Saturday, December 15, 2018

Weekend Rant

 This touches on something I talked about earlier in the week in discussing the song "Baby It's Cold Outside."

There’s a scene in THE KOMINSKY METHOD in an acting class where a white student does a black monologue from an August Wilson play. It’s actually a hilarious scene. But one of the other young students stops him in the middle saying she’s not comfortable with this. Quick aside: Is it okay to do that now? I mean, if someone is uncomfortable they can certainly leave the room, but is it okay to actually stop the performer because of your discomfort? Just askin’.

But the point is she found it offensive for a white person to perform a monologue obviously meant for a black person.

In a recent discussion of THE HONEYMOONERS I received a comment from a college professor. He observed that kids today are almost looking to be offended by things. They find something objectionable in almost everything.

Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and a lot of comics won’t play colleges anymore because the audiences’ are too PC.

This is all very surprising to me because when I went to college (back in the Pleistocene Era) my generation was at its most rebellious. We scoffed at anything PC. The comedy we gravitated towards was the most irreverent and outrageous it could be. Richard Pryor, THE CREDIBILITY GAP, THE FIRESIGN THEATRE, the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks. Imagine college kids today seeing BLAZING SADDLES.

Some legitimate theatres now will post trigger warnings of the things in the play they’re showing that might be offensive. Have we become that sheltered? And the next step of course is that these theatres will not produce plays they think might offend some portion of their audience.

We need to lighten up, people. We can still be good caring human beings and be amused at the absurdity of a young white guy trying to do an August Wilson monologue. We can still enjoy CHEERS even though there’s not a lot of diversity (or FRIENDS or SEINFELD or FRASIER). We can still marvel at Richard Pryor even though the language is raw to say the least.

It’s COMEDY.

It’s supposed to be offensive.

LAUGH.

61 comments :

Coltrane said...

I don't think it's as simple as lightening up. People who have grown up with the internet have been wired differently. Kids don't learn to define themselves by what they like, but by what they dislike. It's how they get social currency. It's a generation of haters, "I know who you are by what you hate". While the PC police is a symptom of this, all the racial hatred that seems to be making a resurgence is also a consequence.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

It's my understanding that a "trigger warning" is not about offending someone but about trauma. Basically, it's PTSD - that someone who has been raped or abused as a child may be stimulated - triggered - to experience flashbacks when encountering material that evokes those memories. I agree: in the 1970s we did seek out boundary-breaking comedy. But I'm not sure it was the same boundaries being transgressed (were there so many rape jokes in the 1970s?), and in any case I'm not sure it's up to those of us who have not been abused or raped to decide how tough the people who *have* should be.

I haven't seen the recent acts of any of the comedians you mention, so I can't tell if college audiences are offended by them...or just don't think their comedy has aged well.

wg

Cedric Hohnstadt said...

I watched The Kominsky Method. If memory serves, there is another line in the show where the Michael Douglas character says something like, "Kids today don't have any sense of shame," and his daughter replies (I'm paraphrasing), "It's social media. They are used to sharing every intimate thing about themselves with the whole world." I think the writers were on to something. We are still trying to comprehend all the ways (good and bad) that the internet and social media are completely reshaping attitudes and norms.

Three observations: 1. Kids today can fine tune their world to their own personal tastes and preferences like no other generation before. That can't help but amplify the natural narcissism of youth. 2. Our emphasis on relativism and being nonjudgmental about everything is creating a generation without boundaries or shape. Morality is no longer defined by churches and synagogues but by social media causes and "movements". 3. Add to that the fact that complaining about something on social media has a weird way of making you feel like you are doing a lot when you are really doing very little. It gives you an inflated sense of power and influence.

I think when you combine those three things it creates an atmosphere where "being offended" can flourish. All that self-righteous complaining gives people an artificial sense of doing something significant and meaningful. I could be wrong but that's what I think is happening.

Peter said...

The problem stems from the fact that the current generation is preoccupied with wanting to be seen as "woke". It's almost like a competition to see who can be the most politically correct and progressive, regardless of how irrational and tone deaf the particular positions they take can be.

