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+---Topic: Can offensive humor be an effective tool to build a culture of peace? started by CPNN Administrator

Posted by: 12345 on Aug. 04 2003,22:25

That is a great question.  The answer is a quite possibly yes.

When I was younger, I refused to watch the show South Park, for it was totally mainstream, and I assumed it would be too stupid for me.  That was a big mistake.  I now watch it whenever I have the time.  And, to many, it is the most offensive show ever.

I can see why these people would say such a thing.  The show portrays the African American as a chef that sings about sex in a low voice, the homosexual as a middle-aged man with a very high voice and feminine attitude, the overwight kid as the greedy and selfish one, and so on.  These stereotypes are what have caused much trouble in this world.

Also, one of the show's main characters is constantly making Anti-Semetic and homophobic slurs.

So, how does this relate to promoting peace?  Well, in my opinion, the creators of South Park are actually making fun of those that make fun of.  They are really mocking ignorance and proving how rediculous it is.

For example, Cartman, a main character, says that something is wrong because of his Jewish friend.  He whispers that his buddy is a "J - O - O", and you can only realize that the creators of the show are making fun of this anti-semetic remark.  Really, they were showing a link bewteen prejudice and illeteracy (which, ironically, I probably spelled incorrectly).

In any case, I believe this show is constantly equating discrimination with conflict, a valid concept.

Anyway, if this had made nay sense to anybody, please respond.  thank you.

Posted by: curiousdwk on June 30 2004,15:43

I agree with 12345 above.  But I would add that it would have to meet some kind of test to be an effective tool.  I would say that the test would be something like "Does it promote or encourage critical analysis? or empathy? or ethics/justice?"  If it stimulates you to act or react in one of these positive ways, then it is an effective tool.  However, if it doesn't, then it isn't.  It can be derisive but not devisive.

If it makes you question, critical analysis, then it is effective.  If it makes you understand someone else's thoughts or feelings, empathy, then it is effective.  If it makes you evaluate your values of ethics and justice, then it is effective.

Especially with humor, the medium is much more the message than the end result (the laugh).  How it is done is more important than what is done.  (I don't believe that to be the case in all scenarios, though.)

Posted by: Charlie on June 30 2004,16:52

Very good points Curiousdwk! I agree that there certainly should be some type of litmus test for offensive humour promoting a culture of peace. Not all of it is productive, but determining what the test is can still be tricky. Your criteria sound good, but applying them is still difficult. For example, follow the link below and watch the clip from the popular comedy "Chapelle's Show." (You'll need Realplayer to see it.)

< >

The humour is certainly offensive, but does it encourage critical analysis? Does the race of the comic producing the material make a difference? To both questions, I tend to think the answer is yes, but it really is a subjective judgement. Anyone have any thoughts?


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