Friday, December 7, 2012

In Which I Make the Joker Talk About Satire

Last week, when I was compiling instances of recent misogyny in geek culture for my blog post about the Joker responding to Tony Harris's attack on cosplayers, I brought up an article from writer and director James Gunn, who is set to direct Marvel's film Guardians of the Galaxy.  The article, now removed from Gunn's blog, was entitled "The 50 Comic Characters You Most Want to Have Sex With."  It stated, among other awful things, that teen moms are "easy," lesbians can be "turned" by the right man, and that daddy issues are hot.  The post went up in February 2011 in response to an Internet poll, and was rediscovered after Gunn's involvement with Guardians of the Galaxy was announced.  The list went viral, people responded with outrage, Gunn removed the blog post, and the situation quickly devolved to hell in a hand basket.

The post, or the portions of it that I was able to see, is appalling and indefensible.  But there is a silver lining: James Gunn apologized, which in situations such as these is sadly all too rare. A real apology as well, not a weasel-worded "sorry you don't get my humor" excuse.  I was thrilled to hear that someone in such a position had realized they were wrong and publicly admitted it.  I thought that maybe people were finally realizing it isn't okay to make horribly offense remarks toward women or minorities.

I forgot about the ever-present circle jerk of dude-bros clinging to the misogyny in their subculture like a life line and hissing at anyone who dares question it.  "Why can't you have a sense of humor?" they'd whined when the post went viral.  "They're just fictional characters!  It's clearly satire!  You feminists just want to stop people from being able to ever make jokes!  If a girl made a list of heroes she wanted to fuck, you wouldn't complain!"

Was it pointed out to them that the article's premise wasn't the problem, but the execution?  That the "jokes" made toward fictional characters were leveled at real human beings as well, and often?  That satire doesn't work if it's indistinguishable from what it's meant to mock?  Of course.  Did it matter?  Of course not.

But I thought at least they'd stop when Gunn himself said the post hadn't been funny.  Apparently I expected too much.  Instead, they just whined that he should never have had to apologize, and that we evil women forced him into it.  They complained that we were trying to silence Gunn, while they tried to silence us.

And so with that, I brought back Lady Joker (and Wonder Woman!) back to tell us what comedy is and what it isn't.


As the clown says, if you have to explain a joke, there is no joke.  It wasn't a joke when supposed comedian Daniel Tosh responded to "rape is never funny" with "wouldn't it be hilarious if you were raped right now?"  It wasn't a joke when James Gunn said teen moms were easy.  There's no punchline, no subversion of expectations.  There's not even a pun.  Comedy can deal with terrible things, but just saying terrible things is not comedy.  It's simply being a dick.  Much like it's being a dick when you jump to the defense of hateful statements and try to silence dissenters, claiming that criticizing someone is censoring them.  It's not.  You have the right to be an asshole, and no one can take that away.  But that sure as hell doesn't make your bullshit comedy, and it doesn't mean you can't be called out.

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