Monday, February 25, 2013

Edgy

Everyone's talking about "edgy" humor today. The Onion got into trouble when one of its writers, in an online attempt at wit, referred to a nine-year old actress as a "cunt." A friend of mine said that one should never apply such a word to a child. My response: Why use that word to describe any female?

As noted below, I stopped watching Seth MacFalane's dirty cartoons when they degenerated into nothing but jokes about rape, sex with animals, vomit, shit and similar topics. The writers seem desperate to come up with "high-disgusto-factor" material; they seem to fear that the audience will drift if a single non-gross joke sullies the screen. My problem isn't with shit-blood-and-vomit per se; I just don't care for unfunny jokes about such things. 

In the second Austin Powers movie, there's a notorious bit in which Austen accidentally sips from a stool sample because he believes that he's drinking coffee. Nobody laughed at that scene. The "gag" was not just disgusting -- it was pure lead.

Here, as best as I can recall, is the dialogue:
AUSTEN: This coffee tastes like shit.

AUSTEN'S BOSS: It IS shit.
Austen makes a sour face, and that's it. End of scene.

Not funny.

But suppose the bit had gone differently. Austen picks up the stool sample, swirls it around, sniffs it like a connoisseur...
AUSTEN: Ah yes. Jamaica Blue. Unless I miss my guess, the beans were grown on the hills north of Kingston...(sips) Ah. Make that south of Kingston.
That, I think, would have worked better. The ick factor is still there, but it comes to you wrapped in an actual joke, derived from character. (If you disagree, come up with your own variant.) Of course, the producers probably would have nixed my rewrite on the grounds that much of the audience might not know that "Jamaica Blue" is an expensive type of coffee.

Longtime readers of this blog know that my language can be rough. And lord knows I've made many failed attempts at humor. One thing I've discovered: All humor carries a risk, but the risks increase when the jokes get edgy. If a normal joke bombs, you may annoy your audience -- but if a high-disgusto-factor joke bombs, then everyone will want you dead. They'll radiate the kind of hate we reserve for child molesters, puppy-kickers and unpopular presidents.

Peter Farelly found that out the hard way a short while ago.

Seth MacFarlane found out last night.

I remain a big fan of Jon Stewart and Bill Maher, neither of whom are known for their dainty language. But the time has come for everyone to confess that jokes about misplaced cum and poop aren't automatic laugh-inducers -- in fact, they've gotten old. If that means telling our comics to err on the side of cleanliness, then so be it.

Unless, of course, the joke is truly funny. 
Comments:
They write what sells.
Speaking of off color, the anti-spam phrase is Poomstaf. Sounds like something you would get from being naughty in an interstate men's restroom with a republican.
 
I don't see why women should get special protection from being called cunts. Call a cunt a cunt, that's my motto. Got to be more careful with children, I suppose, but if the kid is a cunt, then call it a cunt. I don't know who this actress is, so perhaps the onion were right.
 
Sorry, Stephen, but I don't think any woman much less a child should be referred to as 'cunt'. AFAIKS the speaker may as well wear a large sign declaring a complete intellectual bankruptcy. It's hard to write good comedy. The best of it points to our human weaknesses and frailties. But if all people can come up with is crude bodily functions crudely put then I suggest they get out of business until some real talent shows up. I'm no prude but I'm not impressed with any of this crap.
 
It appeals to your typical Obama speech writer.
 
Stephen, you're such a big man, let's see you go up to a black person and say, I'm sorry but if a nigger's a nigger I don't see why he or she should get any special protection from being called a nigger.

Thought so. Curled you right up, huh?

I've heard your underhung reasoning so many times: "but some women ARE bitches."

A. You're missing the point. The language is sexist and some of us prefer our society evolving instead of devolving

which brings us to

B. You're really just pretending to miss the point because it gives your flagging manhood...such as it is...a little thrill.

