to say X but never OK to say Y.” But even if they were… how does that infringe on free speech? Person A says X; person B says “I don’t think you should say X.” That’s a conversation, in which both people are exercising their freedom of speech. Unless Person B actually has the power to prevent Person A from saying X, how does it infringe on free speech to say that you don’t like what someone else says, and wish they wouldn’t say it?

  34. Greta Christina says

    Greta, were you offended by Archie Bunker in All in the Family? Just wondering where the line is.

    Plac ebo @ #23: I watched All in the Family when I was a child, so I don’t know what I would think about it now, and can only tell you what I think about it based on my memories of it. My memories are that Archie Bunker’s racism, sexism, etc. were very clearly used to make fun of his bigotry. It wasn’t making fun of African-Americans, women, etc. — it was making fun of bigotry, and pointing out how absurd it was. But I’d have to watch it again to see if my thoughts on it had changed.

  35. says

    Greta @#35: No, and I apologise if that’s how it came across. I thought it worth saying explicitly as the line between criticising what people say and questioning their right to say it can become blurred at times.

  36. glodson says

    “All in the Family” is a great example. The whole point was that the audience wasn’t supposed to support Archie Bunker’s opinions. He was supposed to look bad and backwards. I understand that Carroll O’Connor, the actor that played Archie Bunker, was distressed by the fan mail in support of the character. So much so that he made this PSA.

    Part of the problem is that when this style of humor is done, many will miss the point. And sometimes, it becomes clear that those producing the humor didn’t understand the point either. Anyone who does this kind of humor does run the risk of crossing the line.

  37. Anthony K says

    Thanks, glodson, you covered my thoughts on “All in the Family”.

    What’s fucked up about all of this “C’mon, it’s a joke” bullshit is that, even leaving aside the wider context of sexism in society, the context of this particular act of comedy was at the Oscars, an event that is ostensibly all about examining the merits of the film art made that year. Now, all of a sudden discussion about the merits of art is taboo?

    Fine. Cancel the fucking Oscars, then.

    But if not, and if I have to hear for months on end about this person’s pick for Best Actor or that persons pick for Best Film, then people can damn well put up with a few day’s discussion about MacFarlane’s tone-deaf hipster sexism at the event itself.

  38. loreo says

    The proper response to “can’t you take a joke?” is “Can’t you MAKE a joke?”

    Calling asshole behavior “humor” is the first cop-out assholes learn. I swear, comedy writing workshops should be mandatory if only to give everyone the tools to dissect thoughtless and hurtful “jokes”.

  39. says

    I thought it worth saying explicitly as the line between criticising what people say and questioning their right to say it can become blurred at times.

    I think there’s a pretty big difference between being denied the right to say something and not being given a big stage with a bazillion of viewers.
    It’s not censorship to say that people shouldn’t be given the stage at the Oscars to say lots of sexist and racist crap

  40. glodson says

    Not a problem.

    I was kind of thinking of South Park as I wrote it. I had a roommate that loved the show. He thought Cartman was funny. But he never really got that you weren’t supposed to agree with Cartman, but look at him like a loathsome jerkass.

    Bringing this back to MacFarlene, I remember the first few seasons of Family Guy being smarter. Maybe I’m romanticizing the past and I’ve grown since then in my understanding, so maybe it has always been a wretched example of lowbrow humor that just used poorly thought out and bigoted jokes to supply the humor.

  41. Vicki says

    Klebbster @14:

    OK, you find them funny. That’s a data point. If nobody found them funny, the guy wouldn’t be getting paid lots of money.

    But “it’s a joke” doesn’t mean we should “lighten up” or that it’s “just a joke.” Many people find them unfunny and hurtful, and that’s also true and important.

  42. chasstewart says

    Crommunist: “Seen as racist by whom? Many scholars of race, literature, and even people critiquing pop culture use the word specifically to unpack it. A lot of those people are fans of CK to boot. Your inability to separate appropriate usage from inappropriate usage is not universal.

    I will say that Louis CK is an absolute genius, and even he crosses the line sometimes. His purpose is in holding up powerful things to scrutiny and ridicule. McFarlane (evidently – I didn’t watch) didn’t do that.”

    Sorry, in academic literature I’ve obviously read it and I believe Pinker featured the word in his presentation on language which was obviously fine because they were analyzing the usage and history and obviously nothing should be off limits to academic exploration. I’m misusing the phrase “academic sense”. I meant, I would never use this word on a blog or any informal context even if everyone involved was trying to be as academic as possible in the exchange. Maybe I’m just being overly cautious!

    The joke about MacFarlane not being able to tell the difference between Denzel Washington from any other black man is obviously a joke about racism and not re-enforcing a stereotype about black people. It’s bringing to light myopic tendencies of white people (or any majority group’s inability to relate or their apathy towards understanding minority groups).

    Comedy is about taste but there’s no reason to act like there should only be one type of comedy. There’s just the type of comedy that you like. Yes, Louie is absolutely genius but there’s room for the rest not quite so genius.

  43. says

    The joke about MacFarlane not being able to tell the difference between Denzel Washington from any other black man is obviously a joke about racism and not re-enforcing a stereotype about black people. It’s bringing to light myopic tendencies of white people (or any majority group’s inability to relate or their apathy towards understanding minority groups).

    If he wanted to not re-enforce the stereotype then he should have reversed the joke and made it about white people. Or better yet, made it about himself looking exactly like some other white dude.

  44. Anthony K says

    If he wanted to not re-enforce the stereotype then he should have reversed the joke and made it about white people. Or better yet, made it about himself looking exactly like some other white dude.

    Or done something, for fuck’s sake, rather than simply repeating the stereotype, verbatim.

    I mean, you wouldn’t believe how consciousness-raising my dad was, bringing to light the racist and sexist tendencies of white males to unfairly blame Asians and women for poor driving skills. He did it while driving all the time. And he really sold the joke. He fucking sold it.

    Either that, or he was just a bigoted fuck.

    Comedy is about taste but there’s no reason to act like there should only be one type of comedy.

    Let’s not pretend, for even a fucking second here, that racist and sexist jokes are in any fucking danger of disappearing from the landscape any time soon.

  45. says

    Comedy is about taste but there’s no reason to act like there should only be one type of comedy. There’s just the type of comedy that you like. Yes, Louie is absolutely genius but there’s room for the rest not quite so genius.

    Because you have to be a genius to not make sexist or racist jokes?

    No, you just have to be a) a decent human being and b) not incredibly lazy. Really, it’s that easy. And no, there’s no particular reason to make “room” for people who don’t fit that description.

  46. chasstewart says

    Gretchen: “chasstewart’s use of “seen as” leads me to believe that not even he/she believes that Louis CK is being racist when using the word, but has accepted that wider society believes that every use of it is racist, therefore it must be.”
    Thanks for being charitable. When Louis CK used it he was trying to be shocking. To jar the audience in hopes that it will get a laugh and to have fun exploring this boundary, I think.

    “Therefore racism must sometimes be funny. Therefore in order to avoid the cognitive dissonance caused by the conclusion that racism is okay, the brain concludes that:
    1. Funny things are not always okay things, and/or
    2. This particular funny thing is not a racist thing, or
    3. This particular thing isn’t funny, because it’s racist and therefore not okay.

    If you think that this particular thing is funny, then you must discard #3 and, it seems, are forced to accept #1 or #2 if you want to maintain that both a) I think this particular thing is funny, and b) I am not racist.

    And the same loosely applies to sexism.

    This leads me to believe that a good portion of people trying to avoid being racist or sexist is just them not wanting to seem racist or sexist, without having a very good concept of what racism and sexism are to begin with.”
    That’s pretty good. I think that racist and mean things can be funny or else Lisa Lampanelli wouldn’t have a career but it’s obvious that she doesn’t actually harbor any hate for her audience.

  47. glodson says

    Looking at what was said, I’m not seeing any reflection over larger stereotypes, or examining cultural prejudices, or anything else.

    I see shock humor. I see the same crap that Daniel Tosh pushes. “Hey, look, I just said something shocking and edgy. I’m so cool, it is funny because he’s black and the other guy played Lincoln. Now laugh!”

  48. says

    I think that racist and mean things can be funny or else Lisa Lampanelli wouldn’t have a career but it’s obvious that she doesn’t actually harbor any hate for her audience.

    Lisa Lampanelli was recently called out for calling another white woman her “n*gga”. This woman will never, ever be able to use even the modified n-word as an affectionate name because she is white. She doesn’t get to reappropriate a word that has been used to harm black people for a very, very long time. Her shock humor is bullshit and she is only popular with people who find a white woman saying the n-word hilarious.

    I’m also not a fan of her constant use of c*nt, but that’s a lot different than racial slurs because she’s actually a woman.

    And I’m seriously tired of this being repeated over and over that racist things can be funny or comics wouldn’t be popular. That’s bullshit. There are a hell of a lot of people that agree with those racists things, that’s why they think it’s funny.

  49. says

    That’s pretty good. I think that racist and mean things can be funny or else Lisa Lampanelli wouldn’t have a career but it’s obvious that she doesn’t actually harbor any hate for her audience.

    Yes, because her shtick is pretending to be racist and mean. If she were actually racist and mean, it wouldn’t be funny at all.

