I don’t like the shape of Illinois. I don’t know why, and I don’t mean anything against Illinoisians, but there is just something about the shape of that state that just seems wrong to me. Chicago lake is kinda cool, but that’s just the upper corner. Anyway, I don’t like the shape of Illinois. I just don’t.
I don’t dislike the shape of Illinois nearly as much as the shape of Wisconsin though. In fact, I feel kinda guilty about Wisconsin. Looking at that state makes me feel kind of like a bully. It’s strange, because I don’t think I’ve ever really been mean to Wisconsin. Still, I do feel I owe the state an apology. Something about the shape of it makes me feel that way. I don’t know why.
Texas? Now Texas has an interesting shape. You can find all sorts of stories in it’s shape. Those stories may feature men in cowboy hats, but I swear you can see them in the lines that define its perimeter. You can try and tell me I’m wrong, but pardner, you should probably smile when you do.
Nevada seems like one day it oughtta just slide right on through.
If you threw California just right, would it curve around and come back to you?
Alaska is a fist with the pinky extended. I live on the knuckle of the thumb.
I can’t help but think you could pick Virginia up and use it like a club or a baseball bat.
Both Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas, the whole lot of them need butter and syrup. A side of bacon would be nice, but at I don’t see it on the table.
Louisiana is a mug, but I only drink from it on Christmas.
Idaho has diminishing expectations. Either that, or it belongs on a lab beside a fat beaker and a consistently skinny test tube. It’s the odd one that you only use for certain special experiments (probably involving potatoes).
Colorado really ain’t all that hip, but if you lay the state out flat, parts of it do get high.
Utah has a nice place for your thumb and a good broad surface to mix all your pigments.
Washington and Oregon both look like airports to me.
West Virginia doesn’t look all that west to me. Not even close.
You could pick the whole country up by Florida, but if that’s what you’re going to do, I really think you should crook your pinky. Also, sip slowly. Don’t gulp.
I swear Oklahoma has been playing a prank on Texas forever. It’s not really that funny Oklahoma. Seriously, just give it a rest!
I’m pretty sure that Tennessee is a shard of flint. I think I read about it in a story about Thor and some Giant.
New Jersey is all over Pennsylvania. No means No, new Jersey. Not cool!
Massachusetts? No. MassachYOUsettes!
Maine is how that rain in Spain stays in the plain.
Connecticut the end off and that’s how the Island Rhode off.
I did not Michigan. I didn’t even Mish the first time!
New York is always bigger than I expect it to be. I try to remember that it’s bigger than I think, but then I still end up realizing it’s bigger than that even.
I can never find Missouri on a map. Someone always has to show me.
Maryland doesn’t exist. It’s just a conspiracy.
You say Ohio; I say goodbyo.
(I realize this is an incomplete list, but others could probably riff ff the other states better than I can, and besides, this really isn’t the most serious of posts. Except for throwing California. I feel quite certain, it would come back. Yes, it would.)
Just when you thought the whole damned controversy was in your rear-view mirror, along comes some damned blogger to put all the ick right back on the table. Well suck it up, dear reader, cause I got a bloggitation to bloggitize over this.
We all know the story, right? A little while back, the comedian, Kathy Griffin, posted a picture of herself holding up the severed head of Donald Trump. Don’t worry, it was fake. Donald survived the whole ordeal, but suffice to say, it was a rather controversial image. Naturally, a great deal of outrage was soon to follow. I have no doubt that a good number of those complaining about her stunt were simply using it as grist for the mill. I also have no doubt that a number of her critics were genuinely appalled by Griffin’s stunt. Which critics fit into which category is another question, and not a very interesting one at that.
