It’s Just a Joke!

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So, on my Facebook news feed I saw an article about some woman named Brandi something or another who is some real housewife of something that I don’t care about, and even though I’m going to write about it now I don’t even care enough to find out her name or why she’s in any way famous.

Anyway, this woman took an Instagram photo of herself squatting over the baby Jesus in a Nativity scene, simulating (I guess) giving birth.   She had some caption on the pic along the lines of “Remember the reason for the season.”

The whole thing is stupid and childish, and offensive.   But whatever – it’s a free country, and I feel dumber for even knowing about this woman.

The more interesting side of the article to me was that she received really negative feedback about the picture even from people who claimed to be fans, and people who claimed that they were neither Christian nor religious.

Apparently she’s an atheist, but her initial response was along the lines of “It’s a joke people.   Get a sense of humor.”    I think her version included an f-bomb, because as we all know f-bombs make your argument better and clearer.

I mulled this over a bit, for some reason that even I don’t understand.   I am a Christian and the picture offended me.   I also realized that I don’t really care what she thinks all that much and the picture reflects on her quite poorly.    I don’t even know who she is and I don’t care enough to find out.   I actually just pity her and hope she finds her way.   It should be noted that she did eventually take the picture down.   I guess she didn’t apologize, which was fine because most of those apologies are insincere anyway, and are usually along the lines of “I’m sorry all you stupid people who can’t take a joke are offended.”    Simply taking the pic down is probably more honest.   She probably realizes it’s not worth the hassle, she alienated some fans, so it’s time to move on.   She’s really not sorry for it, so why say otherwise?

But what held my inner attention the longest was this idea that whenever people mock other people in a degrading way, they rely on the “it’s just a joke” defense.    It’s worth considering what that means.   We have probably all walked the line between harmless joke and potentially offensive joke at one time or another.   I can remember getting into an argument with some woman who is blond who said “Blond jokes are never funny, ever.”    I disagreed.   And I still do.   Some are funny.    But some are mean.    And I think what happened there is she had personal experiences from utterly mean individuals who mercilessly teased her about her blondness and beyond.    While it is probably true that good people will disagree on exactly where that line between “have a little sense of humor, don’t be so politically correct, and don’t get offended by everything” and “that is offensive and inappropriate” I do think that reasonable and good people can agree that there exists such a line, and we should do our best to not cross it.

Some take the attitude that we should never even go there.   We should, at all costs, avoid any potential offense.   I personally believe this is entirely wrong and problematic.   I understand the reasoning and I think the intentions are good.   But it’s part of what ails our country.   We’ve reached a point where we can’t say anything offensive at all about anybody on anything, and the judge of what constitutes offense is the progressive left.    In their view, religion itself is offensive.   The bible is offensive.   And so on.    We are a much healthier society if we learn to live with a little stereotypical humor about ourselves.   And yes, even if it crosses a line, we should be willing to brush it off and move on with our lives.    Better to err on that side of the equation than to try and muzzle all potentially offensive words universally.

Some take the attitude that everything is “just a joke.”    That’s a cop-out, and it’s not true.    The real question one should ask is whether or not engaging in stereotypical humor serves as its main purpose a good and funny joke, or whether the main intent is to demean and mock.    This really isn’t a difficult question.    When an atheist squats over the baby Jesus in a Nativity Scene only an idiot doesn’t see that as a statement that says “I’m mocking the Virgin Birth and what Christians believe.”    If you tell the joke about the kid praying for a bicycle for Christmas by telling Jesus “If you ever want to see your mother again…” while putting a Mary statue in a drawer, then that is funny.    Could that be taken offensively by some?   Sure, I suppose.   Should we really be joking about holding Mary hostage?     Well, the joke is more about what the mind of an innocent kid who desperately wants a bike for Christmas is like.   It’s funny.   The other is a crass mockery.   In the one case, most Christians will either be outright offended or not find it funny at all, and even non-Christians find it tasteless.   In the other case, many Christians will see the humor.

Here’s a hint:   if you hate Christians or consider them stupid, then there is a high degree of probability that your “joke” is not “just a joke” but is demeaning and offensive.  I’m not saying that is universally true, but you probably should be more careful about whether or not that is the case.   And if you get that kind of reaction, then the blindness is yours, not others.    I’m not saying that Christians can’t cross that same line – they can.   They are just less likely to.

The same is true whether we’re talking about Christians, Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Whites, Women, Men, Blondes, or Eskimos.    If you have a hatred or distaste for any group of people and you are “just making a joke” then are probably at higher risk of crossing a line.    Just accept it, and maybe do something about that by looking inward.

But let’s not get crazy.   Jokes are good.   Not taking yourself too seriously is good.    I mean, if you’re blonde and can’t find the humor in ANY blonde joke, then I think you are doing yourself a disservice.   Or, perhaps, more accurately the fault lies on others who killed your sense of humor on the subject.   And I am sorry if that is the case.   But try to move on.

I still have a copy of a bulletin from the Wisconsin Department of State, bulletin 91-92 issued January 1, 1992.   Subject: Automobile Dimmer Switches.  (I’ll skip over a lot of it, so it will lose a bit of the feel of authenticity)

  • Pursuant to the WI Dept of Motor Vehicles Act… All motor vehicles… will be required to have the headlight switch mounted on the floorboard. The dimmer switch must be mounted in a position accessible to operation by pressing the switch with the left foot.  The switch must be far enough from the left foot pedal to avoid inadvertent operation or pedal confusion.
  • …all other vehicles with steering column mounted dimmer switches must be retrofitted… Vehicles which have not made this change will fail … safety inspection…
  • …This change is being made in the interest of public safety… A recent study … has shown that 95% of all Wisconsin nighttime highway accidents are caused by a blonde getting her foot caught in the steering wheel while attempting to dim the headlights.

Come on…   that’s funny!

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