  50. says

    This makes me think of Alex Rosenberg in his book the Atheist Guide to Reality where he says that people shouldn’t take themselves so seriously. Our subjective experience of the world is utterly illusionary, and so is our sense of self. There is no “you”, nor is there a “me”. Who is being insulted, or discriminated against? No one. With no teleology, no free will, and no morality, we cannot “progress” anywhere, as there is nowhere for us to go to. And social justice? Pfft. “I demand the chemicals in your head treat me more fairly!”.

  51. chasstewart says

    Timid Atheist: “If he wanted to not re-enforce the stereotype then he should have reversed the joke and made it about white people. Or better yet, made it about himself looking exactly like some other white dude.”

    I think that flip has been done a few times already by black comics and other comedians. Sometimes, going back to the well that was once dried up is shocking and funny. Seems like that was what MacFarlane was going for, now that I think about it a little more.

  52. Anthony K says

    where he says that people shouldn’t take themselves so seriously

    If your summation of his position is accurate, then what a self-defeating thesis.

    “I demand the chemicals in your head take themselves less seriously!”

    Nowhere to go. Nowhere to progress. No need to write books about being an atheist or anything else.

  53. chasstewart says

    Anthony K: “Let’s not pretend, for even a fucking second here, that racist and sexist jokes are in any fucking danger of disappearing from the landscape any time soon.”

    I wasn’t.

  54. Anthony K says

    Sometimes, going back to the well that was once dried up is shocking and funny. Seems like that was what MacFarlane was going for, now that I think about it a little more.

    Think harder. That well sure as shit isn’t anywhere near dried up.

  55. Anthony K says

    I wasn’t.

    Then why did you bring up the boring and tired canard that there has to be room for the non-genius racist and sexist jokes, if there wasn’t some fear that those would somehow be lost?

    Besides, you tipped your hand when you again suggested that the well is dried up.

  56. Anthony K says

    Seems like that was what MacFarlane was going for, now that I think about it a little more.

    And of fucking course that’s what he was going for. I mean, for those of us who understand comedy, it’s exactly apparent what the intent is. That’s neither lost on me, nor the actual targets of meta or ‘hipster’ bigotry jokes. We know this. It isn’t a new shtick.

    It’s just that the underlying assumption (the dried up well) is false.

  57. chasstewart says

    @Anthony K
    I didn’t know it was a “boring and tired canard”. :( By saying that there’s room for non-geniuses I mean that we shouldn’t compare all comedians to the geniuses (MacFarlane is not even a stand-up) like Louie C.K., Lenny Bruce, Carlin et. al., and claim that someone isn’t funny just because they don’t live up to those standards. I think that MacFarlane did what should be expected from him.

  58. Anthony K says

    I didn’t know it was a “boring and tired canard”

    Well, that’s rule one in hackery: not bothering to know what’s boring and tired and what’s fresh.

  59. says

    I mean that we shouldn’t compare all comedians to the geniuses (MacFarlane is not even a stand-up)

    Uh, no, he’s a comedy writer who writes and produces comedy shows and movies for a living. And is wildly successful at it.

    But even if he wasn’t…..so what? I’ll ask again– are the alternatives a) be a genius, or b) be racist/sexist? If not, then why the hell are you defending the latter by saying we can’t all be the former?

  60. ladychillax says

    So, if I enjoyed many of Seth McFarlane’s jokes, the Nazi Sound of Music bit was my fave, and thought he was light years better than the James Franco/Anne Hathaway train wreck last year, I’m sexist and racist? Confused? Have a bad sense of humor?

    Are you breaking taboos that should be broken, taboos that are nonsensical or harmful?

    And who is it that you’re tearing down? Are you tearing down people who are powerful, and who wield that power in stupid or cruel or harmful ways?

    When Sinead O’Connor tore up the photo of the Pope it pretty much killed her career. I think that many of us in the atheist community would find that Sinead was tearing down the powerful. But popular opinion metaphorically crucified her for it.

    To be transgressive — at least, to be transgressive in a meaningful way — you have to cross lines and break rules that deserve to be broken and crossed.

    This is where as an atheist I err on the side of allowing a broad swath of offense. Who decides which rules deserve to be broken?
    There is a broad gray zone where one woman laughs at the boobs song, another woman takes offense under a generous definition of sexism, and a lot of religious folk would object just based on the word boob regardless of context.
    This is why I don’t think it is productive for atheists, of all people, to narrow the definitions of offense.

    I am sick to death of the idea that “it’s just comedy” somehow gives you a free pass when you’re saying things that are racist and sexist.

    That same argument is used against blasphemy. This is where my reaction becomes, Atheists as the joke police? There is a joke in there somewhere, but it will be on us!

  61. chasstewart says

    @Gretchen
    Being a stand-up and being a writer is far different from what I’ve learned. There’s a rhythm and many tricks that are cultivated by stand-ups that writers haven’t necessarily crafted.

    I don’t think that he was being racist. I think that his style is far more surface than someone like Louie C.K. and that his racist or sexist jokes are not appreciated in the same way that Louie’s or Pryor’s jokes are and maybe that’s because they aren’t as well constructed. So, I don’t thin the choices are 1) genius 2) racist/sexist but that non-geniuses don’t know how to tread the line as well or don’t see the need.

  62. Anthony K says

    By saying that there’s room for non-geniuses I mean that we shouldn’t compare all comedians to the geniuses (MacFarlane is not even a stand-up) like Louie C.K., Lenny Bruce, Carlin et. al., and claim that someone isn’t funny just because they don’t live up to those standards.

    Further to this, what exactly do you think makes those people ‘geniuses’ and others not? Google Lenny Bruce. Compare his work to McFarlane’s “I can’t tell black people apart, just like the racists can’t, but I’m not a racist so it’s funny when I say it!” bit.

    Now, I don’t agree with Lenny Bruce’s claims about word use, but the man had something to say, and it wasn’t just to parrot the bigotry of the time and claim it’s funny because he’s done so ‘ironically’.

    Incidentally, I think MacFarlane is a genius at what he does. The comedic timing of shows like Family Guy is impeccable, and I understand how, at least in its early years, it combined deadpan racism and sexism with absurdism, and put it all in the mouths of characters who were generally and deliberately unlikeable. I think it’s fallen by the South Park wayside, where it’s become in love with the pass it’s been given for being edgy and lampooning everyone.

    But compare the message in this clip of Bruce’s with MacFarlane’s “Well we have finally reached the point in the ceremony where either Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz or Salma Hayek comes on stage and we have no idea what they’re saying but we don’t care because they’re so attractive” and tell us if you understand why the title of The Atlantic’s piece quoted in the OP is “The Banality of Seth MacFarlane’s Sexism and Racism at the Oscars”.

    Who decides which rules deserve to be broken?

    If the nuances are too subtle for you to grok, I’m happy to take on that job.

    I don’t think that he was being racist. I think that his style is far more surface than someone like Louie C.K. and that his racist or sexist jokes are not appreciated in the same way that Louie’s or Pryor’s jokes are and maybe that’s because they aren’t as well constructed

    Given all of this, what makes my road-raging father saying “You cut me off?! Get off the fucking road, you—[drives close enough to stare down at the driver]—slant-eyed cunt!” not a comedy routine? Or did the slant-eyed cunt driving to work not have enough of a sense of humour to appreciate the ‘surface’ level of the bit?

  63. glodson says

    So, if I enjoyed many of Seth McFarlane’s jokes, the Nazi Sound of Music bit was my fave, and thought he was light years better than the James Franco/Anne Hathaway train wreck last year, I’m sexist and racist? Confused? Have a bad sense of humor?

    No. But I think you might want to ask yourself what made the stuff MacFarlene said during the Oscars funny. What was funny about the joke about Clooney and a nine year old girl? What was funny about the song about seeing actresses’ breasts? What was funny about the joke about Daniel Day-Lewis mistaking Denzel Washington for a slave?

    Why were these supposed to be funny? What was the point?

    Maybe I can be charitable and say that MacFarlene was going for some kind of commentary and I am just not seeing it. But that would be a failure on his part. Using sexist language, racist language, and all that, to build a joke doesn’t make the joke sexist or racist. It is what the basis for the joke actually is.

    It isn’t how he said what he said that is the problem. It isn’t his delivery. As far as I can tell, his jokes were just shockingly sexist, and at times racist as well, for the point of being shocking. The problem is the underlying premise of these jokes, the underlying sexism. It is much like when Akin and his ilk said those horrible things last year. What they didn’t get was the problem wasn’t with how they said it, it was with the message itself.

  64. Anthony K says

    It isn’t how he said what he said that is the problem. It isn’t his delivery. As far as I can tell, his jokes were just shockingly sexist, and at times racist as well, for the point of being shocking. The problem is the underlying premise of these jokes, the underlying sexism. It is much like when Akin and his ilk said those horrible things last year. What they didn’t get was the problem wasn’t with how they said it, it was with the message itself.

    But Todd Akin would have been hilarious—though certainly not on par with geniuses like Lenny Bruce—if he’d worked a few K sounds into “legitimate rape”.

  65. zibble says

    Salon also has an article about how some of the boobs on display were from rape scenes, some of which were depictions of real life victims of rape. Maybe there’s a legitimate point to make that actresses are somehow exploiting real victims as a cheap way to advance their own careers, but generally, the expression of female nudity in a (tasteful) commentary on rape – in many of those cases, breasts battered and hideously bruised – is an attempt to elevate the female body above a purely sexual object into something human, that lives and breathes and feels pain. And then this clown comes along with a stupid song saying, “Nope! You’re just wank material.”

