“If you’re seriously contending that you get a free pass to be an asshole by calling what you write ‘humor,’ or that humorists are under no obligation to have any manners, think again.”
This is a comment from a discussion going on on someone else’s Facebook wall. I’d reply there, but the woman whose wall it is isn’t someone I know and she has already spazzed out about people disagreeing with her public post, which was an attack on the Onion for its story “Heartbroken Chris Brown Always Thought Rihanna Was Woman He’d Beat To Death.” Her stance — and that of the guy I quoted above — is that satire shouldn’t offend.
Fuck that. If you’re not offending somebody, you’re not doing satire correctly, you’re just being amusing. And you’re not making a point, you’re just making a joke. The last thing a satirist, or a comedian of any stripe, or any goddamned artist of any sort, should be worrying about is whether they’re offending someone with their material, unless being inoffensive is, indeed, one of their goals as a creator. Sure, there are boundaries that you probably shouldn’t cross if you want to be a decent person (publicly attacking a child, for instance), but for the most part, nothing is sacred.
As novelist Tad Williams, who was also involved in this discussion, wrote, “There is no edge. The edge is a movable feast. A good humorist has to go with the gut, and sometimes the audience is in a slightly different place than expected. You can’t have ‘safe’ satire, because that’s not satire, that’s officially sanctioned merriment.”
So yeah, to put it in terms the guy I quoted used, you get a free pass to be an asshole and you’re not under any obligation to have any manners. That may cost you a fan or a friend sometimes, it may cost you a job, it may make you unpopular if you really touch a nerve. That’s why satire, why art, is brave. That’s one of the things that makes it matter. That’s one of the things that makes it real. That’s one of the things that makes it truth.
Sacred cows make the tastiest burgers.