Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Some topics just can't make a joke.

I hesitate to discuss this topic, but I'm hoping that if I make my point with an example other than the one everyone is talking about, I'll be able to make my point without losing a limb.

About a decade ago, there was a movie that was, by all accounts, very violent. Some said it glorified violence. Many were nauseated by how violent it was. They were, shall we say, unhappy with the (violent) movie.

The director, however, said that the whole point of the movie was to ridicule the glorification of violence. It was a satire. The violence in the movie was meant to be over the top to an extent that people would then see "ordinary" movie violence as also odious. "Hey," he said, "I'm on your side."

So here's the problem: ridiculing something by showing it in the extreme. To a lot of people, violence in movies (and on the evening news) has already gone too far. You can't convince them that it's gone too far, only that you've gone even further.

That was ten years ago. Today, there's an ad for a TV show that depicts a couple of women in a pie fight. I'll say right now that I don't know that this situation is analogous to the movie. I don't know that it was meant to make fun of shows that depict pie fighting women as a source of entertainment. Nevertheless, that was my initial reaction to it: it's a dumb joke, ridiculing demeaning shows by showing an extreme example.

Others have looked at it not as satire on sexist entertainment but as sexist entertainment. I consider this a difference of perspective. I don't think the ad has an intrinsic meaning, only interpretations. We could ask the people who made it what their intent was, but that won't make anyone's reaction to it any less valid.

I'm trying hard not to enter the debate about whether the ad was offensive or what I think of the resulting discussion. That way lies madness; it's fraught with peril.

All I want to point out is that this has happened before, and will probably happen again. Even if the intent is good (which I don't know that it was, in the case of the ad), there are certain things that I think can't be satirized in a way that won't certainly be popularly misconstrued.
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