    Fuck that cheap, humorless piece of shit. Real shock comedy is about getting people to see the world in a new light, not just reinforcing your idiotic frat-boy privileges.

  66. says

    I thought it worth saying explicitly as the line between criticising what people say and questioning their right to say it can become blurred at times.

    No. The only time it becomes blurred is when people who don’t want to be criticized claim that you can’t criticize them because FREEZE PEACH.

    In other words, bigots like to blur the line ON PURPOSE to they can derail the conversation to be about FREEZE PEACH.

    None of the critics of bigotry have any delusions that identifying racist and sexist speech for what it is infringes on anyone’s actual free speech rights, and in truth, neither are the bigots – it’s just a convenient fiction for them that serves to protect them from the negative social consequences of being bigots.

    So stop falling for the FREEZE PEACH hype and shut up about this alleged blurring of lines. You’re lending aid and comfort to the bigots.

    Blargh.

  67. Greta Christina says

    The joke about MacFarlane not being able to tell the difference between Denzel Washington from any other black man is obviously a joke about racism and not re-enforcing a stereotype about black people.

    chasstewart @ #43: Obvious to whom? To the African-Americans who were the target of the joke, and who are pissed off in droves all over the Internet about it? It’s not up to white people to say, “No, that wasn’t racist.” If a white person makes a joke about race, even in a sincere but clumsy attempt at meta and self-mockery, and lots and lots and lots of people of color get pissed off about it… then that comedian screwed up, and needs to apologize.

    By saying that there’s room for non-geniuses I mean that we shouldn’t compare all comedians to the geniuses (MacFarlane is not even a stand-up) like Louie C.K., Lenny Bruce, Carlin et. al., and claim that someone isn’t funny just because they don’t live up to those standards. I think that MacFarlane did what should be expected from him.

    chasstewart @ #58: So what’s your point? Because MacFarlane isn’t a genius, therefore he shouldn’t be called to account for saying racist and sexist shit? If you’re not willing to put the time and work into your art form to get edgy material right, then you would be well advised to stay away from edgy material.

    I don’t think that he was being racist. I think that his style is far more surface than someone like Louie C.K. and that his racist or sexist jokes are not appreciated in the same way that Louie’s or Pryor’s jokes are and maybe that’s because they aren’t as well constructed. So, I don’t thin the choices are 1) genius 2) racist/sexist but that non-geniuses don’t know how to tread the line as well or don’t see the need.

    chasstewart @ #62: See above. If MacFarlane isn’t willing to put the time and work needed to make effective humor about race and gender, he should stay away from those topics. And you can’t magically make your words not be racist just by saying, “I’m not a racist,” or, “I didn’t intend for that to be racist.” Not giving a shit about whether your words hurt people who have been kicked and kept down for centuries, and thinking that your ability to get a cheap laugh from a cheap shot is a higher priority… that’s racist behavior, pretty much by definition.

  68. Greta Christina says

    So, if I enjoyed many of Seth McFarlane’s jokes, the Nazi Sound of Music bit was my fave, and thought he was light years better than the James Franco/Anne Hathaway train wreck last year, I’m sexist and racist? Confused? Have a bad sense of humor?

    ladychillax @ #61: No. Not a single person here has said anything like that. Please argue with what we’re actually saying. We’re not saying, “You are a bad person if you like anything Seth MacFarlane has ever said or done.” We’re saying, “Certain things he said in his Oscar performance were sexist, racist, anti-Semitic, and otherwise hurtful to marginalized people — and the excuses many people are making for that performance are bullshit.”

    When Sinead O’Connor tore up the photo of the Pope it pretty much killed her career. I think that many of us in the atheist community would find that Sinead was tearing down the powerful. But popular opinion metaphorically crucified her for it.

    Yes. I understand that. (Although it didn’t actually kill her career: she’s been doing pretty well for herself in recent years.) In that instance, public opinion was wrong. When you push social boundaries, people will often get upset and turn against you. But O’Connor’s actions pushed the boundaries of socially acceptable behavior in a good way. She was protesting against the powerful, not the powerless. She was pushing against the terrible power that popes yield, and the terrible things they do with that power, and religion’s privileged protection against criticism. And I would argue that her actions were part of the long process of dismantling that privilege.

    The point isn’t that transgressing against public opinion is always bad and wrong. That’s been said repeatedly. The point is that not all transgression is the same. The point is that mocking the Pope for marginalizing women and gays and protecting child rapists is not the same as making jokes about how all black people look the same. Nobody is saying, “Don’t violate social norms.” We’re saying, “Think for fifteen seconds about which social norms you’re violating, and why they exist, and who you’ll hurt if you violate them.”

    The problem isn’t with the very fact of transgression. It’s about the content of that transgression.

    And the notion that we’re talking about “allowing” or “policing” certain kinds of humor is a total red herring. Not a single person anywhere in this conversation has said that MacFarlane should not have been “allowed” to say what he said. But if he’s allowed to say what he said, then we’re allowed to say what we think of it.

  69. logicpriest says

    I am so torn on this one. I love Seth and much of his work and comedy, but I also come from a background I believe similar to his. There is a certain style of referential satire that can – and often does – go wrong quite easily.

    On one hand, I watched it as satirical, meaning it all seemed like jokes at the expense of a given status quo. A lot of it was sorta meta references to recent events, but without familiarity with the style of humor and the given event the jokes can come off… very wrong.

    On the other, I know for a fact most of the audience of Seth’s work do not see it as satire. The episode of Family Guy with Brian dating a trans woman (mentioned above) could definitely be seen as mocking the trans woman. In context, I think the intent was to mock Brian, since he is the butt of most jokes in recent years for being a hypocritical pseudo progressive, but again – it can be taken the other way quite easily.

    Hence I am torn. I see satire in a lot of it, but I make no claims of my viewing being “better” or that people not finding it funny are just “missing” the point. But the comedic background is something to be taken into account since Seth’s comedy is almost entirely satirical, I tend to assume satire.

    I guess this one is just another instance of “intent doesn’t really matter when you marginalize people.” The audience and stage were probably wrong for the comedy, and he wasn’t explicit enough if his intent was as I suspect. Again, most of the people watching probably just giggled at “boobs” or felt marginalized by similar, so I can’t really defend Seth Mcfarlane.

  70. says

    I agree.

    My example:

    I was large when I was in high school; and ultimately I got called names such as “fat girl.” Turns out it was just “baby fat” and now I am thin- and petite. I have people tell me all the time to “go eat a cheeseburger” or “stop doing crack.”

    Coupled with that stupid shit, is the popular belief that society pushes “thinness” as “beauty” on the young females of this country. Who knows? Maybe it is right, I don’t know- I don’t read enough Hollywood gossip I guess. I do know that I am smaller than most of the actresses that people bitch about. Do people not realize that this is just as hurtful???

    What I do know is that obesity is a real problem in this country no matter what actresses look like, or how thin or large THEY are.

    What I do know is that if that statement is true, I can tell you I am not feeling the love! But hate! We just can’t win females, can we?

    The other day someone posted on my facebook: “Men love meat, only dogs love a bone.”

    I told the person who wrote it that I was offended, because how is it logical to put down another body size to make another one feel good? And take it further by also criticizing men who are with thin women.

    The author quickly told me: “it is just a saying” and he “likes big women is all he is saying,” to which I said: NO THAT IS NOT ALL THAT YOU ARE SAYING! (if that were the case, wouldn’t he just say:” I like me some larger sized women!?”

    Beauty comes in all sizes, period.

    I was then told to: “settle down,” and “quit making such a big deal out of it.”

    Of course the fellow who said it was a man talking about women’s bodies, and then confronted the situation with a manipulative power trip. UGH.

    Another example: Ricky Gervasis. He has a really nasty joke, and I can’t believe he gets away with it. Something to do with a father masturbating at the story of his daughter possibly being molested by a neighbor. HOW THE FUCK IS THAT FUNNY????????

  71. Jules Cox says

    My common responses to sexist, racist, ______ ist jokes, which I endure on a regular basis here in the South:

    “There is a little bit of truth in every joke. You don’t want to discuss the truth, don’t make the joke.”

    “Offensive doesn’t equal funny.”

    “You can’t claim artistic license if it’s bad art.”

    “So’s your face.” (When all attempts at rational discourse have inevitably failed.)

  72. chasstewart says

    @Gretcen: “Yes, because her [Lisa Lampanelli] shtick is pretending to be racist and mean. If she were actually racist and mean, it wouldn’t be funny at all.”

    There’s no reason to think that Lampanelli has any contract with the audience that MacFarlane lacks. Lampanelli doesn’t give a disclaimer before the show but goes for it. Considering MacFarlane’s statements outside of comedy, you will see a man supportive of rights for gays and general humanist principles so I see no reason to think that MacFarlane was also playing a role.

  73. Greta Christina says

    Considering MacFarlane’s statements outside of comedy, you will see a man supportive of rights for gays and general humanist principles…

    chasstewart @ #73: So what? What is your point here? Do you think that because someone has expressed support of gays and general humanist principles, that means they don’t have any blind spots? Or that when they do screw up, they shouldn’t be held accountable for it? What exactly is your point here?

