Wednesday, June 19, 2013

On Mock The Week And The "Limits" Of Comedy: Yet Another Absurd Instance Of Pinoy Outrage

.:On Mock The Week And The "Limits" Of Comedy: Yet Another Absurd Instance Of Pinoy Outrage:.

So. After a couple of weeks of Australian bliss, I'm back in town. Not too many people care, but I'll carry on, regardless.

Yeah, I'm definitely lining up a post about my trip soon, but this one just had to be dealt with first, seeing how absurd it really is.

Once again, Pinoy Outrage happens. The outpouring of anger from Filipinos on cyberspace has been as reliable as clockwork, yet what baffles me to no end is the fact that nobody even seemed to take a closer look at the story behind this whole brouhaha, in the first place.

A few weeks back, in the wake of Vice Ganda making rape/fat jokes at the expense of Jessica Soho, there has been a lot of furor over what the comedian did. As is expected, but it makes sense, because rape itself was made light of under the context of poking fun at Ms. Soho's weight.

I understood the outrage at the time because let's face it: rape culture is alive and well in the Philippines, as we find ourselves blaming the victim for being raped, more often than not. I just found it a bit ironic that in the face of decrying rape culture, a lot of the comments against Vice were inherently homophobic in nature, as if Vice's being gay had anything to do with the offensiveness of his joke.

But such is the role of comedy. Comedy pokes fun, and while people can go and throw up their arms in anger over humor that they deem to "cross the line," comedy has always been more than willing to push its boundaries every chance it got. There have been no sacred cows at the altar of comedy. The Pope? Mother Teresa? Dead babies? Cancer? 9/11? Rape? All of those have been made fun of, to varying degrees of success. When the joke is taken "too far," backlash happens, but for the most part, that backlash never stopped a Carlin or a Louis CK from making the joke, anyways.

Yet even within the realm of so-called taboo topics, there exists a place where jokes *can* be funny without having to really trivialize something taboo. Just because we laugh at something doesn't mean it becomes trivial. The feminist website Jezebel even made it clear that rape jokes can be funny, provided that it doesn't attack the victim or make rape seem like it's okay. In a similar vein, satire isn't even about making people laugh, primarily, but about exposing some social ill in a very cutting manner. Does this mean the material stops being offensive? Heavens, no. But the context makes it clear that it is offensive *for a reason*.

It's easy to make crass jokes for shock value, but when you use the crassness of your material to make a point, that changes the meaning behind the joke. For example, when you make a rape joke and poke fun at the rapist for feeling entitled to sex because the girl was "totally asking for it," you make it clear that it's funny because the rapist is a deluded jackass who should not be given the time of day. Failing that, the joke at least does not make the victim the butt of the joke.

So. Let's turn this guideline to the Mock The Week bit where a female comedian quipped about Filipino children being tested upon by cosmetic companies. Is it funny? That's a matter of taste. Is it racist? Why? Because the word "Filipino" was used and it wasn't followed by the words "people are awesomesauce?" So exactly what negative things can anyone say about Filipinos, then?

Is it racist to poke fun at child exploitation as a horrible, horrible thing when you use Filipino children as your example? That's pretty dim. The joke is not on the Filipino children. Not a single negative thing was said about them, nor did the comedian so much as endorse exploiting them for cosmetics. In fact, the comedian was clearly lampooning how horrible a thing it is! So both on the level of comedy and satire, this joke is definitely not one that is merely out to offend, but one that calls our attention to the fact that hey, child exploitation? Not a good thing.

That the race of the children happens to be Filipino is merely incidental to the whole point of the line. Being Filipino is in no way reflected as a negative thing, nor is it used as a way to denigrate the children, either. So remind me again how the joke was racist.

Sure, I don't mind it when people poke fun at the Filipino people, but I do understand why some people could be offended by it, especially if the joke is clearly racist in nature. Unfortunately, this joke is far from it, and the sooner people actually learn to get over ourselves and just freaking read, the sooner we would all realize that we don't actually need to make everything about us.