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Archive for April, 2014

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I’m going to attempt a difficult topic here, which I’m not at all sure that I can pull off. But first, watch Tim Minchin’s song, which is not only hilarious, but applies to *everything* I’m trying to say here. It actually applies to half of all jokes by stand up comedians in the whole wide world.

Care for a rape joke? Of course not. (and if you do, you can very well bugger off to another part of the internet, inhabited by people who tear off wings off of flies and kick puppies for therapeutic purposes)

There are two kinds of people, those who understand that taboo subjects are taboo for a reason, and while they can be funny (and sadly, they really are, sometimes), that can only be explored – if ever – in a very limited, contextual and specific setting. A setting fairly few are actually invited to share. Mostly those who are invited have some kind of PTSD, which gives them the VIP card to that particular chamber.

The other kind of people are the ones who rave about how “political correctness” ruins their world. Regardless of age, they are behaving like spoiled little brats who lived in their parents’ basement well into their adult age, got everything they wanted without having to work very hard, and are just generally pissed off because they can’t laugh at jokes that are inappropriate. They also display a worrisome frontal lobe issue in regards to empathy. They begrudge that they do not have the VIP card to that limited chamber where complicated laughter can take place. They want the VIP card without having to go through the hardship that grants you it, or without being carefully selected as friends of those who do.

If anybody missed the point of Tim Minchin’s song, think of an anagram to Ginger, just rearrange the letters.

Here is another clue: I think it can be funny as hell when black comedians use certain words in a gangsta setting. I think it is embarrassing to the point of my toes curling when white comedians do it. (thankfully it is not so common anymore, but it used to be)

What made me think about this again was my own behavior at a book club meeting this last weekend. It is one of my book clubs (I am in several), called “Literary Pie”. Basically it’s a group of fairly awesome people who meet up, sharing tons of delicious food, and then talk about the book for about half an hour, and then generally wank off on literature in general, writing, politics, games and a plethora of other things.

A friend in that group was talking about a fantasy series she likes (after I asked for fantasy recommendations) and she explained that the books could be pretty grim, for instance containing rape. Without thinking it out in my head I asked her “So, is it good or bad rape?”

Everybody started laughing and another friend patted me on the arm saying something like “How about that good ol’ rape huh?” And I attempted to explain that in literature there is “good rape” – which basically means that the rape is traumatic, well described and often difficult to read, because you feel for the victim. “Bad rape” is rape that is made okay by the author. Basically the author uses rape or “rapey” maneuvers by a powerful character to subdue another character who ends up liking it, and falling for the first character. Rape as a device for seduction. It would have to be a Nobel Prize worthy bloody fantastic author to pull that off, without failing. And most fail miserably, without even knowing it. (it often takes a certain kind of cognitive dissonance to even attempt to use rape as such a plot device for sexual or romantic power).

Somehow, after explaining this, and quibbling amiably to and fro, I started using a phrase that I haven’t used in years. It should be said in a faux concerned semi therapeutic tone and goes like this:

Are you sad? How sad are you? Are you RAPE sad?

I invited the group into the VIP room, and some people literally laughed so hard that they were lying shaking over the table.

That is how powerful unleashed taboo jokes can be. But they are never uncomplicated. I had explained to my friends that this phrase was used in a very specific setting and context by a group of women I once was part of. The phrase in itself was not invented by us, but by another two women I knew elsewhere, also for a specific context. I cannot explain how liberating and funny “Are you sad? How sad are you? Are you RAPE sad?” was in that group. Basically somebody could have an abysmally shitty day, with depression and flashbacks and hardship to accomplish even the most rudimentary tasks, and they would get that question from the right person (the wisdom of Tim Minchin again, folks!), and they would brighten up and crack up and have a latte and almost feel like a normal person again for a while. It was like a magical code, working brilliantly in that highly specific context.

I took a very big risk by introducing my friends to that VIP room. The risk was not on my head, I’m fine. But for their sake. Not only do I not know their personal history in that kind of depth, but I also don’t know how they feel even if they don’t have the VIP card. Maybe they feel strongly about somebody they know with a card. Maybe they have a specifically developed sense of sympathy that does not go well with that phrase.

I took a risk, and I’m still not sure if it was right. I can only say that I do it extremely seldom, going on a totally unscientific, unreflected gut feeling. But it felt good to me when they laughed, and it was the right kind of laughter (a kind of insider “fuck the man, fuck depression, fuck the world and lets have a drink – kind of laughter). But if even one person had an uncomfortable feeling inside during that joke, I apologize deeper than the bottom of lake Baikal in Siberia. And this text would be part of that explanation/apology, if need be.

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