  74. chasstewart says

    I was responding to Gretchen’s point that Lampanelli’s audience knows that Lampanelli is not actually hateful towards minorities or any group in general so it’s not so bad when she says all those hateful and wrong things. I don’t see why her audience could understand that Lampanellis is just plying a schtick while MacFarlane’s audience would take him so straightforward even though MacFarlane has a history of supporting humanist causes. My point is not that his humanism necessarily shields him from blind spots.

  75. gregmusings says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. My wife and I were totally offended by everything Seth MacFarlane said at the Oscars. It was so bad that we had to mute the set when he was talking. But our friends thought his “jokes” were just fine and enjoyed the show. Thank you for expressing so clearly what we were feeling as we cringed through his opening monologue.

  76. says

    Seth MacFarlane.

    I’ll readily admit that a good 95% of his work (estimation, I haven’t sat down and measured this) is utter crap, but that other 5% is brilliant social commentary (e.g. the “420” episode).

    But he’s no George Carlin or Lenny Bruce, and I doubt he will ever measure up against the greats.

  77. says

    So, if I enjoyed many of Seth McFarlane’s jokes, the Nazi Sound of Music bit was my fave…

    That wasn’t a “Nazi bit,” even though there was a Nazi character in it, nor was it really a joke: It was a clever homage to a beloved movie musical, and perfectly in keeping with the evening’s intended theme of celebrating music in the movies. And using a scene in which a character famously fails to appear when introduced as a way of introducing the man who played that character was inspired. This was, IMHO, the evening’s best moment (other than the performances by Shirley Bassey, Adele, and Barbra Streisand); if it had all been like that, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    But it so wasn’t all like that, was it? You might be able to make a plausible defense of some of the bits/jokes taken in isolation — that the “boobs” song was really insulting men’s shallowness, for example, or that the line about Day-Lewis trying to “free” black actors was only about the obsessiveness of his process — except that such defenses can’t stand up to the overall context of nastiness that pervaded the whole performance. No one joke gets the benefit of any doubt in that stew of meanness. The show was sexist and misogynist and racist, yes, but it was also mean-spirited in just about every other way you could imagine.

    Right down to that petty little ditty taunting the “losers” at the end. (Did y’all catch the fact that it had a couplet that was clearly set up to rhyme Helen Hunt with cunt, before swerving to substitute adorable instead? I can’t find a transcript online, but I’m sure that’s what I heard.)

    There’s a difference between “transgressive” and “mean.” McFarlane is apparently a smart guy, and obviously multi-talented, and I have no idea how he treats people IRL… but his work invariably comes off as mean-spirited. Even when it makes me laugh, I never feel good about it.

  78. w00dview says

    Another example: Ricky Gervasis. He has a really nasty joke, and I can’t believe he gets away with it. Something to do with a father masturbating at the story of his daughter possibly being molested by a neighbor. HOW THE FUCK IS THAT FUNNY????????

    Ugh, Gervais. I used to be a big fan of his work but ever since the Susan Boyle incident he has come across as a spiteful little bully. He has a new series out in the UK called Derek where he plays a disabled man but he keeps denying that his character is disabled. It is basically him jutting his jaw out for half an hour. It is also patronising, mawkish and insincere with its constant piano telling the audience to feel sad now. Dreadful shite, especially compared to his earlier stuff.

  79. says

    chasstewart said:

    I was responding to Gretchen’s point that Lampanelli’s audience knows that Lampanelli is not actually hateful towards minorities or any group in general so it’s not so bad when she says all those hateful and wrong things. I don’t see why her audience could understand that Lampanellis is just plying a schtick while MacFarlane’s audience would take him so straightforward even though MacFarlane has a history of supporting humanist causes. My point is not that his humanism necessarily shields him from blind spots.

    Uh, because Lampanelli’s act is parody. It’s what she does. It’s tremendously over the top, constant, in virtually everything she does, bleedingly obvious, parody.

    There is no sign whatsoever that MacFarlane was putting on an act, pretending to be sexist or racist when he really isn’t. None. And no, his “history of supporting humanist causes” does not provide such an indication. And no, it’s not simply a problem of him not being a “genius” (Lisa Lampanelli is not a genius). Joking and parodying are not the same thing, yes? MacFarlane was clearly doing the former, but not the latter.

    And really, think about it– would someone invite Lisa Lampanelli to host the Oscars? No, because a parody of a bigot is not who you want hosting a movie awards show which will be viewed by a billion people. You want someone friendly and engaging. I would have thought this would mean not getting someone who is friendly and engaging in between making bigoted jokes, but apparently I was wrong.

  80. logicpriest says

    @ Gretchen

    While I won’t argue that “you shouldn’t be offended” etc – not my call – I don’t see how you can separate Seth Mcfarlane’s act from Lampanelli. Since he hasn’t done much live, we can only go by his other works that are – regardless of whether you may think it well done or funny – very much parodies of bigotry. Even the author avatar in Family Guy, Brian, is the butt of more jokes than almost anyone else.

    Now if you think he did a bad job presenting this, fine. But there was a very strong chance that he was at least attempting a similar bigotry parody to Lampanelli. For “clearly doing the former” I think is unfair. “Did a bad job” is fair, since people were offended I would say that qualifies as doing it poorly, but going by previous work and various stylings during the Oscars, it seems to me that he was attempting parody.

  81. says

    Comedy only works if the comedian and the audience have a common understanding of something. If I came out onto stage doing a comedy routine about, say, playing Dwarf Fortress, only those who were familiar with the game would understand what’s so funny about a cat-astrophe.

    That’s why playing on stereotypes works for a cheap laugh. It’s funny cause people have been ingrained with a pre-disposition to certain things: gay men are flamboyant, lesbian women are hairy and mannish, black people all look the same, trans*women are trying to trick you. Go out onto a stage and make a joke with any of those and someone will laugh with you, a lot of people will laugh with you, and tell you the joke was funny.

    It’s cheap and offensive. Good comedy works if you take those stereotypes and turn them on their head, as others mentioned, playing off the fact that you can’t tell two white guys apart. One of the funniest things I remember was a black comic (whose name escapes me) telling a joke about being offended at the watermelon and fried chicken stereotype while inwardly wondering why people were so upset about it – he loves watermelon and fried chicken.

    Family Dad Show is offensive, it’s cheap, it’s good for a laugh cause it’s making the stereotypical statements. It’s telling that most people telling people to “lighten up it’s just a joke” are cis-gendered, straight, white, and male.

  82. chasstewart says

    @Katherine Lorraine
    That was Chapelle! “I know what you want! Chicken!” “Why yes I do. How did you know?’ That was a really funny bit so thanks for reminding me.

    Katherine: “It’s telling that most people telling people to “lighten up it’s just a joke” are cis-gendered, straight, white, and male.”

    I think people have done a rather good job of not simply ordering people to lighten up but given good reasons to cut MacFarlane some slack by not assuming the worst interpretation of his act.

  83. glodson says

    I think people have done a rather good job of not simply ordering people to lighten up but given good reasons to cut MacFarlane some slack by not assuming the worst interpretation of his act.

    I’ve seen his shows. I’ve seen him do some stuff on stage. I have no reason to cut him any slack. He’s not shown me a reason to. He’s shown that he’s willing to make sexist and homophobic and racist and transphobic remarks for the simple purpose of getting a laugh.

    That’s not parody or satire. It is just crass and pointless. Look at the montage song about seeing women’s breasts. The Salon piece did a nice job showing how it was just poorly thought out. See comment 66 for that.

    Even if I try to be charitable, and say that he was trying to subvert stereotypes and poking fun at people who watch a movie for a chance to see breasts alone(which doesn’t follow as one actress in the montage had her nudity exposed to the world when someone invaded her privacy rather than in a movie in which she consented to be filmed for public consumption), he still failed badly.

    What are the good reasons for cutting him some slack? Why should we lighten up and just let the racist and sexist jokes pass? Why shouldn’t we call him out for the rampant transphobia that has worked its way into his show?

  84. pyrobryan says

    Having not watched the Oscars, I’m not really in a position to make a judgement one way or the other on this topic, but why should ignorance of a topic stop anyone from acting like they know what they’re talking about?

    I guess my question would be if anyone believes that Seth actually thinks that all black people look alike, or if he really thinks that it doesn’t matter what a woman says as long as she’s hot? Or, is he making fun of the stereotypes themselves?

  85. Anthony K says

    I guess my question would be if anyone believes that Seth actually thinks that all black people look alike, or if he really thinks that it doesn’t matter what a woman says as long as she’s hot?

    Lots of people seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that nobody ‘gets’ what Seth MacFarlane does. Let me disabuse you of that notion.

    We get it.

    We all get it.

    These women of colour get it.

    Every single fucking person gets it.

    Hipster bigotry isn’t that fucking meta.

    WE. ALL. GET. THE. JOKE.

    So, to answer this incredibly stupid question, no. Not a single person here thinks that Seth MacFarlane actually can’t tell the difference between Eddie Murphy and Denzel Washington.

    So, nobody, and I’m looking at Chas too here, needs to entertain that idiotic thought any longer.

    Or, is he making fun of the stereotypes themselves?

    Of course he’s fucking making fun of the stereotypes. Of. Fucking. Course.

    The question here is, is he making fun of them in a way that inverts them, challenges them, says something new about them, or is he simply repeating them, as if the mere fact that he doesn’t actually believe them in his heart of hearts makes them funny.

