Today, I experienced something extremely unusual for me. I was offended. By a comedian with a puppet dog, no less. It was truly a triumph of comedy that it managed to offend me. I can’t even remember the last time I was offended by comedy.
I was able to appreciate and laugh at many of the jokes. Though I’m an advocate for person-first language, his jab at the unwieldy nature of some person-first constructions was one that made me chuckle and had a good point to it. And his use of an apparently gay black man to conduct a social experiment in which the students were forced to face their inability to deal honestly with the differences between them and the gentleman (whose performance was fantastic and Oscar-worthy, in my opinion).
It’s certainly a good thing to help people understand that it is not only inauthentic, but also disrespectful to pretend that our differences don’t matter, and that it’s cowardly to fail to confront and accept the fact that we notice them. This is a great example of how comedy can be didactic, revealing to us something about ourselves that we might not otherwise have grasped without having the opportunity to be offended and still laugh about it.
And this was certainly didactic comedy for me. What offended me was how the comedian treated the women in the performance at times. I really enjoyed his joke that though he looks like a dog, he self-identifies as a shin-guard, because I recognize that the self-identification trend has been taken way too far.
At the same time, I didn’t like the sexually objectifying remarks he made to her or to the other young woman in the front row because I view that as treating women immorally, and I wouldn’t do that even for the sake of comedy. I just don’t find it funny.
But interestingly, I didn’t comment on the video and make rude remarks about the comedian or his dog. I didn’t email the people he works for and demand that he be fired. I didn’t try to convince his corporate sponsors to drop their sponsorship of him. I didn’t even write a blog post for the sole purpose of complaining about how hateful and oppressive he is, because this isn’t Tumblr.
When faced with a comedian violating a social taboo that I feel very strongly about, I wondered why I was offended rather than carefully considering his point. It’s important to be offended now and then because it’s an opportunity to re-examine our most deeply held beliefs about right and wrong. It’s important to be offended so that we can pause our self-righteousness for a moment and ask, “What if I’m wrong about that?”
But don’t worry. We human beings almost always, after thorough consideration, ratify our previous conclusions though the magic of confirmation bias. So you probably won’t change your mind after watching Triumph the Dog poop all over the current intellectual fads that are taking the universities by quiet bureaucratic glacier.
And I certainly didn’t change my mind about how it’s wrong to treat women that way, but I did at least consider if it was coherent with my views of how it’s appropriate to treat men, and that opportunity to re-examine my views for coherence was well worth the brief moment of being offended.
P.S. If you find that offensive, then I only have one thing to add. Well, two things. You’re a heterosexist, transphobic, and misogynistic Republican. Also, your mother is a Trump supporter.