Yesterday was father’s day, one of those bogus celebrations that are meant to pressure people to buy useless stuff by implying that they do not appreciate their fathers if they do not. It is also an occasion to pontificate on the nature of fatherhood. David Mitchell takes aim at those who criticize humor writers for their depiction of characters such as Homer Simpson and say that people like him are poor role models of fathers. In the process, Mitchdell makes an important larger point.
But when Freegard says, “The type of jokes aimed at dads would be banned if they were aimed at women, ethnic minorities or religious groups”, she has got a point – just not the one she thinks she’s got. Men and fathers are so favoured in our society, the world is weighted so much to their advantage, that comedy writers can safely make them the perpetual butt of jokes. The fact that Homer Simpson is the funniest, most prominent and most popular character in that show says far more about continued male dominance of money and power in the west than his fecklessness or misfortunes say about the undervaluing of paternal effort.
Comedy is a misère bid – to be the biggest loser is to win. If a time comes when incompetent or hapless women are humorously depicted as often as their male equivalents, then the distorting fairground mirror of comedy might at last be reflecting a just world.
That’s about right. It is surprising how many people do not appreciate the role that power and privilege play in the selection of humor targets.