    Having not watched the Oscars, I’m not really in a position to make a judgement one way or the other on this topic, but why should ignorance of a topic stop anyone from acting like they know what they’re talking about?

    Having seen the bits in question, I am in a position. If you’re not, then please consider reducing the noise to signal ratio of these discussions.

  86. Anthony K says

    I would rather you not direct your comments to me Anthony K.

    Why not? Because you insist on reading them in the worst possible light?

  87. says

    Well, Chasstewart, you probably should because he’s absolutely right.

    And because in the comments of a blog you can’t exactly dictate who talks to you.

  88. Anthony K says

    The problem here is that Chas doesn’t understand that I’m really funny but no genius, therefore CARTE FUCKING BLANCHE MOTHERFUCKERS, YEEHAW!

  89. Anthony K says

    Nonetheless, as chasstewart has asked, my comment #88 is the last in which I’ll directly address chasstewart, who has steadfastly avoided following any of the links I’ve posted, or answered any of the questions I’ve posed that follow from chasstewart’s line of argumentation.

    I shall not refrain from writing about the comments chasstewart makes, however.

  90. chasstewart says

    I like this approach. I’m reading your comments I just don’t like being told that I’m an idiot. I doubt Pyropbryan appreciated that either.

    Also in comment #63 You quoted me then critiqued it (fine, great) then quoted lady chillax and critiqued then went back to quoting me which made it seem like I had said what lady chillax said. I did not appreciate that either. But Gretchen, you are right. I can’t expect that so I will take back that request. I think that I just didn’t want to get in to a vituperative exchange when there’s good stuff to actually talk about.

  91. chasstewart says

    @Gretchen

    What is Anthony K right about? That we all get the jokes but that they weren’t good? Fine then we can say that the jokes were lame but to label them an “-ist” is wrong to me. There’s no reason to think that these things that MacFarlane says while he is performing reflects his actual sensibilities. He’s just playing a bit.

    What MacFarlane did on the stage no more reinforces stereotypes than when Lampanelli asks Hispanics, while on the stage, if they have a job.

  92. Chris Terry says

    I’m a fan of responding to “It’s just comedy” with this quote I found on tumblr:

    “Dude, you’re so edgy and politically incorrect. It’s totally ironic and satirical how you regurgitated those ancient and threadbare stereotypes. It reminds me of my great great great great grandpa, Cracker von Patriarch, who also challenged the status quo by embracing it with loving tenderness.”

  93. Chris Terry says

    Because I’m a terrible writer, I’m appropriating Vonnegut: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

    I personally used to find racist jokes hilarious. I’m not racist myself, but that’s not enough, because racists will think you’re one of them, and I’m better than that. You don’t get a free pass at actively perpetuating despicable narratives just because you don’t believe them.

    Seth McFarlane may or may not be racist or sexist – that’s not the issue here, and it’s good that we’re focusing on what he said. The jokes, the statements – everything that was merely repetition of the same tired racist, sexist crap: those were racist and sexist. The statements themselves were *-ist, regardless of who’s saying them, because as mentioned, they’re doing nothing but re-enforcing sexist and racist cultural narratives.

    What he said is entirely independent of what he believes. For more extreme examples, look at Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or any other ‘shock jock’. Hell, look at Stephen Colbert for instance. These people are all ‘just playing parts’. Their actual views don’t matter nearly as much as what they’re saying and doing in public.

    Let’s please stop pretending that the sincerity with which someone believes the problematic crap they’re saying absolves them of the consequences of doing so.

  94. Chris Terry says

    Badly stated the last line.

    Let’s stop pretending that how much someone believes in what they’re saying changes how problematic it is.

  95. Anthony K says

    I’m reading your comments I just don’t like being told that I’m an idiot. I doubt Pyropbryan appreciated that either.

    Meh. White people who are easily offended by funny non-geniuses should learn the difference between “you are an idiot” and “you are entertaining an idiotic idea.”

    You quoted me then critiqued it (fine, great) then quoted lady chillax and critiqued then went back to quoting me which made it seem like I had said what lady chillax said. I did not appreciate that either.

    My bad. I should have been clearer to whom I was responding. I did not intend to make it seem that the quote by lady chillax was written by chasstewart, but it’s a pretty reasonable assumption based on the way I wrote it, and I apologise for that.

  96. Anthony K says

    Anyways, I think we’re all clear here.

    Blacks all look the same, Latinas are unintelligible, actresses portraying the victims of rape tits = funny.

    Suggesting that two white men who cannot demonstrate that they understand the difference between a well-crafted lampoon and a deadpan delivery of standard bigoted tropes that continue to harm women and people of colour might be holding onto idiotic and unfounded assumptions = terrible offense.

    I think I’m done here except to say, Fuck Whitey.

  97. says

    The best comedy is offensive – you know you shouldn’t laugh, but you realize the humor. What you might not realize is the spotlight on the particularly offensive that might be showing you new angles of viewing it, or revealing just how ridiculous the offensive thing actually is. You don’t necessarily realize these things if you just condemn people straight away for even mentioning the offensive thing. The best response to a bigot is to laugh them out of the room, and a comedian is essentially doing this when they create a caricature of that behavior and everyone around starts laughing at bigots rather than taking them seriously. Maybe you actually change some of the offensive people when you’re holding up the mirror and laughing. The only thing offensive here is that the suggestion that somehow a comedian SHOULDN’T get away with mocking the offensive is coming from a blog with the name “FreeThoughtBlog.” One, because it renders the word “free” a joke in this context, and two because not a whole lot of actual thought seems to have gone into it. Here’s a simple suggestion for dealing with “offensive” content on TV: pick up your remote and USE it.

  98. Anthony K says

    What you might not realize is the spotlight on the particularly offensive that might be showing you new angles of viewing it, or revealing just how ridiculous the offensive thing actually is.

    That’s been discussed in this thread. Have you not read it?

    You don’t necessarily realize these things if you just condemn people straight away for even mentioning the offensive thing.

    These things have been discussed in this thread. Have you not read it?

    Maybe you actually change some of the offensive people when you’re holding up the mirror and laughing.

    Maybe? The best thing to do with a fucking lunkhead who tosses out ‘maybes’ like the word means something is to laugh them out of the thread.

    Maybe prayer works. Maybe homeopathy works. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

    The only thing offensive here is that the suggestion that somehow a comedian SHOULDN’T get away with mocking the offensive is coming from a blog with the name “FreeThoughtBlog.”

    Get away with?

    What’s wrong with you? Comedians aren’t immune from criticism. Hell, comedians criticise other comedians. The whole point of free fucking speech is that nobody gets to have the last and final word that’s beyond criticism.

    and two because not a whole lot of actual thought seems to have gone into it.

    Learn to write cogent arguments that recognise and deal with the claims already made, and maybe you’ll demonstrate you have the capacity to recognise actual thought.

    Fuck Whitey.

  99. Anthony K says

    Okay, for all the Whitey McWhitersons that think they’re the only ones who “understand” hipster racism, watch this fucking video, that I’ve linked to twice alfuckingready.

    The next person who suggests that people are criticising the bit because they “don’t get the joke” gets a PBR to the fucking noggin.

  100. Anthony K says

    The next person who suggests that people are criticising the bit because they “don’t get the joke” gets a PBR to the fucking noggin.

    I retract this, because I don’t trust white people to get the joke.

  101. Greta Christina says

    chasstewart: Okay. I think I see the problem here.

    You seem to think that the only way Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar performance could have been racist and sexist is if he, himself, sincerely believed the things he said. You seem to think the only way those jokes were racist and sexist is if he sincerely believes that all African-Americans look alike, that Hispanics can’t be understood but it doesn’t matter as long as they’re attractive, that the most important thing about women’s nudity in films is that it arouses men, etc. You seem to think that the only way for words and actions to be racist and sexist is if there’s sincerely malicious racist and sexist intent behind them. You seem to think that calling someone’s words and actions racist and sexist is the same as calling them, personally, a racist and a sexist — and that if that person is not consciously and intentionally racist and sexist, therefore their words and actions can’t be, either.

    No.

    It is also racist and sexist to make jokes about race and sex without concern for how women and people of color will react to them.

    It is also racist and sexist to make jokes about race and sex without putting in the extra time and work needed for humor on that topic to clearly and effectively mock and undermine racism and sexism, rather than contributing to it.

    It is also racist and sexist to make jokes about race and sex without paying any attention to the context in which you’re telling those jokes.. (I haven’t seen Lisa Lampanelli’s comedy, so I can’t say whether I think it is clearly self-parody or not — but I can say that there is a world of difference between a comedy show in a nightclub, where there’s a common tradition of comedians acting out roles that they’re mocking rather than speaking as themselves… and hosting a mainstream, internationally televised awards show, viewed by a billion people, where the general tradition and assumption is that the host is sincere and is more or less speaking for themselves.)

    It is also racist and sexist to care more about getting cheap laughs from straight white frat boys than you do about not hurting women and people of color.

    It is also racist and sexist to not freaking well shut up for ten minutes and listen to women and people of color when they talk about sexism and racism. It is racist and sexist to ignore the fact that huge numbers of people of color are saying they found your jokes racist and hurtful, to ignore the fact that huge numbers of women are saying they found your jokes sexist and hurtful… and to ignore the fact that the overwhelming number of people defending you are white guys. It is racist and sexist to ignore the very simple fact that women and people of color know rather more about sexism and racism than white men do, and to ignore the fact that, if huge numbers of women and people of color think that something is sexist and racist, the chances are excellent that they have a point.