What I find especially interesting about this story is the role hypocrisy as a theme in this particular kerfuffle. It’s hardly surprising to see that theme pop up here. Really, it’s just the sort of story that begs for accusations of hypocrisy, and those accusations soon made an appearance. Various parties on the right wing accused ‘lefties’ or ‘liberals’ of hypocrisy for making such a big deal of violence and violent rhetoric on the part of the Trump campaign when we produce violent rhetoric such as that of Griffin. Those of us on the left (myself among them) complained that the right makes hay out of Griffin’s image while condoning the actual violence of people like Montana’s Greg Gianforte or for that matter supporting Donald Trump’s flirtations with mob violence. Of course each side is fully capable of responding to accusations of support for violence (whether tacit or overt) by pointing at still more support for violence on the other side.
…and the internet becomes an angry infinity mirror.
So, what’s interesting about that? It’s the role that accusations of hypocrisy can play in facilitating, …well, hypocrisy. Think of it this way: You see somebody do something outrageous (and by outrageous, I mean something likely to rouse disapproval in the public sphere), and you want to criticize them for it. The problem is, you’ve done something like that yourself in the past, or at least you’ve supported other people who did. This creates a problem in that your own condemnation is likely to come across as an inconsistency. One potential solution to that is to conjure the image of critics who have condemned this behavior before and castigate them for supporting the behavior now. That way, you don’t have to actually put your own cards on the table. You don’t have to actually say that you are now condemning the behavior your once supported. Instead, you just say; “look at the guy who is now supporting behavior he once condemned!” If you do this right, you can effectively play both sides of the game without anyone noticing. All they see is that you are commenting on someone else who is playing both sides of the field. It’s an exercise in projection of course, and a remarkably effective one at that. It’s what I like to call the meta-hypocrisy shuffle.
I should add that it isn’t really necessary to point out any actual instances of hypocrisy on the part of any particular person to make this stratagem work. It is often enough to talk about ‘liberals’ or ‘conservatives’ (or any other group) and simply tell the story of how the other side is full of hypocrites. The ploy can be just as effective in this abstract form as it can be with real life examples. Plus, it avoids the inconvenience of having to address the details of anyone’s actual behavior, much less to deal with their own response to your criticism.
So, what am I saying here? I am saying that a lot of people on the right used Kathy Griffin to field an argument about liberal hypocrisy all the while hiding their own hypocrisy on the very same subject. That’s the argument I want to make anyway, but reflexivity being what it is, I must also concede that a lot of liberals did the same. What I don’t have to concede is that all parties involved in the controversy are equally guilty of this vice. Quite a few people on the left really did condemn Griffin’s behavior, and I certainly have known a number of Republicans who have condemned Donald Trump’s more violent rhetoric. (I’d say that’s one of the differences between a ‘conservative’ and a ‘deplorable’.) Griffin did in the end, lose at least one gig (actually several, it seems) over the whole matter. I could only wish the same was true of Donald Trump. Be that as it may, the point is that this trick (and the criticism I make of it) can indeed cut both ways, but that possibility does not mean the cut is equally warranted.
I don’t know how productive a debate would be over which political groups are more consistent on this (or any other) issue, but I do think some individuals at least have managed to show some consistency on the issue. Sadly, they are often tarred with the same hypocritical brush as their flip-flopping allies have been. Again, the story of hypocrisy alone is often sufficient to make the argument stick, sufficient even to the degree that those who are rigorously consistent on an issue may well be accused of hypocrisy by someone who is himself or herself simply doing the meta-hypocrisy shuffle.
It’s worth bearing in mind here that there is at least one angle on such issues that the whole question of hypocrisy doesn’t seem to address, and by this I mean the integrity of a committed partisan. You could take a relentless commitment to one side of a debate as a kind of integrity in itself. You could see the willingness to field arguments in direct contradiction to one’s own personal record as an instance of taking one for the team. Perhaps it is even a kind of courage. If so, that’s a courage I hope never to have, but so be it, the ethic is out there. Some clearly ascribe to it. Most of us, I think, prefer to field arguments that we find personally plausible, and most of us at least try to accomplish some level of consistency in our moral judgements.
Some try harder than others.