On youtube, there's a video of a campus debate in the States about gender and biology. Several students stormed out when a female academic said it shouldn't be controversial to say that men and women are biologically different. One of the students who felt offended said she didn't want to listen to a Nazi. A Nazi!!!

How are these students going to cope once they're in the real world and no longer in their protective safe space bubble? They're in for a shock when they realize that other people don't think like them and trigger warnings do not accompany everything.

My favourite of all the stupid social justice warrior moments of this year was the announcement by a university students union here in the UK that clapping at debates and events would be discouraged because the sound of lots of people clapping can be "triggering" for some people who are sensitive and instead they would be encouraging students to show their approval with jazz hands.

Thanks to millennials, satire is truly dead.

VincentS said...

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook a disclaimer Warner Brothers is pubbing out for their cartoons stating that the jokes should be judged in the context of its day - basically a pre-emptive apology. But I think you raise an interesting point comparing this current young generation to when you were that age. Every person at that age thinks they're 100% right, especially when they reiforce each others' opinions. I personally chalk it up to one of life's challenges

Joseph Scarbrough Puppet Productions said...

There's a video on YouTube of a comedian who was heckled by an audience member for making a crack about Trump. Said audience member got up and left, but not before throwing a water battle (and I think stool) at him. The rest of the audience applauded and cheered when she left, and the comedian he remarked, "Was I the first one to invent disliking Donald Trump or something?"

therealshell said...

I can only imagine the outrage from Batman fanboys if actor Lakeith Stanfield is granted his wish to play black Joker (his words).

Janet Ybarra said...

It's not comedy, but along the same lines, some public health people have decided to label James Bond yes, that 007) as an alcoholic.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2018/12/11/shaken-not-slurred-james-bond-had-severe-chronic-alcohol-problem-public-health-experts-say/


Now some folks might expect me to side with the study but the Study seems to neglect an important context, which is, all the Bond films more or less exist circa 1962.

So the drinking is part of the shtick.

I'm old enough to remember that even drunk driving didn't really become quite the social evil it is today until maybe late 70s and early 80s.

And other than that were a film made of Bond's later life, I'll concede we'd see him dying at an early age at a NHS hospital of cirohosis of the liver.

sanford said...

I don't know why Seinfeld wouldn't do college gigs. He doesn't work blue. We saw him a couple of years ago and I suspect he would do the same show at a college gig. As for the other comedians you mentioned, why would people who would be offended go see them. They pretty much know what their acts are at this point. About 2 or 3 years ago Mel Brooks was doing a bunch of screenings of Blazing Saddles and then doing a Q&A after wards. He was probably 88 at the time and still as funny as ever. I didn't take the time to notice if there were any younger people in the audience. The movie was as funny as ever. This seems to be a thing now of actors showing their movies and doing a Q&A. John Cleese was touring with the Life of Brian. John Cusac has been doing it this year as has Jane Fonda. How ever no movie just the Q&A.

Justin Murphy said...

Watching The Kominsky Method on Netflix in the past couple days, I watched the scene in question and thought it was a very funny commentary on the easily offended.

Matt Barnett said...

It seems there are some TV shows (Murphy Brown) who've forgotten that shows (sitcoms in this case) are supposed to be about the funny, and not about grinding axes non-stop (Will and Grace). After the first several minutes, you just want to scream out "WE GET IT!"

That many, many things are now so hyper-focused on politics and social justice and who's offended ("offended") and my God, I can barely watch any of it any more. Can't they just be funny and leave politics/social justice to the steaming shit-pile known as social media? The only way I can get away from it is by staring at a blank Moleskine notebook.

Eric J said...

I think Wendy G and Cedric have a very good handle on what's going on, but I won't be able to watch an audience clapping without seeing them all waving jazz hands instead.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Of all institutions, universities should be the very place where free expression should flourish. Any policy that restricts it is an affront to the goal of education. Just sayin'

Mike said...

The rumor seems to be true, that Harvey slept with actresses in return for roles and Oscars.

Latest is the alleged bragging that he slept with Jennifer Lawrence.