But nice try, Stevie! Better luck next time. :)

 
To get away with edgy (or potentially offensive) humour I think the essential, ingredient is personal charm - and that's something you've got or you haven't. Cannot be cultivated or learned. Bill Maher doesn't have it, Jon Stewart does. Billy Connolly has it. Eddie Murphy has it. I think Seth MacFarlane has it, though I seem to be in the minority on that. We haven't seen enough of him out front, out from behind his animation to be sure.
 
I'm with Mr. Mike.

Remembering back, Eddie Murphy riffed on advice he'd heard from Bill Cosby to clean up his language. Murphy riffed on what Richard Pryor told him in response, amounting to 'are you getting paid?,' and then advice as to what to tell Cosby (also impolite language involved).

Let's be honest-- we're no longer in their demo, their demo pays the bills, has been paying them, and continues to pay them. Only a rejection by the marketplace can change it, and unfortunately, the marketplace is devolving to still lower levels at all times. In my view as now a fogie.

XI
 
"cunt" might not be good comedy, but it's a good insult. It certainly can be good comedy. It was quite amusing when John Humphrys accidentally referred to the then-Culture Secretary as Jeremy Cunt, for example. It was funny because it was, and remains, true.

I don't know how it's come to be seen as such a terrible word in America, almost on a par with nigger, but it's just a very good insult. Nice and short, the proverial four letters, obscene and starts with a satisfyingly guttural consonant. If you're going to insult someone, do it properly.

 
Holy Haruhi, Morgan didn't even have the good sense to slink away after flashing his butt once.

Nope, he comes right back, drops trou, and moons the audience again.

Eh, wodda ma-ROON.
 
The trouble with edgy (i.e., gross) humor is that it's easy to start believing that, by being gross, you're being funny. Some of the comedians I've seen on cable sound like wholly-owned subsidiaries of the porn industry. Where's a censor when you need one?
 
Ah, you're British, Stephen. That explains a lot.

Look, you can't call cigarettes "faggots" or "fags" here and if you call erasers "rubbers" you're going to get a lot of funny looks in the U.S. if you ask for one.

And, again...no. Universally, no. It's not "funny" or "true" if you call a bloke a "cunt." I have enough trouble with my one-woman war on the viral put-down "douche" --- but the principle is unassailable. Insulting ANY male with ANY term whatsoever associated with the female is irrefutably sexist and as backwards as calling a black person "darky" or the n-word.

Equating the feminine with dirty and disgusting is actually worse than any racist remark, since the label "sexist" makes no impact on misogynistic mouth-breathers. "Sexism" is laughed off, because women all over the world are enslaved and treated as chattel while men who are considered "good" do nothing more than smugly chuckle it off. This doesn't even sound horrific to you, does it? Women are subhuman by default to neanderthals who think if it's "true" then it's a riot to call someone "cunt."

Try getting it this time: If you want to insult a guy, refer to his lack of prowess in his OWN genitalia. Unless there is some reason you're too sensitive about underhung or limp dicks? See, that's funny regardless of whether it's "true."
 
Perry, I quite agree. An orangutan isn't being clever when he tosses feces at you. He's just being an orangutan.
 
Generally we in the uk dont call women cunts. Its considered very rude and for good reason. Generally men are cunts when they behave antisocially.

Harry
 
Harry, I get it. In that it's a different language, almost. I get that I don't get what "bloody" means there. And that "cunt" there is basically the equivalent of "douche" here.

Still not evolved. It won't stand so you might as well evolve now. :)
 
Cunt is more extreme than douche. It's the toppermost of the poppermost in the family of insults, but it is just an insult. And it's nothing to do with any putative oppression of women, as it's in the same family of insults as knob, dickhead and twat. Cunt just sounds so much more aggressive, and that's what you're after if you're insulting someone. Related, I suppose, to the "doing" insults, fucker, jerk(-off), tosser, wanker, and the like. Genitals, and things you do with your genitals. Douche-bag, too. Maye motherfucker as well, but I've always thought four syllables is too much for a good insult.

