terriko: (Default)
terriko ([personal profile] terriko) wrote2011-02-02 10:29 pm

"It's funny" does not imply "it's appropriate" -- an incredibly disgusting analogy

Trigger warning for... well, mostly for just being gross, but this is an analogy for an argument regarding rape "humour."

A number of commenters on my last GF post seem to believe that "It's funny" is a defense for doing anything you like in a public space, so I'm working on an analogy for why it isn't:

You may be familiar with the over-the-top gross-out humour of Team America: World Police. For many people, this is an incredibly funny movie. For the friend I was sitting next to, one of the best scenes seemed to be one where one of the characters starts throwing up copiously. After heaving many times his own body weight worth of fluid, the scene ends with him lying in a pool of vomit in an alley.

Let's suppose you've gone to a job interview, and it turns out one of the guys interviewing you is a big Team America fan, and he decides to re-enact said scene while showing you around the office. You turn to ask him a question, and he starts vomiting in your face. Maybe after a few minutes of vomiting, you realise that he's re-enacting a scene. Does that make it funny? Or are you busy wondering how much it's going to cost to clean vomit out of your suit and hoping that you haven't just contracted a very serious disease? Sure, he and his like minded co-workers might get a huge laugh over the look on your face, but you're probably not going to think it's funny. And neither is the CEO who hand you're supposed to shake next on the tour. Maybe you'll find it a funny story to tell later, but not right now.

Funny is very context-dependent. "It's funny" does not imply "it's appropriate." In fact, sometimes quite the opposite.

Edit for feed readers who are missing the first comment/punchline:

However, if you really want to keep making this argument, we can find someone incredibly ill to vomit on you. Because that would be funny.
hypatia: (Default)

[personal profile] hypatia 2011-02-03 04:42 am (UTC)(link)
this is a fucking epic metaphor. thank you :)

Right principle, wong analogy (maybe)

(Anonymous) 2011-02-03 01:33 pm (UTC)(link)
Isn't it simpler than that? I mean I totally agree with the funny vs. appropriate thing, but I boil these questions down to the basic fact that everybody gets to choose how they act and what they say. Part of that choice should take account of how your actions affect others (unless you're a butt, in which case you're just a butt). I could make a crass joke that might make someone else uncomfortable, or worse. Not being a butt means as soon as I think someone might be offended the concept of funny is irrelevant - I am making a choice between offending someone or not. The funny part doesn't even come into it. Of course because I'm human I might offend someone inadvertently in which case my only salvation from butt-dom is to say sorry in some meaningful way and learn from the experience. And part of that continued enlightenment is that stuff that's offensive generally isn't funny anyway.

So I'd kind of turn your principle around and say if it's not appropriate it really isn't funny. Because funny things are appropriate. Making people feel less than good about themselves saps the funniness from funny. In the big venn diagram that describes this there's a circle with "things people think are funny that aren't appropriate" and it's completely within a bigger circle marked "butts".

heliumbreath: (Default)

[personal profile] heliumbreath 2011-02-03 03:42 pm (UTC)(link)
There's a link between the funny and the disgusting, though, as a lot of humor pushes outside the box of normal everyday behaviour, and the gray zone isn't well-defined or the same for everyone, so what might be funny to one person is overdone and beyond funny, well into bad taste, for another. And some people seem to like to occasionally watch a horror film with buckets of blood and vomit and victims being violated every which way, or play such roles at Halloween, going far beyond what they'd ever want to actually experience in real life, because maybe it makes the mundane seem wonderful by contrast or somesuch (not my thing, though, but from outside one does try to figure out what it's about). Different cultures and subcultures set their limits in different places, which will make being an outsider difficult, and there is a need to set the accepted-behaviour bar to "bland" in situations like workplaces where a bunch of different people have to get along together for purposes other than their entertainment.
thorfinn: <user name="seedy_girl"> and <user name="thorfinn"> (Default)

Re: Right principle, wong analogy (maybe)

[personal profile] thorfinn 2011-02-07 01:21 am (UTC)(link)
Worse yet - something can be both funny *and* offensive...

And the context matters a huge amount. If a close friend of mine makes "funny asian jokes" with me, we already have a shared context of respect, and those jokes can be funny but not offensive, even if the friend isn't asian. If some random person off the street makes exactly the same funny jokes, I'll likely give them a pretty filthy look and assume they're a racist poo-head trying to be offensive (and odds will that be I'm right).

The jokes might even still be hilariously funny in both contexts - but they're offensive in the non-friend context, and not-offensive in the friend context.

Not funny doesn't mean not-offensive either... Funny and Offensive are mostly orthogonal.