Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Comedy is not "equal-opportunity"

I'm late to The Root's review of Matt Stone and Trey Parker's "The Book of Mormon," a musical currently playing on Broadway. But I'm glad I found it. It puts the lie to a common defense of people who traffic in humor based on stereotypes about POCs or women or the GLBT community or any other marginalized group--the idea of "equal-opportunity" offense.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the guys who created South Park, like to boast that they are equal-opportunity offenders. Which is true. Over the past 10 years that their potty-mouthed, thumb-in-your-eye animated series has been on the Comedy Channel, they've mocked gay people, black people, Canadian people, Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology, the Pope and, most infamously and dangerously, the Prophet Muhammad.
Now Parker and Stone have brought their act to Broadway. The Book of Mormon, the new musical that they've written in collaboration with Robert Lopez, the co-creator of the equally irreverent Muppets-style musical Avenue Q, sends up the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, celebrity do-gooders and the people of Uganda. Read more...
About the people of Uganda...Writer Janice C. Simpson points out:
Despite these woes, the villagers are portrayed as good-hearted, if simple-minded, people. One keeps referring to an old battered typewriter as her "texting machine." Another stomps around talking about raping babies because he believes that doing so will rid him of HIV. A dream sequence is set in hell, where the devil's main disciples are Genghis Khan, Adolf Hitler, the serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, and Johnnie Cochran, who, a song explains, is there for his part in helping to free O.J.
It's all played for can't-you-take-a-joke laughs. But how funny can it be that AIDS has ravaged Africa, that warlords oppress their fellow citizens or that women and children are subjected to forced clitoridectomies? Parker and Stone, who call themselves libertarians, have gotten away with this kind of cavalier attitude toward serious subjects for years because of their ability to sugarcoat it with faux irony. Which explains why even diehard liberals routinely turn a blind eye to their anti-gay jokes.
See, here's the thing: No comedy is really equal-opportunity. Why? Because our society is not equal opportunity. We are not all the same.


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