    And it is It is also racist and sexist to make jokes about race and sex without being willing to acknowledge that this is a difficult and thorny topic for humor, and without being willing to apologize when you get it wrong. (The fact that MacFarlane hasn’t issued any kind of apology — not even a half-assed, “I’m sorry your feelings were unreasonably hurt” not-pology, or indeed any sort of acknowledgement that his performance hurt and angered people who are already disempowered — speaks volumes.)

    Think about the legal concept of reckless disregard. It is against the law to act with reckless disregard for human life. It doesn’t earn as harsh a punishment as hurting or killing someone with deliberate malicious intent… but it is still considered harmful and wrong. Seth MacFarlane acted with reckless disregard for women and people of color. I think it’s highly unlikely that he set out to hurt anyone… but he apparently didn’t give much of a damn about whether he did. And that is seriously not okay. It wasn’t as bad as if he said racist and sexist things with maliciously racist and sexist intent. But it was still unacceptable. And it’s still worth speaking out against.

  102. ladychillax says

    Think about the legal concept of reckless disregard. . . . Seth MacFarlane acted with reckless disregard for women and people of color. I think it’s highly unlikely that he set out to hurt anyone… but he apparently didn’t give much of a damn about whether he did.

    Do you think Seth McFarlane and/or ABC should be prosecuted since he hurt people? Why or why not? How about a class action suit?

    What about comedy that hurts the religious? Also reckless disregard?

  103. glodson says

    Do you think Seth McFarlane and/or ABC should be prosecuted since he hurt people? Why or why not? How about a class action suit?

    What about comedy that hurts the religious? Also reckless disregard?

    Are you being serious? Or did you not notice that she was using the concept as an analogy? Because that is an extremely dishonest way to quote someone as it destroys the bits that suggest that it was an analogy, especially the last part of the passage you quote where it is clear that Greta is saying that it was that Macfarlene acted without malice, but also was disregarding the harm his words could cause.

  104. ladychillax says

    it is clear that Greta is saying that it was that Macfarlene acted without malice, but also was disregarding the harm his words could cause.

    But Greta’s entire point there reads that malicious intent is not necessary, hence “the legal concept of reckless disregard:

    It doesn’t earn as harsh a punishment as hurting or killing someone with deliberate malicious intent… but it is still considered harmful and wrong.

    Now, did Seth McFarlane harm people or not?

  105. says

    What is the point of your question, ladychillax?

    Do you understand the concept of doing harm morally but not legally?

    Do you think the rest of us don’t?

  106. glodson says

    Now, did Seth McFarlane harm people or not?

    Yea, I guess you are right. I mean, since he didn’t go out and punch people in the junk, none of the sexist or racist things were harmfully perpetuating poor stereotypes and bad ideas which harm people in any sense of the word.

    I guess we should just give him a break for making really dumb, sexist, and racist jokes because they didn’t cause any legal harm onto anyone.

    Or saying sexist and racist things can harm people in a literal sense by causing distress. But I’m not worried about that. I’m not overly concerned because what he said was offensive. I am concerned because it betrays a poor attitude many have in this country concerning race and women, and that his performance on a large stage helped foster a safe place for those crappy ideas.

  107. Who Knows? says

    Just tossing my two cents into the Seth McFarlane’s jokes are getting old and boring. Using animated characters to point out people’s shortcomings can work really well. But McFarlane shows his true character when he makes fun of real people’s looks in his comedy. This typically is poking fun of a woman having a horse face and the much too long running joke about Meg.

    That and McFarlane’s willingness to take that humor outside of the realm of animation cause me to think McFarlane has some real issues.

  108. Greta Christina says

    Do you think Seth McFarlane and/or ABC should be prosecuted since he hurt people? Why or why not? How about a class action suit?

    [facepalm]

    ladychillax @ #106: You know, when I wrote that comment, it occurred to me for about one second that maybe I should include an explicit clarification, stating that of course I didn’t think MacFarlane’s Oscar performance was literally illegal or should be illegal: that using the legal concept of “reckless disregard” was an analogy, intended to make a point about moral responsibility. Then I thought, “Nah. That’s not necessary. I disagree strongly with the people I’m debating with… but they seem to be arguing in good faith. Surely none of them would be so willfully obtuse that they’d try to twist my words in that way.”

    That’ll teach me.

    So let me spell this out, very explicitly: No, I do not think MacFarlane’s Oscar performance was illegal, or should be illegal. Not even close. I’ve defended the legal right of the Westboro Baptist Church to picket funerals: of course I’m not going to argue that making racist and sexist jokes on TV should be illegal. The reason I brought up the legal concept of reckless disregard was to make a point about moral responsibility. That point is this: You can do something morally wrong without any malicious intent to do something wrong. It is also morally wrong to act with reckless disregard for whether what you’re doing is morally wrong. It is morally wrong to act without concern for whether you’re hurting people. This is not simply a legal concept — it is a moral one. Using the legal concept and the legal language was simply an analogy, since the legal language is what many people are familiar with.

    As for “comedy that hurts the religious”: It has now been explained to you, multiple times, that there is a difference between comedy that undermines the powerful, and comedy that undermines the disempowered. It has been explained multiple times that mocking the religious is not the same as making sexist or racist jokes — because mocking religion serves to undermine a harmful institution that gets undeserved respect, while sexist and racist jokes kick people who are already down. And yet you keep ignoring this concept, refusing to engage with it, and repeating this same bankrupt point, again and again.

    I am willing and indeed eager (when I have time and energy, that is) to debate with people I disagree with. But I expect those debates to be engaged in good faith. I do not have the time or the energy — or indeed the desire — to debate with people who are intent on opposing absolutely anything I say, to the point where they will pretend to think that I’m saying the exact opposite of what I have clearly said time and again. If you can’t debate in good faith, then please leave this blog. Now.

  109. says

    @LadyChillax:

    People discounting Seth MacFarlane’s show’s racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia, pretending they don’t matter, and still tossing him accolades (like the fucking Humanist of the Year award) hurts. It hurts when you say “this joke is offensive to me” and people say “it’s just a joke, chill.” It hurts when you explain the concept of “punching up versus punching down” and still people say “it’s a satire.” It hurts when every time you turn on the television and you see a person like yourself portrayed in a show or a movie you’re the butt of every fucking joke every time, and then when you point this out, people tell you “you just don’t get humor.”

  110. says

    Greta @105 that’s quite a list. I’d be interested in seeing any examples of comedians who “make jokes about race and sex” while “putting in the extra time and work needed for humor on that topic to clearly and effectively mock and undermine racism and sexism,” who don’t get accused of perpetuating racism or sexism for making the effort.

  111. Rey Fox says

    The joke centered around the actresses boobs wasn’t about how shameful it is that women show their breasts but about the juvenile nature of many men.

    Right. And I’m sure* that’s exactly the context in which it’s being spread all over the internet.

    * By which I mean, “I really really highly doubt”

  112. says

    Hadn’t really thought of my Netflix queue (which currently consists almost entirely of kids’ shows) but now that you mention it, pretty much everyone would surely benefit from finding comics who “clearly and effectively mock and undermine racism and sexism” without running afoul of the various feminist critiques presented herein this thread and elsewhere in similarly oriented websites.

  113. JEC says

    On Having a Sense of Humor

    Having a good sense of humor means that you can laugh at yourself, not that you enjoy being laughed at.

  114. Eric O says

    I think a general rule of thumb should be, if your “ironically” sexist, racist, homophobic, or transphobic joke is the sort of joke that sexists, racists, homophobes and transphobes would find funny, it’s probably best not to tell it, regardless of the intent behind it. If you want to make fun of bigots, make the joke at their expense; not at the expense of the subjects of their bigotry.

  115. Anthony K says

    Eric O, that is a very fine rule of thumb.

    For those arguing that this is a send-up of racism and sexism, then the racists and sexists should be outraged, not women and people of colour.

    So who’s the more upset? The people watching the Oscars who really can’t tell black people apart, or the black people who suffer the consequences of this stereotype?

    If Seth MacFarlane did the job we think he intended, then all of his defenders should be defending him against the Real™ bigots who are all incensed because he laughed them out of the room.

    So, how’s the shitstorm on Stormfront? They all pissed off because Seth made a laughingstock of them? How are they taking the pleas to just relax?

  116. Greta Christina says

    Damion Reinhardt @ #117: If you think the point of trying to create socially conscious comedy that takes on race and gender in an iconoclastic, meaningfully transgressive way is to never ever ever get criticized by feminists or anyone else, at any point ever in your career, you are seriously missing the plot.

  117. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    “All in the Family” is a great example. The whole point was that the audience wasn’t supposed to support Archie Bunker’s opinions. He was supposed to look bad and backwards. I understand that Carroll O’Connor, the actor that played Archie Bunker, was distressed by the fan mail in support of the character. – glodson

    Much the same happened w.r.t the British series of which All in the Family was a rip-off: Till Death Us Do Part. The Archie Bunker character, Alf Garnett, was certainly intended by the writer, Johnny Speight, to be the butt of the joke – but Speight was distressed to find that many of the audience were laughing with him, not at him. There’s little doubt Speight, and Warren Mitchell, who played Garnett, were genuinely anti-racist (whether they were anti-sexist is more doubtful, but they were certainly much less sexist than the character), but little doubt either that they fucked up, and TDUDP fed racist steroetypes.

