Tim Blair links to a terrific article by John Birmingham in the Sydney Morning Herald titled, “It’ll be all right on the night–Political correctness has crippled the left’s sense of humour”. It ties together themes we’ve been exploring since the early days of this blog: about a year after its launch, we wrote back in May of 2003:
Orrin Judd has a theory that all comedy is conservative. I agree with that to a certain extent, but it’s definitely true that at some point on the leftward curve, humor seems to be anathema–there’s just too many shibboleths that risk offending. With the PC movement allowing anyone and everyone to claim victimhood, it’s got to be tougher to write a funny script in Hollywood. And increasingly, Hollywood’s obsessions (anti-war, vegetarianism, Scientology, an obsession with race, rococo sexual politics and of course, bashing anyone whose politics are to the right of Jerry Brown) aren’t playing well out in the heartland.
Perhaps that explains why Mel Brooks’ Broadway version of The Producers was set in the past, and the Austin Powers movies makes fun of the ’60s and ’70s–humor was allowed back then. Or why My Big Fat Greek Wedding, about a traditional Greek family whose daughter is marrying a spineless WASP who believes in many of those same Hollywood trends I just mentioned) was such a hit.
In his SMH piece, Birmingham writes:
By establishing an exclusion zone around a whole category of topics that are ripe for exploitation by comics because of the very tensions they create, the left abandons the field to the enemy and often confuses itself over just who are its friends and who are its foes. Silverman, for instance, is often cited as an example of toxic conservatism, and yet her skewering of identity politics is as dangerous to reactionaries as to anyone. Likewise the creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, were excoriated by some critics for their pitiless treatment of Hollywood liberals in Team America: World Police, as well as racking up black marks for the unholy trinity of racism, sexism and homophobia. Yet Team America remains one the sharpest satires of the war on terrorism so far released, while South Park offends everyone eventually.
The stand-out feature of Parker and Stone’s work, indeed of all successful comics, whatever their medium or subject matter, is confidence. Confidence that their joke is inherently funny, even if millions of people refuse to agree. And confidence of course is a defining characteristic of the right in its resurgent form. To read Mark Steyn on the Islamisation of France, for instance, is to encounter a man speaking the unspeakable and doing so with an unshakeable self-assurance. But it is also to witness a comic genius at work, sharpening an already finely honed wit to a razor’s edge on the rock-hard noggins of his enemies.
The left, on the other hand, has indulged for so long now in the guilty pleasures of relativism, protected by a value system that says discussion of certain topics is off limits, that any sense of confidence they might have had at one time has now entirely disappeared. And with it their sense of humour.
It’s like the old joke. How many angry feminists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: that’s not funny!
By all means, read the whole thing.