One thing worth considering here is the medium that delivers this message. In person, I suspect we are more likely to forgive each other’s inconsistencies, if for no other reason than because we are likely to see them coming from people whose shifting patterns parallel our own. If I contradict myself in the process of complaining verbally about some damned Republican, odds are rather likely that I am talking to somebody who is just as pissed about that damned Republican as I am. Confirmation bias being what it is, they are just as likely to grab the nearest rhetorical hammer, and just as likely to think it oughtta be used to smash him as I am. Likewise, a Republican jabbering on about a liberal is likely to be doing so in the company of other Republicans who also think rathe rpoorly of the bastard. It could be, that I’m missing something here, but I tend to think verbal exchanges make it a bit easier to skate by on this issue, to shift around one’s values without anyone noticing, and more particularly to avoid becoming the target of someone who seeks to hide his own inconsistencies in a story about ours.
Not so, the net.
All sorts of different people read controversial statements on social media, and that includes the guy who likes to complain about your kinda people even as you’re trying to vent spleen about his kind. In some places, like Facebook, I think, folks may make an effort to set aside their grievances and remember that the guy who just posted the outrageous meme will be sitting across from them at Christmas dinner. In other places, like Twitter, each and every comment expressing a different point of view seems to be fair game. What’s worse, the 140 character limit on tweets thins out the context of any statement a great deal, so it’s tough to tell how people generally approach these things. If someone criticizes Kathy Griffin (or doesn’t) only those who follow him carefully will notice whether or not that criticism squares with his general approach to the issues. The temptation is of course to assume the worst, not for the least of reasons being that the worst often seems to be driving the public debate on such media platforms. So, if a given Twitter-Republican really is just as hard on right wingers who make use of violent rhetoric, few of his more liberal readers will ever know. Likewise, a Twitter-Democrat who doesn’t support images like those produced by Kathy Griffin is as easily accused of liberal hypocrisy as any of those who simply laughed and retweeted her without the slightest thought about the matter.
The way Twitter (among others) thins out the context of political rhetoric facilitates a degree of hypocrisy. That same thinness also makes it easier to substitute general stories about this side or that side of a given debate for genuine comments on actual behavior, stories which fill in the details of people’s political orientation without checking those details against their personal history. This I think, makes the meta-hypocrisy shuffle just a little bit easier. You can always pretend the other side flipped first.
…and that makes it a little easier to flip yourself.
So, I just turned my boots over, banged them together and held them out a moment. You didn’t fall out. In fact, you were nowhere to be seen, and neither were any of your relatives. I haven’t seen a bug in months, but I still want to thank you for staying out of my boots. That was kind of you. I mean, it would have been quite an effort for you to appear in my footwear today, so I suppose you must not have been too put out by this whole thing, but still I want to thank you. I like my boots way better when you stay out of them.
This was also true when I lived in Arizona, and when I lived in Nevada, and when I lived in Southern California. When I lived in Chicago, you didn’t seem a likely guest, but checking for you was also a way to check on the roaches. So, it was just as well that you weren’t there either. I checked every time I put on my shoes.
I first started thinking about you when I was little. Mom told me that she found you in my shoe. Or maybe it was one of your relatives, a great uncle perhaps? She wasn’t entirely sure, because you might have been a vinegaroon. That’s what she said anyway. I always wondered about the name of that bug. Do you know him? Well anyway, it was either you or him that Mom found in my shoe. …or a distant ancestor to one of you I suppose. She seemed quite excited about the whole thing. This may seem judgemental, but she really didn’t think any of your belonged in my show, and she was particularly concerned that you in particular should stay out of there. So, she wanted me to check and see if you had dropped by whenever I put stuff on my feet.
