The following is in response to this article.
First, I'm generally with Patton Oswalt in saying that all comedy is good. In fact, I love it when a comedian is blatantly racist or misogynistic, because then I know who he really is. If someone stays in the shadows it's harder to see them for what they really are - in Adam Sandler's case of course this has never really been an issue: he's always been a piece of shit.
You don't think comedy needs to walk a line in terms of who it attacks or what it represents though? Hmm. I'd say that the line was described pretty damn perfectly here by a Navajo named Alison Young who was working on this film. "I didn't want to cry but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way."
Here's a clip from a piece Patton Oswalt wrote on a subject very close to this - rape jokes:
"See if any of these sound familiar:
There’s no “evidence” of a “rape culture” in this country. I’ve never wanted to rape anyone, so why am I being lumped in as the enemy? If these bloggers and feminists make “rape jokes” taboo, or “rape” as a subject off-limits no matter what the approach, then it’ll just lead to more censorship.
They sure sound familiar to me because I, at various points, was saying them. Either out loud, or to myself, or to other comedian and non-comedian friends when we would argue about this. I had my viewpoint, and it was based on solid experience, and it…was…fucking…wrong.
Let’s go backwards through those bullshit conclusions, shall we? First off: no one is trying to make rape, as a subject, off-limits. No one is talking about censorship. In this past week of re-reading the blogs, going through the comment threads, and re-scrolling the Twitter arguments, I haven’t once found a single statement, feminist or otherwise, saying that rape shouldn’t be joked under any circumstance, regardless of context. Not one example of this.
In fact, every viewpoint I’ve read on this, especially from feminists, is simply asking to kick upward, to think twice about who is the target of the punchline, and make sure it isn’t the victim."
That's exactly what Adam Sandler and his ilk do - they make the victim the butt of the joke. They're not in it to try and illuminate anything more than their own vapid egos and restrictive little viewpoints. I think "dark side" humor can be a really good, positive thing. It can be a way to deal with things that happen in our world which are otherwise too massive in scale, or simply too troubling, to touch otherwise. They can be a way to level the playing field and allow everyone to gain a glimpse into the dark world they've been afraid to look at - because again, if something is blocked off from sight you don't know where it's going or what it's doing, and you can't arrange any defense against it. I've never made a rape joke, because on several fronts that's too close to parts of my personal reality, especially in several women I've known and cared about. But I've made jokes about death and murder - including mass murder. Made jokes about animal cruelty. Appreciated jokes about racism even - because sometimes you just have to find a way to comprehend and deal with the fact that racism really does exist, and it has damaged and utterly destroyed not just individual lives and families, but entire ways of life and entire continents of people. So you don't think that this discussion is "worth having"? You think that the only point of comedy is "to be funny"? Well I've got news for you. Words hold incredible power, and laughter holds even more power, and what a comedian chooses to do with those tools says a whole hell of a lot about the comedian - and a whole hell of a lot more about the people who are laughing. Keeping in mind that there's a difference between "HAHA stupid indian's name is BEAVER" and that nervous laughter that comes from facing the uncomfortable truth that some people will say anything if they think they can get away with it, simply because they really believe what they're saying. A rape joke can be made to combat the suffocating darkness of the issue, or to spur on conversation, and that's fine. But it can also be made by a comedian for an audience that honestly see's nothing at all wrong with it, and will violently defend what they see as their right to see rape as normal. If this discussion is too damn confusing for you, maybe you should take a moment and think about just who you want to be, and who you are, way deep down inside.
“At this time there are too many people afraid for their jobs, there are too many people buying cars, TV sets, homes, educations on credit. Credit and the eight hour day are great friends of the Establishment. If you must buy things, pay cash, and only buy things of value – no trinkets, no gimmicks. Everything you own must be able to fit inside one suitcase; then your mind might be free.”
— Charles Bukowski
I find so many people these day who are inexorably lonely. I'm often one of them - and yet I am constantly pitted against any form of human contact by my own psyche. Social networks provide a beautiful and often detailed facade of existence and interaction - you feel secure in the knowledge that you are reaching people just like you. That people care about your well being. That you are having a positive affect on their lives. The deep desire to find love and acceptance has blinded the newer generations to the animal facts of our existence. It has caused outbursts of aggression against those who suggest that the internet holds dangers as well as sweet fruits. The information age provided us by this digital network is impressive - and could bring humanity into an age of peace, prosperity, and gentle fulfillment for everyone but not if it is mindlessly accepted - used without thought or consideration of the grander picture. Already it's changing the way entire generations of people think and index information. This is not necessarily bad - but it is constantly ignored or overlooked, and that is bad. Or at least dangerous.
Public project updates, author information, and the like. For more of Odin's thoughts, follow him on Twitter.