Why are all good jokes offensive?
Photo courtesy of Lagrevehumaine
by James T. Falconer
The 1650s are remembered by the people of Britain as a miserable time; theatres were banned, music and dancing were banned, and even Shakespeare was forbidden. After seizing power from the King, Cromwell (who was considered quite progressive in his time) had decided that anything fun offended public morals and must be banned. He has much in common with modern politicians, particularly on the left but increasingly on the right. We are entering a new age of puritanism where anything fun or “edgy” is considered offensive and needs to be banned. Only politically correct jokes are allowed, and they are just not funny.
Comedy seems to have been the first target of this politically correct assault. Veteran comedian Danny Baker lost his job because of a joke on twitter which depicted the royal baby, Archie Mountbatten, as a chimpanzee, but it was not intended to be racist. He was hounded by the twitter mob and despite admitting he was wrong to make the joke, it wasn’t enough for these vicious trolls- they demanded that he lose his job just to satisfy their own egos. Then, there was the case of Jo Brand who said jokingly that protesters should throw battery acid instead of milkshakes at politicians they didn’t like.
This resulted in many figures on the right including Nigel Farage, who had hitherto been a champion of freedom of speech, saying that the police should be involved. People today can’t even style their hair in a certain way, lest they be accused of the nonsensical crime of ‘cultural appropriation’.
Humour is a very complex concept. It is based on the ability to understand words with different levels of meaning and to look beyond face value. As Johnathan Pie put it, a good comedian needs to ‘find the line you shouldn’t cross and then gently step over it’. If comedians stay within the bounds of ‘acceptable’ discourse, then we have lost comedy to political propaganda shows like Frankie Boyle’s New World Order.
But it’s not just comedy that the Puritans want to ban, but other forms of entertainment as well. Student Unions are imposing dress codes on Halloween costumes to ensure they don’t cause offence, with certain characters banned because of ‘cultural appropriation’. Actress Keira Knightly said she had banned her daughter from watching Cinderella because she “waits for a rich guy to come and rescue her.” And a few weeks ago, one of my favourite childhood characters, Fireman Sam, was banned by Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue service from being used on its advertising materials because they asserted, without a scrap of evidence, that it put women off joining the fire service. Only a real villain would ban the hero next door.
Puritans of the sixteenth century could escape their Earthly miseries by divine salvation, resulting in an eternity of heavenly paradise and bliss as a reward for rejecting their earthly desires. Even today we told by the puritanical left that there is light at the end of this particular tunnel of madness, and that we will all soon be in a classless, raceless and genderless society. Well, if that’s the left’s goal they are surely going the wrong way about it. If you want people to see past colour, gender and creed, then why find a way to bring it into every aspect of our lives, from Halloween costumes to children’s television programmes.?
Take for example the concept of cultural appropriation, the ridiculous notion that a person of a certain race can’t adopt any aspects of another race’s culture because of something to do with oppression. This has been used, for instance, to ban the Mexican sombrero from being worn by white students in some university campuses. If the goal is to eliminate racism, then why can’t we all just take part in each other’s cultures as one human tapestry, instead of turning back the clock to the days when we couldn’t enjoy other customs and cuisines because we were all separate geographically. Now immigration has led to different peoples coming together and interacting.
The 21st century is an opportunity to build a new age of freedom; social media has given people the opportunity to break down the barriers to freedom of expression and globalisation has given us the opportunities to experience other cultures in a way that was never possible before. Why are we wasting it all on policing jokes, banning hats, and children’s animated characters? It is time for us all to grow up and have some fun.