Actually, I’m not sure I would have been happier to meet a vinegaroon in my shoe either. No offense intended, but I just don’t think any of you guys need to be making a home in my footwear. On that score, Mom and I have always agreed. That’s why she urged me always to check and evict you if necessary. I have to admit I wasn’t always diligent about this protocol, but an unhappy encounter with a beetle was enough to get me on board with Mom’s plans. Don’t worry, the beetle is fine, or at least she was when she crawled off and away from me as I tried to calm down all the hair then standing on the back of my head. I mean, Mom had been talking about you so much at the time, so when I met the beetle, for just a moment I really thought you had dropped in to pay me a visit after all. I’ve since been looking for you pretty much everywhere I go, or at least when I put stuff on my feet.
Honestly, I’m not sure I can remember having ever found you in my footwear, so I suppose I should be thankful that you have respected my wishes and those of my mother all these years. Looking for you has become quite a ritual. I bang my shoes together before putting them on my feet in the hopes of finding you no matter where I am, or even if I already know you aren’t there. I simply cannot do otherwise.
I don’t wish to appear ungrateful. It’s just that I’ve been living at the top of Alaska for six years now and it’s twenty below outside, and I still found myself checking to see if you had dropped in. Despite never having really met, you do seem to have left quite an impression on me. I think about you a lot, really I do. I can’t even seem to put a shoe on without looking for you.
Hugs and kisses,
This was many years back, and it may be too much information, but I still think it’s a funny story. Sad to say, it’s not fiction
How low can you sink in life?
That was my question, sitting there on the toilet seat, staring at the roll of toilet paper standing upright on the floor in front of me, my last roll of toilet paper.
…and realizing it was damned near out.
My cats were there to help me of course, as they always are when I head to the bathroom, but neither Fido nor Junkmail had any special skill in toilet-paper assessment. They flittered about my feet a little while before sliding one by one out the door and leaving me to ponder this new dilemma all by myself.
Would it be enough?
And might I need more before the day was out?
I knew I was also out of napkins, because I had used a bit of toilet paper for a napkin the night before. Presumably, I didn’t have any paper towels either. I would certainly have used one of those at dinner, if it’d been available.
So much for the store bought stuff!
I wondered if a few extra napkins from a fast food joint might be tucked away in a coat pocket somewhere, or perhaps stuffed into a space near the computer. Could I have set one to the side while downing a burger?
But of course, getting through the crisis of the moment was one thing; living through the next couple days was another. I really didn’t want to spend the five dollars remaining in my wallet on a package of toilet paper. So, this was a tough call.
I thought perhaps I could walk over to the mall and use their toilet, but wow! That’s desperation. When you can’t afford your own toiletries, you know life hasn’t turned out the way you planned.
I supposed I could get a single roll at the store for a little over a dollar if I remembered the prices correctly. That would leave me with about 4 dollars for other things. I preferred to buy in bulk, but that was no longer an option, much less a preference. In toiletries too, the inefficiencies of poverty prevail, even for those of us with no valid excuses for being poor. I had long since lost count of the stupid mistakes that had put me in this situation.
There was nothing feigned about that little moment of self-contempt. I was pretty pissed at myself. How much worse can things get, I wondered, as I reached for the roll? How much more pathetic?
In a blaze of black and cream-colored fur, Fido flew into the room, tackled the roll and tumbled into the far corner of the bathroom, just out a little beyond the reach of my hand, His claws and teeth whirled furiously about for a second or two before he darted out the door just as quickly as he’d entered it.
And there I sat, my hand still extended, staring at the pile of shreds that had formerly been my last roll of toilet paper.
I remember as a toddler I didn’t like old people. Is that unusual? I don’t think so. Even still, I REALLY didn’t like old people. I couldn’t have been more than 4, but I distinctly recall my discomfort around them. It was their smiles that bothered me most.
What was that about?
I remember thinking I was supposed to smile back, and I also remember wondering what it was about a simple smile from a perfect stranger that was supposed to make me happy enough to smile back? The whole exercise seemed awfully damned creepy to me. I couldn’t have explained it then. All I could do was not smile back.
Grumpiness came easily to me, even at an early age.