Knew that one was coming. Gwyneth Paltrow everyone knew, this was just a rumor all this while.


https://people.com/movies/jennifer-lawrence-denies-harvey-weinstein-alleged-brag-sexual-relationship/

SteveJayCanada said...

I'm offended that there aren't more tv shows today like The Kominsky Method. Don't the networks understand that intelligent people like watching tv too? I demand more shows that poke fun of people who get offended too easily. That's my rant for the weekend, now I'll return to binge watching All In The Family reruns.

Brian said...

I don't think what you say is how rebellion works. Rebellion is doing the opposite of what the previous generation did, a definition so well displayed by the character Alex P. Keaton. What better way to rebel against hippie parents than to be a Gordon Gecko wannabe?

So, to rebel against the "we were SO WILD" generation, you get uptight and overly careful. Meanwhile that same generation is successfully freaking out much of the older generation by rebelling against their conceptualizations of gender.

Don't be surprised if thirty years from now the standard on campus is to eschew any sort of trigger warning or acceptance of all.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I wish I could remember which columnist said this because I would love to give him proper attribution. (paraphrasing) HAMILTON is ultimate in 'cultural appropriation.' It's a Hispanic guy telling a white man's story using the black man's music. Yet, when Lin-Manuel Miranda does it not only are people NOT offended; it's not condemned, it's celebrated. Kevin Hart won't host the Oscars© because he made anti-gay jokes. But, now there's some controversy about double standards. That is, that comedians such as Sarah Silverman and Amy Schumer do the same thing except that their careers haven't suffered because of it.

I've stated this before. Ken knows me. I am of mixed race. (part Hispanic, Native American and white) I am not easily offended by "Mexican" jokes or "Indian" jokes or anti-Christian jokes or anti-conservative jokes, etc. But, even the rare times when I am personally offended by something I don't try to censor anyone. I'M A FIRST AMENDMENT KIND OF GUY!!
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Attributed to Voltaire.
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin.

We shouldn't insult, make fun of, or offended people because it's the right thing to do. NOT because a government, political correctness or mob mentality try to force us to do so.
I don't know if this is an actual quote or simply an aphorism, but if you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?
M.B.

Jeff Boice said...

I have a hard time imagining a Student Union being able to afford Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock in the first place. The Alumni Association, maybe. When I attended college I don't remember ever seeing a comedian on campus. Always local rock groups. If we wanted to hear comedy we just played a Richard Pryor or Firesign Theatre album. Lot cheaper.

I don't know if its the audience or the booking people or both that's the cause. I did prowl around the internet and found one comic who said the average audience was 18 years old and from the footage showed, it looked to be mostly female. The comic's reaction was "My God, they're so young". So a comic would have to do a different routine than if they were playing a regular comedy club, or entertaining a gathering of Microsoft engineers.

YEKIMI said...

Waiting for it to become an "I'm offended that you're offended by my being offended that they're offended by you're being offended by them being offended by something you/they/them/it/he/she find offensive!" loop. And I'll defend anyone who may be offended by what that bloated orange turd in the White House is doing daily.....or maybe hourly, that is offensive.

www.bohemianrhapsody.dk said...

I rewatched The Night of The Generals recently. Omar Shariff was cast as the Nazi major Grau who investigates a murder in German-occupied Warsaw during WWII. Nobody cared that Shariff was Egyptian and Grau was German. It is a fiction and everybody just played along.

Rob D said...

1) I'm reminded of the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work where she is heckled at a show in Wisconsin because she did a couple of jokes about Helen Keller. (As I recall, the heckler said he had a deaf son). Come on, it's (the late) Joan Rivers, you dummy, her whole schtick for decades was to be an equal opportunity offender. Heckling her for saying something offensive makes you look like a clueless moron.

2) My local newscast occasionally has trigger warnings, usually preceding stories about child abuse, animal abuse, and so on. While I agree those stories can certainly be harrowing, if you are easily triggered by them then why are you even watching the news in the first place? I don't get it.

thirteen said...

People in college tend to feel deeply about shallow things. They'll get over it, except for the few who don't and wind up writing (for free, the suckers!) for HuffPost.

