• You Have the Right to Remain PC

    by Kelvin Wade

    Comedian Tracy Morgan was blasted by GLAAD and others recently for saying in his standup routine that he would stab his son to death if his son was gay. (He actually said he’d stab “that little nigger” but no one seems outraged by that.) Morgan has since apologized. While I don’t think Morgan is a particularly funny comedian, why was anyone shocked at his bit? Had they not seen or heard of his material before? In his HBO special last year, Morgan poked fun at “cripples,” diabetics, blacks and whites.

    The Queen of Mean, Lisa Lampanelli, who would leave Lenny Bruce protesting her act, routinely uses the word “fag” in her comedy show and makes terribly un-PC jokes about gays, among others.

    If you went over the material of Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Andrew Dice Clay, George Carlin and Bob Saget (Rent “The Aristocrats.”) do you think you might stumble upon anything politically incorrect and/or offensive?

    Should they have had to apologize for the offensive material in their acts?

    In the same week as the Tracy Morgan fiasco, comic-actor Jim Carrey appeared on a Spike TV awards show and did an entire bit about being anally raped by an uncle when he was a child, complete with pantomiming the assault. The audience loved it. Where was the outrage from survivors of child molestation? Where was Carrey’s apology?

    Should comedians be apologizing for their material? Should there be topics that are off limits to comedians? Should comedians never offend anyone? If there’s a line for comics, where is it and why isn’t it the same for all comedians?

    There’s a movement right now seeking to ban the use of the word “retarded.” “Spread the word to end the word” goes the call from www.r-word.org. People such as former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, actress Jennifer Aniston, singer Lady GaGa and professional choke artist Lebron James have all gotten in trouble for using the word.

    The Black Eyed Peas recorded a hit song, “Let’s Get Retarded” and then rerecorded the song as “Let’s Get It Started” when the original version was deemed offensive by many.

    There have been similar movements to end the use of the word “nigger” among blacks.

    I’m not arguing that you shouldn’t walk out of a comedy show that you find offensive. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t choose your words responsibly in public. What I object to is the PC Police. I object to the fact that so many TV shows and newspapers won’t even air or print the words. We get the “N word” or the “R word.” This tells folks that the context the word is used in doesn’t matter and that’s ridiculous. Context matters.

    “What do you think of the word ‘nigger’?” is different from “What do you think of the word, nigger?” We can’t even use the word to talk about the word.

    Is listening to a comedian tell a joke involving a disabled person and laughing at that joke the same thing as walking down the street, walking up to a disabled person and making fun of them? Are sexist jokes off limits? Polish jokes? Fat jokes? Dumb blonde jokes? Black jokes? Muslim jokes? Or is everything fair game as long as it’s funny?

    Should someone who runs afoul of the new PC Police automatically lose their job? There’s no question, even being a comedian, that making a joke about stabbing one’s son to death for being gay is going to offend some people. But what about people who innocently, ignorantly run afoul of the PC Police?

    Years ago, I offended some readers by referring to a schizophrenic man as “mentally ill.” I had no idea the term was offensive.

    So how do we get along in a world of verbal land mines?

    • I am not sure what the right answer is but it is for the individual to decide if they are offended. And as you said walk out of the show, the movie or a person’s house. Somethings however, I think are hurtful to all and those can be punished in a way that society feels like just not supporting that cause or making it difficult for that type of humor to play in your city. If it is objectionable to all then it needs some control. Just not sure what that is. Thanks Kelvin for your article today. Always gets me thinking.

      • Jesse

      • June 20, 2011 at 10:51 am
      • Reply

      Mentally ill is out? That’s retarded. j/k

      I have to watch what I say in the classroom. I have done that weird hand flapping gesture over something entirely stupid, but I guess it is offensive. I wasn’t making fun of disabilities, I was venting frustration. You are right, why is it that some PC gets press and some not so PC is let go. IDK. I guess I am an equal opportunity offender, but not during my day job. Thanks for making me think about it.

      • Kelvin

      • June 20, 2011 at 4:46 pm
      • Reply

      It’s weird how some things take off and garner a lot of media attention. What’s strange about the Tracy Morgan situation is that was something reported by a person who went to the show. There’s no video. We can’t see it and judge for ourselves. The Jim Carrey bit was on TV. And it came on a week before he releases a children’s movie. And nothing. I’m not saying there should be outrage. It’s just strange.

      I’ve sat in comedy shows and laughed at some really offensive things. I enjoy edgy humor. I think with comedians you know you’re going there to be entertained. It’s different than someone saying something hateful on the street or in an argument. And I don’t think we should treat them as the same thing.

      But this is a thorny, uncomfortable issue and that’s why I chose it. The answers aren’t easy.

    • Kelvin,
      Dr. Karen McCord across the freeway from you at SCC can clear up any questions you might have about politically correct terms. Dr. McCord opened up a whole new world for me as her student some years ago. Honors-at that. If I have learned anything in my many years it is the fact that there will always be an oddball in every crowd that the rest of the crowd will go along with for a short time. Later they will be ashamed of following the oddball because they thought it was cool at the moment. I had an oddball tell me to join the Army one time and I did-how dumb is that?
      enjoyable reading again as usual-it’s good to read what a pro has to say in such clear and precise form of the written word.

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