I think about this whole smiling-elderly thing now and then. In particular, I think about it when I catch myself smiling at a random toddler for no reason other than that random toddlers make me want to smile. I suppose I do want them to smile back, and I suppose my reasons are every bit as lame as I might have imagined back when I was too small to reach the middle shelf. Even still, I now smile and young kids in much the same way that they used to smile at me, and every now and then I wonder if they are as creeped out by that as I was.
I turn fifty today.
That’s not too old, I suppose, but it’s old enough. Old enough to feel it in my knees when I descend a staircase. Old enough find most contemporary music and just about all contemporary television programming lame as hell. Old enough to have a few genuine regrets. Old enough to have more stories than most really want to hear, and and old enough to think I might have learned a thing or two over the years. I expect that’s a foolish thought, but I can’t help thinking it. It’s a old-guy thing.
So, let me take this opportunity to pass on a few of the lessons I’ve learned (or at least that I think I’ve learned) over the years. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you take these lessons to heart, much less that you should actually try to put them into practice. (You really shouldn’t in at least a few cases.) Just smile back at the old fart who types them and pretend the whole advice-charade isn’t really all that creepy, even though we both know it really is.
So, here they are, just a maxims I try to keep in mind.
- Anything not worth doing well is not worth doing at all.
- It’s a sure bet, people will fit you into one stereotype or another. You might as well pick the one you’re most comfortable with.
- Never go to bed with anyone you don’t want to wake up to.
- Every good story needs a villain. It’s not a bad calling.
- Let others argue about whether the glass is half empty or half full. The damned thing is probably leaking!
- When people talk about tradition, they usually mean the way they themselves grew up. Most would never know if that had anything to do with the way things worked in generations past.
- There is no cause to take revenge on an individual that would not make a better reason to say ‘goodbye’ and be done with them once and for all.
- People don’t really have sex. Sex has them.
- If you take a job you don’t like just for the money, you’ll probably blow the money letting off steam after work. If you take a job doing something important and meaningful, circumstances will likely suck the value right out of it. If your career is the exception to this dilemma, then seriously, go fuck yourself!
- The word ‘ubiquitous’ isn’t.
- Whatever terrible things you may find younger people are into these days, you can take comfort in the knowledge that their own kids will find it every bit as lame as you do.
- Youth may be wasted on the young. Wisdom is no less wasted on the elderly.
- Don’t kid yourself. It can always get worse.
- Most new ideas are really just old ideas expressed in new vocabulary. …which isn’t really that new either.
- You never will outgrow some of your more childish habits, interests, and hobbies. When you stop trying, you may count that as a kind of maturity in itself.
- You probably will regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did, but a good many who might say otherwise didn’t live to tell the tale.
- You will never ever ever ever be as comfortable as your own cat.
- Confirmation bias means others consistently over-estimate the evidence that I am wrong.
- Listen to people sharing their thoughts about God. You will never hear a more honest account of their own character.
- Most of the things you are saving for antiquity will be thrown away when you pass on.
- Publish a list like this and you will find yourself thinking up more long after you do. Also, you will keep wondering if this or that one wasn’t something you read before.
Oh that’s enough!
I should probably take a few of those out anyway, because they just aren’t that good, but I’m just not that concerned about it. Also, I’m applying the first maxim. Anyway, I guess I will conclude with another thought about old people. (People older than me, dammit!) I don’t recall when I first noticed it, but I have come to regard it as a constant of sorts. When I see elderly folks, no matter how old they are, I can’t help noticing something new about them. They play just like children. I don’t mean they jump and hop or that they kick a ball with the same energy as a yard ape. I mean that when they crack a joke or even simply smile at one, they might as well be children. It’s one of the few things a rickety body and a cluttered old mind seems to have in common with the growing spirit of a toddler, a certain delight in foolish things.