I mean, you could just restrict yourself to rational debate all the time, but often that won't get you anywhere and all that's left is to call a cunt a cunt. Insults are a perfectly valid way to express yourself when confronted with, say, a Tory cabinet minister. When "George" Osborne got booed at the Paralympics, it wasn't a rational refutation of his economic policy, but it was good. Or Jarvis Cocker's "Cunts are Still Running the World", a futile raging cry against injustice and the golden straitjacket, based on the pointlessness of argument or action against those powerful enough to be insulated from democracy, and the idea that no-one's immune to being called a cunt.

And believing in equality I will apply it to all who deserve it, regardless of sex, race, creed, age or national origin.

 
Apparently Mr. Morgan derives some sort of masochistic delight from giving other people an unfavorable opinion of him.

I hope he's a conservative, because if he's a liberal, then he's an embarrassment to our tribe, rather like the vastly overrated Bill Maher.
 
PZ,

Fine comment. Some mild counter argument.

1) The usage in the UK exists. It may be sexist but its common usage. For me the usage in the US is far worse. Its considered unacceptable to call a woman a cunt in the UK. I am curious if Mr. Morgan disagrees. If I want to insult someone I can try calling him a dick. I can call him a little dick. But he wont be insulted. I have to call him a cunt to insult and annoy him. So even if I agree with you I have to persuade everyone else or show a bit more imagination in my insults.

2) I can see why you suggest that if a phrase is an insult then one can take it that the phrase must be considered unattractive or negative in some way. Thus using cunt as a insult for men implies some distaste for women.

I suspect you are right. Its an insult because men have a distaste or contempt for female sexual organs. However its not a logical incontrovertible. Something can be an insult because of its context. West Indians can refer to people as "Rasclaat" or "Bumbaclaat". These phrases can be loosely translated as reusable feminine hygene product or bottom wash cloth. Does this phrase imply distaste for women or just bodily functions? I think the point is that all insults are context sensitive. And in the US, the use of "cunt" seems inevitably to involve a context of violence. Its doesnt feel quite the same in the UK but I might be fooling myself.

3) Your third point is excellent. Is sexism laughed off? I think you are right but once again there is a context. Women are not sisters. Rich women do not look out for the rights of their poor black sisters. I think poor women remain chattels and rich women are their masters. Same as black men remain slaves and white men are their masters. For me the sexism is no longer the dominant factor. Its the inequality.

Harry
 
I think it's not unaccaeptable, Anonymous. It's obviously not polite, but it's no worse than something like arsehole. Obviously it's not something you'd call someone at work, or shout out at a funeral, but it's not beyond the pale as an insult, as racially derogative terms are. Insults shouldn't be taken literally. Cunt is nothing to do with vaginas, knobhead is nothing to do with penises and if you call someone a wanker chance are that everyone in earshot masturbates on a regular basis, statistically speaking.

As Hamfast hopes, I'm not a liberal, I'm very much a socialist. Liberals spend far too much time getting het up about fripperies like whether insults are sexist and far too little time worrying about things like benefit cuts and working conditions.
 
I regret to learn that Mr. Morgan can't be concerned about sexism and economic inequality at the same time.

I hope he can at least walk and chew gum at the same time. ^_^
 
Mr Morgan,

I sympathise with your position. Its really the inverse of whats in a name? A rose would smell as sweet. But if yiu look at it that way you have to ask yourself how an organ which is the object of so much male attention/desire, should also be used as a heavy duty insult. I can see why gay men might be disgusted but not straight men. So i strongly suspect pz has a point.

Also the only times i have seen the word used over here it is used with sucn venom by men who are trying to comunicate an apparently sincere hatred of some target woman. And it is always a woman who is the target. The usage in the US is different, and it is very nasty.
 
Color me drolly amused by the fervor of commentators who seemingly are clueless about English As She Is Spoke by the language's creators. While once upon a time the merest suggestion of the C-word was enough to cause uncontrollable twitching, years of exposure to bootlegged UK film and telly has rendered me largely immune -- provided the speaker has a British/Commonwealth accent. It's a similar phenomenon to the way niggerniggernigger rolls off one's back while riding the 14 Mission, but coming from one's [white] uncle at a family gathering, it can silence the room before the first N-syllable finishes crossing his lips. (To loop back to the original post, it's the proverbial turd in the punch bowl....) Somewhere in between is use of the word or its variant, ironically or not, by white folk who should know better -- right, Lisa Lampanelli?
 