Andy Rose said...

@sanford: The "Seinfeld says he won't play colleges because they're too PC" thing is ridiculous. Seinfeld won't play colleges because he's not a college act. His average ticket price is $100, he's 64 years old, and the only successful program he's had in the past 20 years is one where he is most often interviewing people his own age about the Old Days. To a 20-year-old in college, he might as well be Uncle Miltie. Why would any college invite him to do a campus show, regardless of his content?

I have heard some comedians who are more attuned to a younger audience like Bill Burr make legitimate points about the difficulty of pushing boundaries in front of a college-age audience, but Jerry Seinfeld is not one of them.

Y. Knott said...

The thing is, laughter isn't a considered reaction. It's something that happens when you suddenly recognize something that is absurdly incongruous -- but that's not immediately harmful to you.

If people are reminded more of the potential harm than the absurdity, they won't laugh. You can tell them to lighten up, or to get over themselves, or that the perceived harm isn't realistic. It doesn't matter. People will not laugh if they see harm that they feel could happen -- or is happening, or did happen -- to them.

This has always been the case, of course, but the proliferation of modern-day information sources -- mostly delivering bad news with varying levels of apocalyptic fervour -- now makes us more aware than ever of potential sources of harm. Whether that harm comes in the form of violence, injustice, job losses, abuse, climate change, political corruption, technology, whatever ... the news cycle makes us more aware of problems now than we've ever been. As well, this 'information overload' is the only way people under 25 have EVER experienced news.

You'd think that we'd need laughter now more than ever. But the more an individual is reminded of the potential (or current) personal harms they're facing, the harder it is to laugh. Remember, it's not a considered reaction! It's that sudden recognition of the (not personally harmful) absurdity that gets a person laughing.

All of which is to say that comedy is not 'supposed' to be offensive. Sure, it *can* be offensive; writing offensive material is one of the tools that a comedic writer can choose to use. But it's not the only one.

Hell, it's not even the most important one.

And Ken, you know this. You've written about this. You built your career on knowing dozens upon dozens of ways to get laughs ... and to use humour that offends only where and when you *know* your audience would be right with you on it.

So, to sum up?

Sure, you can complain that it's harder to write now, since the culture you got used to has changed over the years. Hey, we all do this to some extent. When we're young it's amazing how clueless the older generation is; when we get to their age, we marvel at how dumb the younger generation is. But, in the end...

It's COMEDY.

It's supposed to make us laugh. Which means that if a writer doesn't consider the current audience, and writes material that's only offensive? That audience won't...

LAUGH.

Anonymous said...

First I generally agree with you. Exceptions being when folks such as coulter claim an unbridled right to lie and get paid for it.

Secondary point is aren't the students doing what students have always done find a way to offend the previous generation? Even by being greater prig's and prudes then their parents.

James Van Hise said...

Clearly attitudes about what is allowable change. Adam Sandler left Saturday Night Live in 1995, but when he was on the show he and Alec Baldwin did a routine called "Canteen Boy" in which scoutmaster Baldwin is clearly coming on to Adam Sandler as one of his boy scouts. They only did the routine on a couple shows and it supposedly got more hate mail than anything in the history of the show up to that time. Fast forward to the 21st century. I believe it was on NBC.com where they had a site where you could select individual SNL skits to watch. When I clicked on "Canteen Boy" it now had a bold disclaimer on it (which never appeared on the skit when aired in the 1990s) which proclaimed that even though canteen boy appears to be quite young, he is really just a young looking adult.

Bob B. said...

I remember the Friends fracas. A group that was more or less assembled to be upset said that Friends didn't have any blacks on it. But in my opinion it you get a job because you are _____, whether it be black, brown, Asian, man woman, etc., then you are getting a job for a prejudicial purpose. You shouldn't be hired for skin color, sex, body size, nationality etc. unless the job specifically calls for it. If you are not hired for your ability but for being a member of a "protected" or boisterous group, you have been hired for a prejudicial reason.

Colin Stratton said...