  118. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    The best comedy is offensive – you know you shouldn’t laugh, but you realize the humor. What you might not realize is the spotlight on the particularly offensive that might be showing you new angles of viewing it, or revealing just how ridiculous the offensive thing actually is. You don’t necessarily realize these things if you just condemn people straight away for even mentioning the offensive thing. The best response to a bigot is to laugh them out of the room, and a comedian is essentially doing this when they create a caricature of that behavior and everyone around starts laughing at bigots rather than taking them seriously. Maybe you actually change some of the offensive people when you’re holding up the mirror and laughing. The only thing offensive here is that the suggestion that somehow a comedian SHOULDN’T get away with mocking the offensive is coming from a blog with the name “FreeThoughtBlog.” One, because it renders the word “free” a joke in this context, and two because not a whole lot of actual thought seems to have gone into it. Here’s a simple suggestion for dealing with “offensive” content on TV: pick up your remote and USE it. – Matthew Rohner

    Thanks for that fine parody of the thought processes of privileged fuckwits, Matthew.

  119. says

    Greta @105 that’s quite a list. I’d be interested in seeing any examples of comedians who “make jokes about race and sex” while “putting in the extra time and work needed for humor on that topic to clearly and effectively mock and undermine racism and sexism,” who don’t get accused of perpetuating racism or sexism for making the effort.

    Putting in the time and work to effectively mock and undermine prejudice doesn’t make you immune to criticism– nothing makes you immune to criticism, except saying nothing at all– but if you want some examples of comedians making jokes that undermine sexism, you might try Kate Harding’s list of 15 rape jokes that work.

  120. says

    Greta, somewhere in the comments above said:

    Seth MacFarlane acted with reckless disregard for women and people of color. I think it’s highly unlikely that he set out to hurt anyone… but he apparently didn’t give much of a damn about whether he did.

    I am so late to this party, but I think it’s important to point out that McFarlane was even more culpable than you are giving him credit for here. That’s what the whole Captain Kirk framing thing was about. He was acknowledging that the jokes were “tasteless” (i.e. hurtful, sexist, racist etc.), that the audience would *not* find him funny (“worst Oscars ever”) –a.k.a. not get the joke because we’re all hypersensitive etc.

    That whole self-referential bit belies the notion that McFarlane was satirising the privileged, the sexists and racists. He was fully aware that the targets of his jokes, the disempowered, were going to be hurt and he did it anyway.

  121. says

    We all find the offensive funny sometimes, its in our heritage, what I see a lot here is that it can be both things, it can offend someone and also make someone laugh. It brings avenue Q to mind:

  122. chasstewart says

    Anthony K said: “Now, I don’t agree with Lenny Bruce’s claims about word use, but the man had something to say, and it wasn’t just to parrot the bigotry of the time and claim it’s funny because he’s done so ‘ironically’.”

    I was rereading the thread and thought that this needed to be mulled over. Of course it would not have been funny if Lenny Bruce had acted like a stereotypical white bigot (or buffoon in MacFarlane’s role) because there would have been nothing ironic or shocking about it. So much of the country was indeed racist and not self aware of the damage they were inflicting on other groups of people so there this role would not have stirred some kind of conflict within the audience. That wouldn’t be funny to anyone, I don’t think.

    The reason that MacFarlane’s obviously insensitive role has a better chance at being funny (and if you listened to the crowd, you will find that it was indeed funny) is because our social norms have progressed to a point that this type of behavior is no longer condoned or encouraged. Hence, his act stirs a great conflict within the audience.

    Lastly, (and I know that I should probably let this go and that I might have not taken one of the comments above in to account properly) when MacFarlane joked that he couldn’t tell the difference between individual black people, the stereotype being “reinforced” or whatever is not that black people all look the same. The stereotype being poked at is that white people (or one race to another race) don’t bother to care about the individuals within a different race.

  123. says

    (and if you listened to the crowd, you will find that it was indeed funny)

    Pardon me, my eyes seem to have rolled out of my head. I need to run and catch them.

  124. Anthony K says

    Lastly, (and I know that I should probably let this go and that I might have not taken one of the comments above in to account properly) when MacFarlane joked that he couldn’t tell the difference between individual black people, the stereotype being “reinforced” or whatever is not that black people all look the same. The stereotype being poked at is that white people (or one race to another race) don’t bother to care about the individuals within a different race.

    I’m just going to requote myself in the off chance chasstewart might have a literate guardian who can help him with the big words.

    Lots of people seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that nobody ‘gets’ what Seth MacFarlane does. Let me disabuse you of that notion.

    We get it.

    We all get it.

    These women of colour get it.

    Every single fucking person gets it.

    Hipster bigotry isn’t that fucking meta.

    WE. ALL. GET. THE. JOKE.

    So, to answer this incredibly stupid question, no. Not a single person here thinks that Seth MacFarlane actually can’t tell the difference between Eddie Murphy and Denzel Washington.

    So, nobody, and I’m looking at Chas too here, needs to entertain that idiotic thought any longer.

  125. Greta Christina says

    Lastly, (and I know that I should probably let this go and that I might have not taken one of the comments above in to account properly) when MacFarlane joked that he couldn’t tell the difference between individual black people, the stereotype being “reinforced” or whatever is not that black people all look the same. The stereotype being poked at is that white people (or one race to another race) don’t bother to care about the individuals within a different race.

    chasstewart @ #129: There’s a point that was made earlier, but I will make it again.

    If the “real” target of MacFarlane’s humor was white male bigots and white male bigotry, and not women or people of color… why aren’t groups of white male bigots the ones who are protesting? Why aren’t the white supremacist groups, or the “men’s rights activists,” the ones who are angry about this? Why is it overwhelmingly white men who are defending MacFarlane… and why is it overwhelmingly women and people of color — along with their allies — who are seeing themselves/ ourselves as the targets?

    And you keep saying things like, “Of course it would not have been funny,” “That wouldn’t be funny to anyone,” “has a better chance at being funny,” “you will find that it was indeed funny,” etc. Do you really think that “funny” is the single most important consideration here? Do you really think that getting cheap laffs is a higher moral priority than not contributing to centuries of oppression?

  126. Greta Christina says

    I am so late to this party, but I think it’s important to point out that McFarlane was even more culpable than you are giving him credit for here. That’s what the whole Captain Kirk framing thing was about. He was acknowledging that the jokes were “tasteless” (i.e. hurtful, sexist, racist etc.), that the audience would *not* find him funny (“worst Oscars ever”) –a.k.a. not get the joke because we’re all hypersensitive etc.

    That whole self-referential bit belies the notion that McFarlane was satirising the privileged, the sexists and racists. He was fully aware that the targets of his jokes, the disempowered, were going to be hurt and he did it anyway.

    Ibis3, Let’s burn some bridges @ #127: Yeah, I actually agree with you here. And in fact, I don’t think it contradicts the point I was making (or at least, the point I meant to make but maybe was clumsy about). I think there is a difference between deliberately setting out to hurt people, with the intent and goal being to hurt them… and having some other goal other than to hurt people, but knowing you’re going to hurt people in the process, and doing it anyway. I think the former is morally worse than the latter — but I think the latter is still pretty bad.

    I don’t think MacFarlane’s end goal was to hurt women and people of color. But yes, you’re right — he very clearly knew that he was likely to do that, and he went ahead and did it anyway.

  127. Ariel says

    I’m late, so … there is a risk I will say something which has been said before. Apologies in advance if this happens.

    Ibis3 #128:

    He was acknowledging that the jokes were “tasteless” (i.e. hurtful, sexist, racist etc.), that the audience would *not* find him funny (“worst Oscars ever”) –a.k.a. not get the joke because we’re all hypersensitive etc.

    That whole self-referential bit belies the notion that McFarlane was satirising the privileged, the sexists and racists. He was fully aware that the targets of his jokes, the disempowered, were going to be hurt and he did it anyway.

    Acknowledging that the jokes are “tasteless” and remarks about “worst Oscars ever” is not the same as being “fully aware that the targets of his jokes” are the disempowered ones. Another possible (and plausible to me) interpretation is that the guy was sort of expecting the critical reaction from the establishment and that the intended targets of his jokes were not the disempowered, but the powerful and influential part of the public (controlling e.g. some media outlets, which do not qualify exactly as shelters of the disempowered ones … or do they?).

    Oh well, actually I’m not sure at all about McFarlane’s intentions. But it is a tendency which I have been noticing for some time. It seems to me that more and more often blatantly sexist jokes are being told with the main intention of provoking/offending feminists , not women (although of course women may well become a collateral damage). I tend to think also that it is a “no win” situation. The more influential and well established you become, the more malicious humor you receive, with the main criterion being: “let’s choose something that will really – really – make them go ballistic!”. Then (naturally!) you will criticize it mercilessly, using the powerful means at your disposal, which will only confirm how well established you are, which in turn will provoke more tasteless jokes … and so on. No win.

    (For analogy, imagine being confronted with a powerful and stern teacher, who presents himself as always soooo right, that a temptation for a stupid prank becomes almost irresistible. Then a teacher reprimands you severely, which makes you only too eager for another stupid prank … and so on. Please don’t ask me who will be the winner in such a confrontation.)

