People who, upon being challenged for making a joke that’s offensive or off-colour, claim that the offence is a “misinterpretation” and they are really using jokes as a “powerful tool for changing social attitudes.”
This irritates me as it is, but what really angers me is the idea that anyone has the right to appropriate something that’s painful for a group of people and use it as a source of humour to bring about changes to social attitudes on behalf of that group of people. Not only is the defence usually bullshit, and the cry of “social justice through comedy” one that’s used to cover the ass of the person who made the ill-advised cracks, people who have not experienced the hurt that is the subject of such jokes have no right to say what is and isn’t funny when it comes to that topic.
I have tonight had a row via Twitter with a minor British celebrity and comedian about him making light of the case of a young woman who has disappeared with her teacher following a school trip to France. He made quips to his followers, of which I am no longer one, about how when the 30 year old teacher gets back from his disappearance with the 15 year old, “his wife won’t be dressing up as a schoolgirl for him for a long time.”
I pointed out that this was distasteful, and he claimed the “agent of social change” defence. When I challenged him further, he told me he “respected” the work that I do with trafficked children and then went on to demand that I show the same respect for the work he does, “going to dark places and asking difficult questions.”
Well I’m sorry, but I don’t. He’s “going to dark places” alright, but he’s not doing it for any social justice. He’s doing it for laughs. He’s doing it because he’s an entertainer and his self-aggrandising attitude to being called on making cheap quips just makes me want to spit. I have no problem with him being an entertainer. Entertainment is a very worthwhile end in itself. It is no less worthwhile than any other. But don’t hide behind the mantle Social Justice Campaigner when someone calls you out on being distasteful. Just agree that your humour isn’t to everyone’s taste and take it like a man. Otherwise you end up looking like an even worse shit than you did in the first place.