Back in the 80s, I had to endure the likes of Gallagher, Steven Wright, and Howie Mandel. Talk about torture. But everyone around me was laughing their ass off. I could not wait to leave. Such was the college comedy circuit at the time. But it is all perception. What might be funny to some, might not be to others. I thought Blazing Saddles and Airplane! were hilarious
But I have friends and family that hate those films and that style of comedy. Their problem. Like the comedy shows I hated was my problem. I soon got over it. After a couple of shots.

Janet Ybarra said...

It's been many years since I have been in college but where I did attend in the Amherst/Northampton Massachusetts area is home to five established colleges and universities.

We had scads of bands come through (I saw an early Phish show in 1988), as well as opportunities to see theatre and attend lectures.

But I can't really recall any comedians playing the colleges.

MikeN said...

>How are these students going to cope once they're in the real world and no longer in their protective safe space bubble?

What makes you think they will ever leave the bubble? Google had an employee saying they identify as a non-binary dragon.
And they fired James DaMore as contrary to company values after people got offended he said men and women are different in certain ways, and it explains why there are so few women programmers. Strangely, I think Google will be using the same arguments in court to defend in their sex discrimination lawsuit.

Janet Ybarra said...

The sitcom SOAP carried a viewers' advisory back in the late late 70s and early 80s, owing largely to the fact that one of the lead characters was gay (played by a very young Billy Crystal) and that at the the time same-sex relationships were not even legal yet in the US.

Today gay marriage is the law of the land. Yet 40 years later in reruns, Antenna TV still airs s viewers' warning at the start of each SOAP episode.

Anne said...

Wow, what a wonderful weekend wrant! It makes me realize how close we are to having the Thought Police club every single unapproved opinion out of our hapless little skulls.

But it also reminded me of a great 5 minute video from Dave Barry about free speech on college campuses. (Here's the link if you want to see it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tE3REvTJjXU).

And I think that if Ken Levine and Dave Barry wanted to get together and discuss this topic it would be a fantastic thing for all mankind. Also pretty funny. Even, and especially, if they don't like each other and don't agree on some things.

In fact, that's my holiday wish this year: Dear Santa, please let Ken and Dave get together and talk about Comedy and Offensibility in 2019. We really need a happier new year than the one we've got coming.

Donald Benson said...

Maybe I don't get around enough, but in my personal experience the anti-PC people are more obnoxious and self-righteous -- and more numerous -- than the PC people who are supposedly silencing them. "Political correctness" has replaced "uptight middle-class values" as the go-to straw man for a**holes trying to pawn off self-indulgent arrogance as a form of virtue. The ones who whine about intolerance ruining comedy often do so after a grade school dirty joke bombs at an adult gathering.

Frank Beans said...

Another topic that I really didn't want to comment on, but feel compelled to...

We really can't pin this PC culture on the younger generation today, not entirely. I'm 44 years old, and I remember when "PC" became a coinage in the early 1990s. However, it was not typically defined as "triggers" or that other sheltered nonsense we have to endure today.

What is consistent in American culture, across generations, is self-righteousness posing as social justice, almost always by sheltered white kids, who are, as you say, looking for something to be offended by.

It's a self-centered narcissistic toxic soup. And I must say, the right-wing version of it, white supremacist, "Christian" fanaticism, is far more harmful. We should never forget that either.

As one brave free-speech advocating comedian once said; "Our side will annoy the shit out of you. Their side will fucking kill you".

Janet Ybarra said...

Don't know if anyone else saw it but it sort of ties into this whole thing of being offended, and Ken certainly has written about CBS sexual harassment and MeToo before.

The latest subject is actor Michael Weatherly, star of BULL late of NCIS. Eliza Dushku is the accuser, related to some appearances she made on BULL.

But what makes this one unique was immediate female colleague reaction. In past MeToo episodes, female colleagues of the accused may have been dear, dear friends with the accused man but to the degree they said anything (such as Matt Lauer's female colleagues) they felt a need a need to connect with and in some way validate the accuser.

Not so with this Weatherly situation, at least not yet. Former co-stars Pauley Perrette and Sasha Alexander both tweeted strong messages of support for Weatherly, not giving Dushku the time of day for her allegations.

