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Funny and Offensive


Meta-bigotry, in which mockery is ironically targeted toward bigotry itself and not the apparent target of the offensive speech, can become truly offensive if the joke falls flat.

Online reader Jonsi, in a comment posted on Randy Harward’s music review of Travis Whitelaw’s new album Sexarcana, referred to that gamble as a “PC tightrope.”

“It seems like this writer is trying to walk a PC tightrope here (he might run afoul of powers that be at this lefty rag). He wants us to know that [Sexarcana] is real offensive but at the same time it’s ‘okay’ with him because there is supposedly real social commentary going on.”

Rant Control’s take: Otherwise offensive humor can be resurrected with a special dash of genuine social commentary. That style dates, at least, to Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. When a humorist ironically states offensive things, but makes his or her irony sufficiently apparent, taboo discussions become less so, and real conversations about important topics can begin more comfortably.

But, since Harward doesn’t conclude that Whitelaw is being ironic in his misogyny, is it still OK to laugh? Yes, because not every “tee-hee” contributes to a more bigoted world. But it’s probably not OK to laugh at offensive jokes around children—or genuine bigots—who may not understand that you are laughing at bigots and bigotry itself, not the victims of it.

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