Permission To Laugh?

Gordon and I have talked about offensiveness as far as stand-up comedy, and came to the general consensus that if you’re mocking the perpetrators of rape and racism you are doing a good thing. You can joke about hot-button issues if you’re not demeaning them, if you’re using satire and not just being an uncouth [and unfunny] person. You are permitted to broach these topics because you are doing so in a respectful manner.

Now, from time to time I like to peruse the funny pictures on the popular image hosting site imgur, which I continue to pronounce “im-gur” in spite of being directly told I was wrong on the site’s FAQ. Part of what makes the site so popular is its community, responsible for the comments on various images being rewarded by “upvotes,” mostly due to their level of wit.

There is another scale of judgement when it comes to doling out internet points, however, and it directly ties into what I was writing about offence and comedy. See the image below:

It’s a pretty smart jab at a popular meme going around tumblr that features various things boys do that girls are into. It also touches on somewhat of a sensitive topic, the state of women in primarily Muslim countries. A sizable amount of people though this was pretty funny, and were also responsible for voting up the top comment on the image:


As someone who has been on imgur for a fair amount of time, let me tell you that that is a lot of points. You can get a few hundred with a solid pun, but thousands? Not only did this comment lead a multitude to click the green up arrow on the left, but it also spawned a bevy of supportive responses like the following:


Now my question here is this: Why does a person of whatever group is being made fun of or joked about giving it the go ahead make everything fine? Whenever something that’s potentially offensive pops up there are cries of “Well, I’m _______, and I thought it was funny,” and suddenly the internet is clapping them on the back and cheering them for being such good sports.

I’m not saying that we should be oversensitive, or that oversensitivity should in any way be lauded, but when is it okay to be offended by something? I wasn’t necessarily outraged by the picture of Jesus with googly eyes, but I can guarantee that if I commented saying it wasn’t very funny I would have negative points in the double or even triple digits.

To be fair, the nature of the site is for people to be amused or interested by what they see, and if you’re skimming “most viral” you’d best believe that the images you’re going to be seeing have been approved by hundreds and are now ready to be consumed by the masses. Disagreeing with the common consensus that something is humorous will not bode well for you.

So I can understand why people disagreeing with a picture’s comedic value would be downvoted into oblivion, but why is a person proclaiming no offence taken showered with praise? I am pretty sure that this can be summed up with one word: guilt.

If there was a joke about paraplegics and a user paralyzed from the waist down gave it the all-clear then people are suddenly absolved from any potential shame they might’ve felt by laughing  at it. It’s sort of like a single person not taking offence is something to focus on, driving away others of the same group who may not be down with whatever it is that’s being made light of.

Ricky Gervais is not my favourite comic by any means, but I found the image on the left somewhere on the internet and it made me think. I agree with him one hundred percent that being offended doesn’t equate to some kind of moral high ground or ethical superiority. On the flipside, though, being offended does not make you a bad person, or someone who is unwilling to take a joke. Being offended simply means that you are hurt or upset by something, something that other people may find hilarious.

I don’t think a single person taking offense at a joke makes it unfunny and inappropriate, but neither do I think that a single person thinking a joke is funny makes it alright. You can think something is amusing, and high five those who agree with you, but don’t take it as being more than what it really is: an opinion. It may be one shared by masses, but all it really is just a point of view. Some will agree and some will disagree, and that’s that.

In addition, and as I’ve said, it is fine to congratulate a person for not being offended, but don’t do so just because it makes you feel better. If you want to respect their opinion then you should also acknowledge that other people will think the opposite, and that they have every right to do so; that first person can never represent an entire group of people in okaying something.

Not thinking a picture is funny does not mean someone is being a stick in the mud, it just means they don’t think it’s funny. Sometimes a person will see a picture, or hear a joke, and they’ll have the following response:

And that should be okay.

One response to “Permission To Laugh?

  1. There are a certain few issues that are really important to me because I or someone I love has been through them, and I don’t find jokes about those issues funny. They used to be things that I could laugh about too, and I would even make jokes myself, but once they hit home I just couldn’t laugh about them anymore.

    People should always be considerate about where a person is coming from in regards to a hot-topic joke. You should be allowed to not laugh at something that you know could be funny, but just isn’t to you, without people saying you have no sense of humor. Sometimes a thing is funny to a particular person until it becomes a real thing to them. And I feel like people should be respectful of the presence of those people.

    But then of course you have the internet where intentional button-pushers called trolls live, and nobody knows what anybody’s real opinion is anymore, so it’s easier to call people killjoys, but that’s a whole other ball of wax.

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