Ken Levine said...

Ann,

I agree with Dave Barry. But it would be an honor to share the stage with him sometime.

Erich617 said...

I’ve read your blog daily for 12 years. I have seen your plays, and I went to the blog’s anniversary party, so I am coming from a place of admiration, but I have a perspective to consider. Is it possible that you are being overly sensitive?
Take the story you wrote about of a radio station banning “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. I haven’t worked in radio, but is “ban” the right word? For every song a station plays, they don’t play thousands. They’re not banning those songs. A station controls what gets played on their platform. Instead of calling it a ban, can you see it as a station not wanting to give their air time to that song?
It’s still available. Recordings weren’t seized by the government. In the 70’s, radio stations had Bee-Gee Free Weekends. Was that banning the Bee-Gees?
Moving beyond that example, you have talked several times on this blog about being accused of racism, like last year’s post after people accused your Emmy review of racism. (Side note: You specifically mentioned that, as blog moderator, you had chosen not publish them. Was that banning them?) In that piece, you said, “[Comedy]’s meant to challenge… to prick pompous balloons… to point out hypocrisy.”
Is it possible the commenters see you as pompous or hypocritical and that they are pricking your balloon? To me, those comments are you being challenged, and your response is to tell people to lighten up.
You’ve said that reading these comments is difficult for you. Have you faced material harm? You are still able to speak freely. You have your blog. You write plays. Your episodes of television still air. Whatever money you continue to make from those remains in tact. You have a house, your health, your family. The only harm that has come to you is that you have read upsetting material. Why should you not take your own advice and lighten up?
Have you considered that the student in the scene you cited from THE KOMINSKY METHOD might be feeling something like what you felt reading those comments? How is asking people to stop voicing their opinions so that you can voice your own without fear of being challenged not hypocritical?
You say that trigger warnings on plays are an example of people being sheltered. But trigger warnings just let people know if they might have trouble with the content of a show so that they can choose not to watch. (By the way, if you’re at the theatre sitting next to a combat veteran with post-traumatic stress and flashbacks, do you want to be there when he sees a battle scene that he wasn’t expecting?) Yet, last month, writing about THE HONEYMOONERS, you said, “It is fair to say you personally are disturbed by watching such behavior, don’t find it funny, and would prefer watching something else.” What you described is a trigger warning, and you said it’s fair.
Perhaps you weren’t thinking of trigger warnings as related to disturbing content like domestic violence. Maybe you thought people use them to avoid perspecitves with which they disagree. After all, last year you bemoaned that, “People are way less willing to consider viewpoints that might not be 100% consistent with their own.” Sure, that’s a problem. Take it up with the person who in April wrote:
“If someone chooses not to watch a particular show it can be for whatever reason that person chooses… Am I OBLIGATED to watch a show starring a character spouting a political point of view I don’t agree with? …I can choose to skip it and don’t have to justify my decision… Must I watch in order to prove I’m an open-minded person? Sorry but NO.”
It seems you are OK with not considering another viewpoint but not with other people not considering your viewpoints.

David G. said...

Well put -- and appropriately so with the much larger typeface -- on your concluding words of: "It's comedy. It's supposed to be offensive. Laugh."

I didn't know that Seinfeld and Rock were having to limit their college campus appearance because of members of the overly easily offended language police. It's time people start using calling the term "politically correct speech" for what it actually means: "Liberal-preferred speech."

MikeKPa. said...

I don't think the THREE STOOGES would be able to be made in today's environment. They would be accused of corrupting kids into acting aggressively.

Question on TV pilots. How comprehensive a series bible do you need to develop initially when making your pilot pitch, and how much is compiled as the series goes along? Also, do you need to have a logline of each episode for the entire first season at the pitch meeting, a synopsis of the first five seasons, so that network execs can where the characters and series will go?

Aaron Sheckley said...

