Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Irony is a Cluster Bomb

Irony is like a cluster bomb. Sometimes the exact people you agree with become the very people hurt by the joke. I don't always have to get the joke to get that it is a joke too. Understand?
What I am talking about is the cover of The New Yorker. Obama and his wife have been given every cartoon fear the right thinks about them in a cover illustration meant to demonstrate how ridiculous those fears are.
Anyone old enough to remember when All In the Family was on TV? It was a show about a loud mouth, racist man who was watching his world change and lashed out in cruel words rather than be part of that change.
It was a comedy. It was an ironic comedy.
It was meant to demonstrate how ignorant Archie Bunkers mentality was. His character said some truly awful things. The kind of things that would get a network sued now days. In fact, when Cartoon Network began to air them again, they had to put up a disclaimer. In one generation, the comedic tool of irony was destroyed in the name of Political Correctness.
It's not good enough to say, that is dumb. It's not always enough to simply say, they use bad words. You can't always tell people what is dumb or bad.
But you can show them.
Irony has always been a dangerous tool. Either stand-up, illustrator or author, it has a way of back firing on you.
Tom Sawyer is considered an American classic. However, every few years a school makes the news for trying to ban it because the N word appears in it. Thats the thing with irony and truth; you have to actually use the words of the people you want to make fun of. You have to hope your audience is smart enough to understand you don't mean those things.
Tom Sawyer was considered trash when it was published. Not because it had the N word in it, but because it was written as people spoke out in the street. Language that was course and unrefined was put into the dialogue. People thought it was a scandal that an author would resort to actually writing the way people spoke. Imagine that.
It became a work of art because later generations understood that Twain captured a time in America as it really was. Racist thoughts and all.
The cover of the New Yorker might not be funny to you, but I can tell that it was meant as a joke. Twain was just telling the truth and he landed in trouble. Archie Bunker was a comedic device designed to demonstrate how ignorant his thinking really was to a nation bleeding with change. The cover of the New Yorker is an attempt to show how foolish all those rumors about Obama really are. Thats all.
Maybe it's a failed joke, but the audience it was intended for are the same ones voting for him. Ah Liberals. Once again we create our own issues and waste time on them. Once again we have proven to be the good little self deputized thought police that Orwell envisioned. Instead of going after all the failed old ideas coming from McCain, lets worry about offending ourselves.
Great idea!


Dean said...

You and I know that if the joke doesn't come across, then it's failed its purpose. The New Yorker cover has more potential to backfire and reinforce the distortions rather than expose them.

But point well taken that we're (the collective, Liberal, royal "we") freaking out about a cover instead of countering McCain's policies and statements on the issues...

Notice they didn't draw a large penis showing through Obama's traditional Muslim garments? Sorry... too much?

Joe said...

I don't know that this is an argument about a joke failing so much as it is about Liberals taking one in the foot again. The comment I hear over and over about the cover is exactly what you said, it can backfire and promote the negative. But in thinking that I think we as Liberals come across as elite snobs. We are not trusting people to get the joke. We are not even trusting other liberals to even understand it as a joke.
We do not have the right to not be offended. A lot of people who share the same politics as I do seem to think we should live in a world where no one is offended at any time. This promotes self censorship and results in uniform thought. Sometimes in my act I will tell a joke that I know will get a gasp from the crowd just so I can comment on their reaction. It's a set up. The New Yorker made the collective liberal world gasp. Why? Was it racist or was it meant to show the racist ideas of those that don't like Obama?
Was it anti-American or drawn to highlight how dumb the anti Obama message really is?
Is it a failed joke or did we just fail to let ourselves laugh at it because we have given the ability to simply laugh over to the ever present self installed thought police better known as P.C.?
Did we overreact because we thought it was wrong, or because we didn't trust the 'rest' of the country to even see that it was a joke?
I don't know? I am not becoming a conservative but this endless lack of a sense of humor about ourselves is getting old. So what, they drew his wife with an afro and a gun. Does it make the man who drew it a racist, or was he using a cartoon to show how foolish the race bating fears of the right really are?
It might have been dumb of the New Yorker to think this wouldn't get a lot of attention, and it might not be that funny, but rather than get upset over a magazine cover and display to each other how very much we are disgusted in the images, lets go after, "I know how to win wars' McCain.