Don’t be an asshole. Life should be that simple. And if you’re going to be an asshole, be an asshole with good taste.
Earlier this week, Bill Maher pulled out a snide comment from his rectum (as he is wont to do) about former One Direction member Zayn Malik and compared his appearance to that of the Boston Marathon Bomber. To that I say, “What the ever living fuck did you do that for?” Hosts like John Oliver and John Stewart tackle topics by interlacing them with minor side gags, but none of them are this unnecessarily offensive. I’ve already had run-ins with people who vehemently defend this by calling it “just a joke” and I shouldn’t take it so seriously because I’m not a fan of One Direction or how it was “satire” which is a giant crock of crap. Maybe it’s just in bad taste to compare a Pakistani pop artist in a boy band to a radical Kyrgyzstani extremist.
I can already imagine keyboard warriors typing out comments to defend their “freedom of speech.” Let’s get a few things straight: Calling something satire doesn’t give you free reign to be an asshole. Just because you construct a sentence as a joke, doesn’t mean it isn’t offensive to someone else. And it sure as shit doesn’t give you the right to spout hateful jargon. Hint: the greater context and discussion of how a joke can impact a comedic atmosphere is more important than tickling your funny bone. It’s also possible to just have bad taste.
These people like to interpret this as “censorship” or that they’re being oppressed. You don’t know what oppression is if you’re complaining about people feeling insulted. They’ll go to lengths to defend their “freedom of speech” but it’s like they forgot human decency.
We shouldn’t coddle people into a comfort zone because some people discovered what “triggered” meant on tumblr hashtagnofilter. On the flip side, it’s even more dangerous to submit the idea that we should negate any discussion on whether or not something is offensive. Yes, people will find something unorthodox to complain about. But more often than not, it’s better to look at each individual confrontation to determine the weight of the issue at hand.
If someone tells you they’re offended and triggered by your Hello Kitty phone case as you tap dance down a hallway, chances are there’s not much merit to that. Likewise, if your first response to someone being offended is “get over it” you’re a part of the problem. It’s up to us as individuals to educate ourselves and determine what is/isn’t offensive. Just use common sense and decency to determine what is suitable for a public setting. And for the love of God, NEVER give someone a hard time who is seemingly distressed by a racist joke or derogatory statement. Just apologize and don’t be a dick. Most importantly, being a dick isn’t how to satirize anything.
To achieve the base elements of satire, you have to actually know what you’re talking about and how to incorporate the harsh jokes into something more pertinent than a Family Guy cutaway about dead River Phoenix (an actual joke that convinced me Family Guy was actual garbage). What is the joke shining light onto? How does it extend your ideas beyond conception? Can it help an audience understand how ridiculous something may be? Here’s the kicker: I’m not saying we should ban hard, occasionally morally duplicitous satire. Not everything needs to wrap you in a safety blanket with nice words. Challenge the audience.
I adored Kingsman, a movie that ends with the monarchy literally getting fucked in the ass. It’s absurd and caps off a movie bursting at the seams with class hatred. Whether you love or hate the movie, there’s no denying the craft at hand with an increased focus on making sure every tangible detail falls into the core conceit(s) of the film. And maybe that final gag could have been handled better, and I’m always open to discuss a misstep in satire. Sometimes they do more harm than good.
The problem with Bill Maher’s statement is that it’s more than just a fuck up. It’s a continuous act of aggression. Aggression can be maneuvered for positive change, but repeat offenses for no greater purpose than a smile and wink to the camera help point out detrimental facts about his handling of topics. He bullies different ideas with the most surface level facts on the hard-hitting political issues (FYI: don’t do that). Remember that debate with Ben Affleck about Islam back in 2014?
- Ben Affleck is in full Bruce Wayne mode and understands you can’t cast blanket statements like “over 1 billion Muslims will try to kill you” because ignorance doesn’t suit anybody.
- Maher’s attempts at pigeonholing religions is a continuous deterrent in him actually using his platform as anything noteworthy.
People actually listen to him. He has the potential to educate and change political climates. How can he be expected to do any of those things when he himself is uneducated?
Bill Maher is to Liberals what Fox News is to Republicans. Ever wonder why you never come away with any new knowledge when watching Real Time with Bill Maher? It’s almost like he’s just happy to be in front of a camera condemning everyone without actually giving any new insight to situations (that’s exactly what he’s doing, by the way). Both spend their time spewing assorted political bullshit in an attempt to appease their respective parties (for the record: no singular party has all the right answers).
It’s upsetting that Bill Maher gets away with this sort of doohickey for all the reasons listed above (among many more) but most frustrating is his unwillingness to go beyond the simplest form of criticism (think Cinema Sins but for politics). As much as we’ll have to put up with Bill Maher and his egotistical smirk staining any of his actual good ideas, at least we’ll have a genuinely educated political host to pick up the slack.
Thank you, John Oliver.