Lately I seem to find my sense of humour lacking. Or perhaps it is that it switches off at the drop of a hat? Or a pin? Or some phrase that switches me from humour mode to serious mode?
I’ve become very good at serious mode.
Which are apparently actually things in the study of humour. Many things have sparked this post, but in particular this article on humour done in analysis of appropriateness (or not) of rape jokes, which draws on a variety of studies regarding humour.
As I said, I’ve become most serious. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past months studying (not intentionally, just following what has intrigued me) fat shaming, rape culture, sexism, racism, white privilege, thin privilege and essentially different facets of our society that aim towards disenfranchising one group for the benefit or amusement or some other unstated or stated reason of another group.
During this same time I was introduced to Cards Against Humanity, a game that is “as despicable and awkward as you and your friends” and very much enjoyed it. Something of a contradiction to the rest of where I’ve been. Mind you, I’m not sure I’d enjoy it if I played tomorrow.
I think I’ve become very aware of the humanity of the people on the other side.
Sure, people of walmart are shocking and head shaking and wtf, seriously? has to run through a person’s head as they look at those people. Okay, doesn’t have to, but I bet it does for most of us ‘normal’ people. Which just means the group of people who see those people as not-normal. And maybe they’re okay with being laughed at. Or maybe they don’t care. Or maybe they seek the attention.
Or maybe they’re just another soul traveling on this planet.
I tend to figure that if you are dressed in a non-conformist way, ya gotta take your lumps. I mean this for people who are clearly making a statement with their clothes. If you are wearing fishnet stockings, a tutu and a hockey jersey, well, that’s a statement there and people will make comments on statements. By making a statement you are in a sense inviting commentary.
But for those whose clothes don’t fit? Or are ugly? Or are a fabric/colour/style/cut/age/cleanliness/pattern that we find mocking worthy, these days I stop and wonder about it. I wonder about the action I commit with mocking. I wonder if it would be hurtful to do it to that person’s face. The internet makes it so very easy to mock and to tease and to hurt others and to stay safely hidden on the other side of a screen and keyboard where the impact of that mocking and teasing and hurting doesn’t have to impact us.
Friends of mine this past week talked about humour and how it is always cruel at someone’s or something’s expense. Let’s just accept that at face value. Does it necessarily follow that all humour should be considered fair and equal? Since it’s all cruel, does it matter who we are cruel against?
I think yes.
I think that when the humour goes after the weaker, the disenfranchised, the ones already struggling, the ones who are not privileged, that we may well be perpetuating imbalances, creating more pain, and saying through humour that it is okay to view these people as lesser.
I’ve told my share of racist jokes, less fat jokes (been fat, still see myself as fat), baby in a blender jokes. I’m sitting here now and thinking of ‘your mama is so fat’ jokes and I think to myself ‘hmmm, you know, if that mama in question is thin, that probably wouldn’t bother me the same, but if the mama was fat then it would’. Or perhaps it should all bother me. Or perhaps none of it.
That’s what I mean. I’ve become quite serious. Tell a joke and I can drop out of humour mode in an instant to react to it as a serious statement. ‘Do you really consider <x group> to be <y>? Have you considered that…”
I don’t think I’m as much fun at parties. I certainly put a damper from my little corner on my group’s demented humour rounds. And I’ve always been a fan of demented humour. I’m just seriously struggling with demented humour that comes at the expense of someone who can’t defend themselves. Demented humour against things, against society, against corporations, against the Tea Party (let’s face it, they’re rather asking for it!), against the willfully stupid (when it’s a choice), that I think I still enjoy. But when it’s against those who can’t stand up for themselves, those who are not in a position of power in the joke, in life, then it bothers me. When it perpetuates stereotypes to the disadvantage of those stereotyped, it bothers me. When it acknowledges the reality behind a stereotype, I can find that funny.
I’ve become very complicated and annoying in my humour.
Soon I shall be sitting along on my non-existent porch muttering about how rotten the world has become with a bunch of lemons puckering my face into nasty old lady face. Did I just disenfranchise nasty old ladies? But not all old ladies are nasty. Oldness and ladyness neither separately nor together constitute nastiness. But there is a particular Elvira Gulch stereotype out there.
See, and that’s why I fail at humour these days. All analyzing, all the time.
But maybe it’s worth the hiatus from humour to find my way through it to where I understand where humour is fun and where humour hurts. Because that’s what I want. I want to enjoy a good joke that makes me laugh, makes me see the world clearer, differently, that challenges my beliefs. I don’t want the easy laugh that comes at the price of someone’s pain.
Who needs a funny bone, anyway.