Ah, thanks, Harry. I think I get it now.

It's another case of our being divided by a common language, to borrow Shaw's quip.

Apologies for busting your chops needlessly, SM.

Live long and prosper, y'all.
 
harry, my position is the opposite of that. It's not that words don't mean anything but are just labels we attach to things, it's that cunt is a very good word to insult someone with. Short, guttural, anglo-saxon. Ask why people are complaining about it's use rather than trying to "reclaim it" as the homosexual community did with "queer". Because queer is quite an innocuous word originally meaning "odd", no inherently objectionable and therefore amenable to being reclaimed, while no-one is going to call themselves a cunt because it sounds like an insult.

And Americans sometimes use it for men, Jon Stewart did so just last week, albeit only on the banner behind him.

And I do care about sexism as well as economics. Not as much, certainly, but still a fair bit. But sexism is something like someone being denied a job because of their sex, not someone using an un-PC insult. Socialism, like Democracy, requires that people be treated equally. But economic factors have the most impact on society as a whole, and after that there's racism. Sexism just isn't at the top of the list, and sexism against women isn't even on it. Women are less likely to be unemployed than men, less likely to be imprisoned, more likely to be university educated, more likely to go into medicine and the law, less likely to be the victim of every type of violent crime (in the USA even including rape due to your absurdly huge and violent prison system), live several years longer, and suchlike. As a socialist I would be as remiss advocating for women as I would be bemoaning the lot of the landed gentry. I believe in equality in all it's forms, I only wish I could say the same for those who think calling a woman a cunt is bad because it insults a woman, while calling a man a cunt is bad because that also insults women. While dick-head is fine.
 
Stephen, I share your views on the matter. Also, as far as taking insults back, I'd say women have certainly made great efforts to take back "slut" in the past couple of years, why not "cunt" as well?
 
*headdesk*

I give up. After the 2008 Democratic primaries, I should no longer be surprised to find troglodytic misogyny on the Left as well as the Right.

Mr. Morgan seems to know what he's talking about on other issues, so this blind spot of his puzzles me.

It will take someone wiser than I to enlighten him.
 
Stephen, I agree. Cunt is an excellent insult. If you wanna be insulting then cunt beats most other generic insults.

The question is what does it tell us about our thought processes if we use the anglo-saxon term for ladies sexual organs as our most potent insult. Im a big fan of vaginas. Why would I want to use the word as an insult?

I have heard blue collar guys folk from Long Island use the word in a very nasty way. They were aggressive abut it, and it felt like they were on the edge of violence. I have been on the receiving end of similar aggressive use of language in the past - not anymore I suspect because Im now 15 stone and shave my balding brown head. So people are generally surprisingly polite to me. But in the past it seemed that the language used was an implicit threat of violence. Just because you use the word cunt in a judicious fashion doesn't mean that reasonable people couldnt pick up a dislike of the word cos of its usage.

Of course you might say thats the point. When you use it you aint trying to be nice.

Harry
 
Harry, I know what you're getting at. I always used to target assholes with terms equating them with homosexuals. Why? Because it infuriated them. Tres amusing.

But later I learned why not to do that. Because it denigrated a community that is underprivileged.

I really don't want to get into the privilege thing, but I do "get" it. And you're in no position to pit "rich white women" against any other women.

Love this topic, but lecture your BROTHERS, and yes, we are sisters and brothers, and leave us sisters to our own work.

Till we all meet on more open equal ground...



 
Get out the world's smallest violin for poor little Stephen, boo-hooing that "dickhead" is "just fine" in the typical male "we are the victims here" nonstop whining about nonexistent (except in male fantasy) female "privilege." That doesn't even rise to a "nice try," Stevie.

Dickhead is lame. Limpdick is the insult of choice. Guttural, and so on target you can't even bring yourself to whine about it. lol!
 
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