My take on this is that this perpetual state of outrage requires two components: The people who are looking for a reason to be offended, the subjects of the offense who, when they see the Twitterstorm of outrage, feel compelled to respond to it. Outrage is like any other currency; the more of it there is, the more devalued it becomes, and the less impact it has. It isn’t like the days when, if you were pissed off, you wrote a letter to the company/network/business that offended you. That sort of outrage had some value, because it took some effort to get the message to the person. Now? You can be pissed off 25 times a day, and all it takes to express that rage is two thumbs and a smart phone. Worse yet, people respond to Twitter rage; they apologize, they bow before the electronic pitchforks, they promise to become more “woke”. Project this type of response out into the future, and what’s the result? Is it going to be a society where everyone lets the Twitter mob dictate everything, or is it going to be a society where the constant droning of Twitter rage becomes white noise that everyone just tunes out? I hope there are researchers out there who are actually conducting studies on this phenomenon, and trying to figure out things like, does internet outrage actually affect our bottom line? Are all these people who are in a perpetual stage of hissy fit actually causing others to not buy our products? Did people actually stop watching our TV show because a group of Twitter users decided it was “problematic”? It may take another generation to actually figure it out, because a lot of the world’s movers and shakers grew up in a non-social media world, and they equate on line outrage with the sort of outrage that used to be expressed with phone calls and letter writing campaigns. A network gets 10,000 phone calls about an offensive program, and it’s DefCon 1, so 100,000 tweets must be ten times as bad, right? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe time is going to show that internet outrage is just the electronic equivalent of that cranky drunk at the bar who won’t shut his gob when the news is on; annoying, yet ultimately impotent.

My biggest fear of this constant “you offended me” theme that drives Twitter, Tumblr, etc is the backlash that it creates. There are a lot of reasons we ended up with Trump, but from my own interaction with people who voted for him, one big reason is the he is the embodiment of the “I don’t give a fuck what you think” mentality. That reaction pleases an awful lot of people who have wearied of the endless “Twitter was outraged today over (fill in the blank).”

DrBOP said...

Looking forward to Trump Trigger Warning in front of ALL media sources.....so I can turn those programs OFF!
Looking longingly forward to doing the PTSD (Post-Trump Snoopy-Dance).

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Janet Ybarra: Having attended the funeral of a widely loved and admired math professor because of a drunk driver in 1972 means I think that particular change is welcome.

This week in my Ken Levine's blog Reread I reached the November 2005 posting where he went to see "porn karaoke" and won a DVD starring Stormy Daniels (https://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2005/11/porn-star-karaoke.html). Ken, if you still have it, now you might be able to get good money for it on eBay.

wg

Karan G. said...

I’ve not seen the show which is referenced in the blog, but the description seems cringe worthy on it’s face. In context, as part of a method acting event, it would seem that a pass might be given. Also, the notion that someone can stop an event and call out the situation seems beyond impolite. This is anecdotal. Are people trying to say that this is the norm? The fact that the person questioned this, and is at least getting some support for questioning, shows that it is worthy of discussing. I like that we need to talk about these things. One of my pet peeves is that there is so much “gun” vernacular in out every day language. “Jump the gun” “pull the trigger on that project.” These are everyday terms in corporate America. I find myself looking for different ways to express these things. It is rarely the senior citizens moving our progress forward (with the exception of Bernie, Chuck and Nancy)….young people are needed, and in fact charged with this task. Are young people looking to be offended? I think they are looking not to offend. Not to be intolerant. Not to be divisive. Not to subjugate others. It is certainly worthy and in fact necessary of more dialogue….maybe a Ken podcast. By the way, great Cheers references last night on SNL!!!

SteveJayCanada said...

Pitch for a new show for Netflix, or Prime:

A grizzly seasoned Hit Sitcom writer who doubles as a major league baseball announcer deals with the unreasonable demands, and the obnoxious self-centered personalities of the young numbskull executives and egomaniac superstars from both worlds.

Perfect project for Ken Levine. Wish I had the authority and clout to green light it.

Please, nobody be offended by this suggestion.

Pidge said...

Our local Shakespearean summer festival has been reduced to producing American musicals to bring in the US tourists. In an effort to address PC and diversity, they did a production of West Side Story where you couldn’t distinguish the Sharks from the Jets. There were actors from many racial groups on both ‘teams’ and the similar costumes didn’t help. My students couldn’t understand what the conflict was about.

