Monday, January 26, 2009

Where's your line?

I have a confession to make: I went to see Ben Stiller's "Tropic Thunder" at the local AMC Theater last year. And I laughed and laughed.

That's it. That's the confession.

See, I consider myself a good progressive--anti-racist, womanist, pro-equality, broad-minded, sensitive to the needs of marginalized people and all that stuff. How then, could I find humor in a movie that features a white actor in black face; an offensive portrayal of an intellectually disabled boy; stereotypically drawn evil, Asian characters; and a lame, closeted gay tough guy plotline? I don't know. I just did.

The cinema isn't the only place I sometimes put my values aside for the sake of enjoyment. In a recent post about my varied musical tastes, I wrote:

Maybe the most surprising thing, for those who read my liberal rantings here, is that I own some songs that don't quite pass the gender and racial equality smell test. But, hey, sometimes you just want to groove. I can nod my head to "In Da Club" by 50 Cent and ignore the
insipid and predatory lyrics. And I can crank "Sweet Home Alabama" and tune out that line about Birmingham loving the Governor (George Wallace).

In the comments to that post, reader AJ Plaid a.k.a. The Cruel Secretary laid down some wisdom from Racialicious' Latoya Peterson:

"Sometimes you gotta say, 'Fuck it, I love it.'"

Indeed, you do.

AJ goes on to say:

And the older I get I realize that having one thing--one song, one outfit, one book, one sexual fantasy--that flies against your political philosophy but just love for the joy that it brings to you personally keeps you interesting--and human. IMO, all-the-way-down idealogues become insufferably self-righteous and self-congratulatory, horribly irritating, and quite tedious to be around.

Wise words. That's why you should be reading The Cruel Secretary blog on the regular.

But we've covered the idea of entertainment that contradicts personal philosophy already on What Tami Said. What I want to know is : Where's your line? I mean, what separates the offensive comedy you abhor and that you tolerate and find hilarious? What criteria does a slightly sexist song have to pass to make it on to your iPod? Are your decisions about what is acceptably offensive made from "the gut," George Bush-style? Or, do you detect a pattern in what you accept and what you discard?

It's hard to parse what we like and don't like. But I have come to realize that there are some things that simply make it impossible for me to accept a piece of entertainment. For instance, I can't listen to music that includes hateful language directed toward women ("bitch," "ho"); I can't abide Mammy/Sapphire stereotypes (Tyler Perry, I am looking at you.); I cringe at "black people are... [always late...broke...triflin...insert negative, self-hating stereotype here]" humor; I hate comedies that rely on nakedly stereotypical protrayals of women ("Bride Wars"...Yuck!) These are a few of my "lines"--offenses that kill the entertainment.

What are yours?


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