I wouldn’t say this is an objective claim by any means. Hell, it’s probably me trying to tell myself the path I’m on isn’t so bad, but anymore I just can’t help to see things this way. I don’t care how old someone is when they laugh and joke, they seem (if only for a moment to me) just as young as my old playmates from childhood. Even if their knees have long since said ‘no’ to stairs going up or down. If they know even less about pop-music than I do, and if they could tell you (albeit in a halting way) first hand stories about historical events long since past. You watch two old friends share a joke and they are in that moment much as they might have been at recess long ago.
I keep thinking this must have some relevance to my first point about old people and their smiles. Maybe it should tell me what that smiling stuff was about all those years ago when I kept wondering what the Hell old people were doing smiling at me like that. I suppose I could sort it out if I really wanted to, but then again I’m too old to give it much more thought, or maybe I’m still to young to work it out. Anyway, the first maxim above still applies.
Anyway, get off my lawn!
…and stop smiling at me, dammit!
It’s already old news. Narcissa Trump has entered the race for the Republican nomination for President. He has of course made an ass of himself every step of the way, and Republicans seem to love him for it. So too do comedians, but in either event the dumb dial on politics just got turned up to 11, and there is only one thing left to do.
We have to gamify this!
Okay, I don’t have a lot of time right now, so we’re going for the simple and obvious. You read the title, and you know where we are going with this, right? Just watch Trump basking in the reflection of his own media presence and follow these instructions.
If Trump says something completely thoughtless. …okay don’t drink yet. This would have you on the floor in no time.
If someone in the media humors trump by referring to his verbal diarrhea as ‘straight talk,’ take a shot of something really stiff and write down the idiot’s name. When you wake up tomorrow with a hangover, you’re going to want to remember just who is and who isn’t a journalist.
If Trump doubles down after having been called out for saying something truly idiotic completely asinine, or both. …take a sip. Just take it easy here. You don’t want to be bent over the porcelain throne before the end of the interview.
If Trump says something bad about Mexicans. …just another sip, a small one. You know why.
If Trump says something nice about Mexicans in the hopes we’ll forget the bad stuff he already said about them. …Yeah, it’s time to take a drink. Don’t whine about it though, you knew this was coming.
If Trump tries to pretend his critics are objecting to actual policy recommendations instead of his childish hate-mongering, drink again.
If Trump calls another leader ‘weak’, drink-up and do like three push-ups. That oughtta be enough for the Donald.
If Trump declares himself a winner, do some coke and say a prayer for Charlie Sheen.
If Trump says he’s the best at something, don’t bother drinking cause you know damned well he’s a better drinker than you, so you might as well just give it up right now.
It Trump’s hair does something odd, don’t drink and don’t laugh. Seriously, this whole hair-theme was old a decade or two back. Can we please stop pretending the man’s hair is half the train wreck that we get with every fricking word out of his mouth?
If Trump retweets one of his adoring fans proclaiming him the only possible savior for America and all of western civilization, don’t drink. This too will end the game too quickly. Maybe just fart a little, because it’s kinda fitting, and you know you wanna.
If Trump brags about the number of fans who showed up at an event, ask him to pay you to drink. It’s only fair.
If Trump dismisses the views of someone who understands politics far better than he or any of his advisers ever well, call John Stewart and tell him he has to help us drink our way through the next year and a half.
If Trump threatens to sue someone, don’t drink. Just fill your glass and wait.
If Trump mentions how much money he has, drink something really cheap served in a gaudy container and burn up a ten dollar bill. You’re getting as good a deal as any customer ever got from the Trump label.
If someone else mentions bankruptcy, drink some water. You know you need the break.
If Trump tries to lecture us about how bankruptcy is really just good business, buy a drink for one of the many mere commoners trying to live in the wake of bankruptcy. They need it more than you.
If Trump plays a rock tune completely out of place with his campaign, don’t bother drinking. Politicians always do this. It’s nothing special.
If Trump says anything about Isis, drink or don’t drink, but keep it to yourself. You’re the only one that needs to know.