    All of the above had nothing to do with the quality of humor of course, so just a last remark in this second direction. I don’t treat social progressivity as a necessary prerequisite here. Some time ago I heard this Polish cavalry joke. Q: How do you stop a Polish army on horseback? A: Turn off the carousel. Well, I’m Polish myself. I can easily imagine a serious analysis of the harmfulness and cruelty of such jokes. Hell, I could write one myself! Nevertheless I couldn’t stop giggling. I told it to my family and they couldn’t stop giggling too. I’m not sure why, probably we reacted to the load of the surreal and the absurd contained in the joke. Anyway we giggled. All of us. And you have my official permission to treat this information as confirming all the stereotypes built into Polish jokes.

  128. pyrobryan says

    Fuck Whitey.

    Okay, for all the Whitey McWhitersons…

    The next person who suggests that people are criticising the bit because they “don’t get the joke” gets a PBR to the fucking noggin.

    I retract this, because I don’t trust white people to get the joke

    Fuck Whitey.

    For someone so against this kind of humor, Anthony K sure does seem to like using it.

  129. says

    For someone so against this kind of humor, Anthony K sure does seem to like using it.

    First and foremost, I’m not sure that he’s using humor in those comments. Secondly there’s a big difference between joking about white privilege and racism.

  130. says

    The notion, expressed in Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar performance, that all African-Americans look alike? That Hispanics are hard to understand, but that’s okay as long as they’re attractive to look at? That women are unforgiving in relationships, and never let go of anything? That Hollywood is run by a Jewish cabal that only hires other Jews?

    Captain Kirk didn’t catch any of those? Damn, he must really be getting senile. Either that, or coming back from the dead after saving the Universe one last time took a toll on his brain…

  131. says

    I think it is unfair for anybody to completely dismiss the validity of someone saying, “lighten up, it’s just a joke”…

    Certain jokes make you laugh, therefore it’s unfair to point out that some people don’t find them funny? Thanks for pointing out what an infantile, simpleminded, self-centered twit you are.

    I laugh at certain stupid jokes too, but I also understand that a) my sense of humor is not sufficient basis for judgement of others’ actions, and b) those jokes aren’t funny or appropriate in all situations.

    If someone wants to tell stupid or insulting jokes to a relatively narrow audience in a private party or comedy club, that’s fine. Telling the same jokes on a TV show that’s broadcast to an audience that could ultimately exceed one billion is NOT acceptable.

  132. Anthony K says

    For someone so against this kind of humor, Anthony K sure does seem to like using it.

    Man, nothing gets past pyrobryan here.

  133. Anthony K says

    The laughs keep coming, this time from a federal prosecutor:

    You’ve got African-Americans, you’ve got Hispanics, you’ve got a bag full of money. Does that tell you–a light bulb doesn’t go off in your head and say, This is a drug deal?

    Then, later:

    What does your common sense tell you that these people are doing in a hotel room with a bag full of money, cash? None of these people are Bill Gates or computer [magnates]? None of them are real estate investors.

    Assistant US Attorney Sam L. Pozner was only joking, of course. It was a send-up, a lampoon. Nobody really endorses such blatant racism. Such people are laughed out of the room.

    (Incidentally, the defendant, Bongani Calhoun, was also laughed out of the room. In handcuffs, due to the conviction, which was later overturned by the Supreme Court.)

  134. Anthony K says

    which was later overturned by the Supreme Court

    My mistake. IANAL (Where’s Rieux when you need him?).

    Mr. Calhoun’s appeal was not granted, because his lawyer failed to challenge the prosecutor’s racist remarks at the appropriate time, probably not wanting to be told to “lighten up”.

    From the SCOTUS ruling (PDF):

    Calhoun, who is African-American, claims that the prosecutor’s racially charged question violated his constitutional rights. Inexplicably, however, Calhoun’s counsel did not object to the question at trial. So Calhoun’s challenge comes to us on plain-error review, under which he would ordinarily have to “demonstrate that [the error] ‘affected the outcome of the district court proceedings.’” Puckett v. United States, 556 U. S. 129, 135 (2009) (quoting United States v. Olano, 507 U. S. 725, 734 (1993)). Yet in his petition for writ of certiorari, Calhoun does not attempt to make that showing. Instead, Calhoun contends that the comment should lead to automatic reversal because it constitutes either structural error or plain error regardless of whether it prejudiced the outcome. Those arguments, however, were forfeited when Calhoun failed to press them on appeal to the Fifth Circuit. Given this posture, and the unusual way in which this case has been litigated, I do not disagree with the Court’s decision to deny the petition.

    (You’ll note that DEA officers also testified that Mr. Calhoun was carrying a gun at the time of his arrest. A legal, licensed one. One can only ponder why that was introduced as testimony that he was a knowledgeable and willing participant in the drug deal his friends were conducting, rather than as evidence that he was simply a Law Abiding Citizen™ exersicing his Second Amendment right to protect his Loved Ones™, and was simply caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time.)

    This is the context of Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar performance. This is the America in which, at the end of the day, the black man is still in jail, and the prosecutor who used racist stereotypes to imply intent, is still at work.

    This is the America in which people, almost always white men, contend that it’s worse to be accused of racism or sexism than to be the victim of it.

  135. kristine says

    I view Oscar night as a good time to go to a favorite-but-usually-overcrowded restaurant, so my Sunday night was delicious.
    However, I was appalled to read the Onion and find out that one of their staff thought that calling a young African-American girl “a cunt” was funny. Really? That’s a good joke?
    These are the people that made me laugh on September 12th 2001, with the HOLY SHIT headline. I have higher expectations for their work.

  136. bargearse says

    Just so I’m totally clear on the rules of modern satire: subverting the norm is out, reinforcing old stereotypes is in (as long as you do it with a gigantic shiteating grin and tell anyone who’s willing to listen that you’re a totally liberal guy who’s not at all racist, you support gay rights and you’re totes cool with women). Johnathan Swift’s corpse just rolled over in a big pile of it’s on vomit. Viva la status quo.

  137. markdowd says

    Being offensive just for the sake of being offensive, with no regard for any other deepness, makes yourself no better than a middle school sitting in the back of the bus shouting “PENIS!”.

  138. bargearse says

    Being offensive just for the sake of being offensive, with no regard for any other deepness, makes yourself no better than a middle school sitting in the back of the bus shouting “PENIS!”.

    but apparently it will get you an oscar’s gig

  139. Pieter B, FCD says

    @chasstewart #75

    There’s no reason to think that Lampanelli has any contract with the audience that MacFarlane lacks. Lampanelli doesn’t give a disclaimer before the show but goes for it.

    I’ve seen Lisa Lampanelli live twice. Both times she gave a disclaimer both before and after doing her shtick. She’s very well known for what she does, so it’s hard to argue that those people who got there early enough/bribed the staff to sit at the front tables knew what they were in for; even so, it appeared that she did get consent from her targets before really cranking up the Queen of Mean act. That said, there still were some uncomfortable moments for me. She’s not in the league of Carlin or St Lenny, but she’s a couple of cuts above what I saw from McFarlane the other night.

  140. chasstewart says

    Well I did not know that. I’ve never been to a Lampanelli show (I wonder if she’s ever even been to Oklahoma!) but I’ve watched her shows on t.v. since I was in high school. I shouldn’t have been so foolhardy by making that statement and should have researched it.

    Personally, I’ve never been to a comedy show where they gave disclaimers and I’m not positive as to why they would need one. I mean, unless you’re going to a Brian Reagan show, there’s bound to some amount of nastiness at a show. Thanks for correcting me.

  141. ragdish says

    Greta,

    I think your title for this thread should be changed to “No comedian should win a free pass”. Although there are some who have defended Seth MacFarlane, there are scores of others who have been critical of his humor. So I don’t see how he is getting a free pass.

    Along these lines, no comedian should get a free pass no matter how brilliantly they are able to broach issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.. I recall in the early 90s the Andrew Dice Clay controversy. There were those who defended Clay who seemed to have this false notion that George Carlin and Richard Pryor got free passes for the same humor. Indeed, they did not. No matter how they sugar coated jokes about race and gender, Pryor and Carlin also had their share of critics. I recall Carlin’s not so intellectual rant that garnered both praise and heavy criticism:

    “Rat shit! Bat Shit! Dirty old twat! 69 assholes tied in a knot! Hooray lizard shit! Fuck!”

    You can see it on youtube and judge for yourself. And I would defend your right to be offended and not give George a free pass just like Andrew Dice Clay and Seth MacFarlane.

    No doubt Greta you and I are Monty Python fans. Yet there are many theists who are offended by songs like “Every Sperm is Sacred”. Would you give Monty Python a free pass? I love that song and would defend it tooth and nail. Theists have every right to be offended by it and complain about it. Similarly when Terry Jones says in one skit dressed as an elderly woman “I don’t like darkies!!!” and John Cleese replies with laughter “Who does!?!?”, they most certainly do not get a free pass from a dark skinned individual such as me. Thus, I don’t give the Pythons a free pass for their humor.

    It goes like this. We have the freedom of speech. We have the freedom to offend. And we have the freedom to be offended and voice our anger. No one gets a free pass because we all have the right to be offended. And that’s the usual denouement. And that’s the way it should be.

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