In this article ,”conservative” is used synonymously with “prejudiced.” A double-edged sword?
By Ben Robinson
Two weeks ago, I wrote an article with some questionable humour in it. A reader named Dasha posted a comment that said I had crossed the line. I had offended Dasha. That was not my intent. Here is what I wrote:
“Maybe if you had said you had just hit your girlfriend because she wouldn’t shut up about being on her period, you would be allowed to continue to exist spiritually with your brethren, but owning a blog — and what’s worse, advertising its existence — were capital crimes.”
This is Dasha’s response:
“Good point about blogging; I agree. Although I’m not at all crazy about the reference to violence against women as an acceptable conversation topic. It is my understanding that this was a joke, but it was a stupid one indeed, one that might alienate a sizable portion of your audience. Keep that in mind, son.”
The point of my paragraph was that violence against women is unacceptable. More accurately, the point was that talking about it is unacceptable. When writing this, I thought to myself, “What is something one could say that would be so shocking that one might not be allowed to continue to speak?” Violence against women sprung to mind. I did not mean to imply that violence against women, or talking about violence against women, is acceptable. I meant to mention something taboo as a way of illustrating how taboo blogging was. The joke was that blogging isn’t as bad as violence against women. The joke was not that violence against women is funny.
Inside the joke about how talking about violence against women is unacceptable, a joke is made about violence against women that is unacceptable, and the unacceptable nature of the joke within the joke is what makes the main joke humourous. I apologize that reading my article brought up something that evoked such a negative reaction in Dasha, and possibly other readers. My intent was not to offend. I encourage more comments about how I sometimes cross the line and how I can prevent myself from doing so in the future.
I consider myself a comedy junkie. I watch a lot of comedy. A relatively new style of comedy that I have noticed in the past ten years is something I will refer to as “The Double-Edged Sword.” This may be a very old technique, but I have only noticed it in comedic media that has appeared since the late ’90s. The Double-Edged Sword is a bipartisan style of humour that typically deals with political correctness. In my mind, it was pioneered by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park. It was also employed by The Man Show and to a lesser extent other youth-oriented comedy shows such as Politically Incorrect, Sara Silverman, SNL, and MadTV.
How it works is this: someone says something blantently racist, sexist, or homophobic as a joke. To liberals, the joke is funny because the joke is so offensive. The butt of the joke is the teller of the joke. The fact that the teller is being unashamedly racist, for example Cartman in South Park, is funny because racism to liberals is seen as a sign of stupidity. It is a form of slapstick. On the other hand, to conservatives, Cartman is funny because he’s being racist, and the butt of the joke is the category of people Cartman makes fun of. Both liberals and conservatives laugh at the same joke, for different reasons.
In my opinion, what politicizes the joke is the person telling it. It seems to me, most comedians who use The Double-Edged sword are liberals. That’s how the sword gets its two edges. If a conservative told a Double-Edged joke, it would be purely racist, sexist, or homophobic. The true intention of a Double-Edged joke is to make fun of prejudiced views. The power of the Double-Edged joke is that no spin is necessary, a straight telling of the old kind of joke is funny because it is ironic.
If I may be so bold, I told a Double-Edged joke in my blogging article. I think a lot of people tell these Double-Edged jokes, but they are usually apolitical. For instance, if you act like a baby, and try to make someone laugh the exact same way a baby would, that is funny both because baby humour is genuinely funny, and because you are not a baby, so you are making fun of the baby. The goal of these jokes is to make the original edge of the joke seem stupid. If you are Cartman, you are making racism stupid by being racist. If you are a baby, you are making babies stupid by being a baby. Or more accurately, you are making adult baby-aping behaviour seem stupid and unacceptable outside the confines of a joke.
Perhaps this kind of joke is dangerous. Maybe it shouldn’t be done, because the wounds are still fresh. But I believe The Double-Edged Sword has an important place in modern comedy. I believe it is an effective tool in combatting prejudice. In the future I will try to make more clear whose side I am on when using this humour. And I apologize if just reading about abuse against women was offensive. I apologize for your hurt feelings. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I want to be on your side.