If Trump complains about violations of his free speech, don’t drink. This is a totally serious thing, and no-one should make light of it, not ever.***
If Trump ever makes a substantive point about anything in the course of this election, then give up drinking entirely. (Don’t worry. This will never happen.)
***Just kidding! It’s time to drink that double you poured earlier. Maybe two or three of them right.
By now the story is pretty well known. A number of Native Americans recently walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie (The Ridiculous Six) citing offensive jokes as the deal-breaker triggering their decision to leave. Most had been cast as extras, but the group also includes a cultural consultant hired for the film. Other sources have detailed the story better than I could, but let’s just get a few of their objections on the table so we all know what we’re talking about:
– The Indians in the movie are supposed to be Apache, but their outfits and material culture generally represented in the film would seem better suited to Comanche (and that not too accurately there either).
– The movie used offensive names for female characters. “No Bra” and “Beaver Breath” come to mind. “Sits-On-Face” was apparently in the script at one point.
– Come to think of it, the movie gives men offensive names too, “Five hairy Moles,” and “One Eyebrow,” for example.
– In the movie a woman is supposed to squat to pee at some point while smoking a peace pipe.
– The extras found a feather arrangement on a teepee inappropriate.
– In the movie, Adam Sandler is supposed to utter the line; “Say honey: how bout after this, we go someplace and I put my pee-pee in your teepee?”
…you get the idea.
I certainly hope that I don’t have to explain why any of this would be offensive. The question is of course what to make of that offense? Someone is almost always the butt of a joke, and so it sometimes seems arbitrary when a particular set of jokes like this one draws a vehement response. Those with little or no connection to the offended group are often that much more mystified, because they simply don’t understand all the implications, and it can be damned tempting to pass the whole thing off as political correctness.
The notion that these extras (and those who support them) are just being too damned sensitive about the whole thing is rolling rather predictably out in various tweets and blog posts. A spokesman for netflicks reportedly characterized the film as ‘broad satire’. Breitbart News carried that theme even further, denying that satire could be disrespect in any context and congratulating the film crew for standing their ground in the face of an overly sensitive group of extras. Sandler’s camp appears to have adopted the stance that his movie is meant to be all in good fun, and that it’s full of low-brow humor to begin with. One of the cast, Vanilla Ice, for example assured us that Sandler is not trying to make something on par with Dances With Wolves. So, it seems we in the public are supposed to give Sandler a pass, because he is just joking.
I’m usually pretty open to raunchy humor, but I find it very hard to imagine a context in which the jokes mentioned above would be anything other than toilet humor fit for a five year old.
…and let’s be clear. there is another context to consider here. For those of us who haven’t seen the film, it’s difficult to assess the context behind the jokes, but for those of us who haven’t lived lives as Native Americans, it’s hard to say what the overall context of life is for determining how these jokes must feel.
Context is a two-way street.
No, actually, it’s more like a giant roundabout with a lot of busy traffic.
The question here is just what makes these jokes funny to begin with (at least for those that find them funny)? It’s easy enough to say that a name like “Beaver Breath” is just a joke, but is there really any reason to suppose that joke doesn’t turn on a point of prejudice? These names don’t appear to be an in-joke, and they don’t turn any non-native prejudice on its head. They reflect little other than the sensibility of a child snickering at someone different. These jokes turn that difference into an object of brutal and straight-foreword mockery. and there is simply nothing in the accounts given so far to suggest that the target of this humor is anything other than Native American naming practices themselves. If this is satire, it is indistinguishable from racist propoganda.
That the jokes in question may be delivered with a congenial smile doesn’t change the fact that this humor is at face value quite demeaning. Some people don’t even seem to know when they are insulting others; either that or they simply assume the right to do so without being called to account for it.
This is why the claim that The Ridiculous Six is all just satire fails. Oh yes, the movie may well be a satire, but whatever it’s satirizing, there is no reason to believe these jokes aren’t actually directed at the Native American community.