Coram_Loci said...

There is currency in being offended, in being a victim. Likewise, there is currency in being the victim's rescuer, the guy who sets things right and demands that others change.

These people abuse the goodwill that good people have in wanting to be courteous.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I just watched the "Kominsky" episode in question, and the point of the scene was that another white student found the August Wilson monologue offensive and then asked the (only?) black student if it was all right to be offended, or if the objection itself was racist. In other words, political correctness -- a term I hate -- has reached full-on absurdity.


Thanks for the recommendation, Ken, a very funny show. (They don't start talking about prostates until the third episode.) Why can't we have nice things like this on network TV anymore?

FFS said...

Holy shit! You tell people to lighten up and instead they write essays. They may have missed your point.

Janet Ybarra said...

Wendy, please let me be clear if I wasn't before: I am in no way condoning drunk or impaired driving. The cultural change brought about by MADD and others was tremendously positive. It is a good thing today that drunk driving has a social stigma as well as criminality attached to it.

I don't drink myself. I haven't for several years. Just a personal choice.

My point was simply that branding James Bond an alcoholic didn't really accomplish much and seems a little silly.

Gary said...

Interesting that David coins the term "liberal-preferred speech" when the buffoon in the white house just tweeted about limiting our free speech freedoms, because he didn't like Saturday Night Live last night.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

--Orleanas

MikeN said...

SNL writer was at a college campus, I think it was Ivy League Penn, and was chastised and ordered to leave because someone was offended by
'You know being gay isn't a choice. Imagine a black guy facing racism and he decided I'll just make this worse'.

It appears many in the audience were OK with it, but it was the organizer who was being demanding, and none in the group were willing to push back. I would guess this organization will become less popular with students as they skulk away.\

Anonymous said...

Next thing you know they won't air Maude.

Erich617 said...

I noticed the same issue with this rant that Brian did. You cite a college professor who says that today's students are looking to be offended and then talk about how rebellious your generation was in college. Is it possible your professors said the same thing?

Maybe this is how today's students rebel. If it's not familiar to you, maybe that's because you are part of the power structure against which they are rebelling.

Mike Doran said...

Just having a flashback:

Some years back, the then-incumbent President was getting a real goin-over by a popular TV comedy show, which in its turn was getting considerable flak from its network carrier.
The President was Lyndon Johnson.
The comedians were the Smothers Brothers.
And the network was CBS, which ultimately cancelled the Brothers and their show.
Interesting aspect (that only I seem to recall):
LBJ, when asked about the kerfuffle, actually spoke in defense of the Brothers, and of comedy in general - Tommy Smothers quoted the President in one of his own self-defense press conferences.

True story - and likely one which our current "Acting President" wouldn't believe if you told him (and provided the evidence …).

charlotteallthetime said...

I can't know what it has been like for today's college kids to have had to grow up under the all-day-every-day stress of the very real threat of being freakin' gunned down at any given moment in their classrooms....
I'm not saying this is the reason for their lack of tolerance for entertainment with an edge, but is it any wonder that as whole they're just a tad oversensitive as new adults?

charlotteallthetime said...

PS. Even the term for entertainment containing edgy content ("trigger warning") seems frighteningly on point....

Craig Gustafson said...

Years ago, my wife and I saw Emo Philips at the Paramount Theatre, Aurora, Illinois. Either because he thought it was the right venue or because it was his real standpoint, he did a couple of anti-liberal jokes. Nobody got offended. They just didn't laugh. The jokes bombed. Which is all the punishment a comedian needs.

I'm Outraged! said...

The James Bond is a drunk article was a joke, Licence to Swill: James Bond's drinking over six decades" was published last week as the joint winner of the Medical Journal of Australia's Christmas competition, Janet and Wendy, come on, you can't be that humourless and gullible!

Albert Giesbrecht said...

Stool? That was a shitty mive!

For the record said...

Jerry Seinfeld has not stopped playing colleges.