There is nothing in these jokes that suggests familiarity with their own subject matter, much less appreciation for the people close to it. This is why the costumes matter, not because the movie was meant to be historically accurate, but because knowing the difference between Apache dress and Comanche dress might have communicated at the trace of a capacity to give a damn. When such things become too much to ask, the benefit of the doubt slips out the door. And when those who raise the issue, as these extras did, are told by a producer they are being overly sensitive and they should leave, well that pretty well slams the door shut altogether. If there was any chance this humor could have reflected anything other than outright prejudice, the treatment these extras received on the set would appear to have set that prospect to rest.
…which puts the claim that no offense had been intended in this script in an awkward light. It would appear to mean little other than that Native Americans themselves are not supposed to take offense at such things. Sandler and company have produced a highly offensive script, and when called on it, they have done little other than to beg others not to see the plain point of their own jokes. In effect, they have put the responsibility for the insult on those that have called attention to it (which is an awful lot like the strategy taken by Dan Snyder and the Washington football team). in effect, they blame those they insult for knowing they have been insulted. Does that rhetoric sound familiar? It should. This is of course precisely why conservative culture warriors are beginning to weigh in. It isn’t that they don’t know the movie is offensive; the folks at Breitbart for example are defending it precisely because they know that it is.
It’s easy to dismiss Sandler himself. He has often (almost always) presented himself in a rather juvenile manner. His characters are often simpletons, and the humor they produce is accordingly full of foolishness. When this fails, as it often does, Sandler leaves behind more than a trace of disappointment in the jokes. He also leaves us with that slightly creepy feeling that we’ve seen too much of someone’s personal baggage. Still, the man is capable of outstanding humor, often using this very approach. I do recall some brilliant moments in Sandler’s career; Lunch Counter Lady and The Hanakka Song come to mind. I don’t exactly pine for new examples of his work, but I can honestly say that he has brightened my day once or twice over the years. I say this, not because I feel like defending the man at the moment, but because I think it’s important to note that he is at least capable of doing something better than this.
Unfortunately, the man is also capable of turning out utter trash. Case in point, putting a peepee in a woman’s teepee. Try as I might, I cannot find any context in which that line reflects anything but the crudest sensibilities of a petulant child. Reading about this, I can’t help thinking Sandler has gotten entirely too comfortable passing the naughtiest jokes of the playground off as professional comedy. I for one hope that he will take a lesson from his extras, and try once again to produce comedy worth watching.
Postscript: I noticed an interesting pattern in this video showing the conversation, the film-makers continually insist that the movie is sympathetic to the Native American characters. Why? Because Adam Sandler’s character loves them.
Speaking of Dances With Wolves…
Suffice to say the notion that respect for Native American characters rests on little other than the values of a non-Native character would be ironic at best.
Actually ‘perverse’ is more like it.
I think I was about 9 when I watched Yellow Submarine. I didn’t know much about the Beatles at the time. I remember a bunch of 45s my older brother kept in a case with a zebra pattern on it, and I remember a walrus picture and the associated lyrics had made quite an impression. Beyond that, …well I was nine!
But there I sat watching Yellow Submarine on TV with my sister and her friends. Blue meanies made a strong impression, as did something about a hole that ended up in Ringo’s pocket. I remember being very confused about that.
I also remember quite a few songs, and then there was a scene where someone tells Ringo not to pull on a lever, and he says “I can’t help it. I’m a born Lever-puller.”
University of Whales I don’t remember, but I read that line and it looks funny.
So, one day I’m lying in bed one morning at the age of 23, and I’m thinking about speaking accents. I do accents sometimes, …terribly. Anyway, I’m thinking of British accents in that half-asleep state that might just as easily slip back into a full dream, and I’m pretty sure I can do Ringo’s accent, and then …
“Ooooooooh! …a born Leever-pooler!”
Guess I can be a little slow sometimes.