Please read the whole thing before voting. If you only read the beginning, you might think this will be all about me bitching about the response to my write up yesterday. But that's not what I'm doing here, I promise. At least make it to paragraph 10.
I've had an interesting last couple of days on E2. Actually an interesting week (it's been quite interesting all around, most would agree). I had one write up achieve a good amount of success and critical praise, one that was wildly successful (perhaps my most successful ever), and then the next day I wrote a write-up that turned out to be the worst ever for me in terms of reputation.
It is humbling to see something that I at least thought was good sit at such an abysmal rep. It was doing good at first, had a substantial positive, but something happened and I came back to it four hours later and it was bad. And then it got worse later. I would like to talk about this node, and then talk about satire on a broader scale.
First of all, if you visit the node - link provided in the first paragraph - you will probably see why it's been downvoted so much (or you may not). It is part of a continuing series Point/Counterpoints (inspired by The Onion) usually featuring an ebonics-talking pimp named Vichizzle McNizzle and a grade school boy named Tyler Evans. I really liked the idea of juxtaposing points of view on an issue from two individuals who could not be any more different from one another, save their gender. And of course one of the most important reasons why they're funny (for those of you who actually find them funny) is the satire. Holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving have been satirized, as well as gay marriage. All have gotten their fair share of downvotes, but all sit at a positive rep at least...except the latest one. Apparently I hit a nerve, or a few nerves.
The one in question is a "debate" over Hurricane Katrina. Both characters give their thoughts and views over the disaster. As usual, most of the humor - for those who found it funny - comes from Vichizzle's part. And as usual, Tyler's views are largely shaped, in one way or another, from his bigoted, asshole father. Indeed, a running theme in the point/counterpoints is Tyler's ultra-right-winged dad, who has all the views on gays, minorities, and people in a liberal lifestyle that you would come to expect. And we see those views through the eyes of a child.
Even though any humor on Tyler's part is of the "from the mouths of babes" variety, in a lot of them Tyler's situation isn't really that funny at all, if you really think about it. "Poor Tyler!" one noder messaged me after reading one of them. Poor Tyler is right! While Vichizzle is more of a caricature, Tyler is a character, one I'm slowly developing (he ages in real time). The write up in question is no exception. Unless you like to laugh at how ridiculous ultra-right wing religious conservatives can be (which I do) there's nothing funny about what Tyler says. That might be offensive to some, also what might be offensive is how funny I had intended Vichizzle to be about the disaster. The main point, though, that I'd like to make - and I do have one - is that I was not satirizing the terrible tragedy itself.
For the record, I would just like to say that I am just as appalled and saddened and disgusting by the situation down in New Orleans as any of you were. Hearing the heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching stories coming out of there on CNN has me near tears sometimes and it's almost too much for me to take. My heart goes out to them. It's a veritable Hell on Earth down there. No, I don't think there's anything funny about it right now. I do, however, think, even in the midst of tragedy, we as human beings sometimes have to find some humor in such things, as long as it's not extremely offensive, because, face it, sometimes, if we're not laughing, we're crying, and isn't it much better to laugh?
I'm the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral goes a line from a Barenaked Ladies song. That's me, provided that we're recalling a funny anecdote from the dead person's life. Grieve the death, celebrate the life, and all that.
But that's besides the point, because, like I said, I was not satirizing the event itself. The satire, at least in my intentions, was no different than usual. It satirized Vichizzle's ridiculous pimping and sex and drug-obsessed life as well as Tyler's ridiculous father. In fact, some of what I think about the tragedy came through in Vichizzle. I think the looters and people shooting at the helicopters who are there to help them are "stupid muthafuckas."
Apparently, many individuals didn't see it that way. A couple of scathing messages I received, one from a god, said they did not find it a bit funny, not at all. And I respect those opinions. I took them to heart. I considered revising it, or requesting it nuked right away. But I asked for advice in the catbox about it, people read it, and it got a lot of upvotes. And I got a lot of praise for it, telling me not to worry, that it was hilarious. So then I stopped worrying. But I came back later and the downvotes were a-plenty again! Don't get me wrong, please. I am not here today in this daylog to rant or complain, boo-hoo, look at me, people hate my write-up! No, no, I largely respect the opinions of my fellow noders and I accept the votes it has gotten. No, I would like to ask the noding public a question, and it can apply to any number of write-ups here and other situations out there in real life:
When does satire go too far?
Chicago shock jock Steve Dahl recently offended many on the air with his recipe for "The Floating Corpse," basically a hurricane, an alcoholic beverage where he plopped little chocolate babies in the mix. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets the axe. This, in my humble opinion, is an example of where satire can go too far. There's nothing funny about dead bodies of babies floating in the floodwaters in N'awlins. It is almost impossible to try to make light of children dying, much less babies, without offending just about everybody. Maybe he intended for the chocolate babies to simulate any floating dead body, but that still doesn't make it funny. What he was doing was directly satirizing the event itself, making fun of dead bodies. Dead people, dead babies. That's where he went wrong.
But these things happen all the time. Somebody always wants to push the envelope, test the waters (pun not really intended) and see what they can get away with in terms of what society will deem too offensive. Some would argue that Howard Stern does this on a daily basis. But I don't think even Stern would have pulled what Dahl did. And neither would I.
Was my daylog "my bad" because of the fact that I didn't give it enough time? Does it have to do with the old adage "tragedy plus time equals comedy?" Should I have waited? Was it too soon? Would some have the downvotes been upvotes later? Is time a factor if when satire can become offensive?
When I say offensive here, I mean offensive to most, if not all, people. Let's face it, whenever you get into satire, you're bound to offend somebody, that's the risk you take. And when you want to bring satire anywhere near sensitive issues, death, race, religion, etc. you have to be especially cautious, brace yourself for at least some backlash. George Carlin is an extremely brilliant comedian and most of what he has to say about religion, even though it's extremely intelligent and makes sense (to me), I can imagine that it pisses off a good swath of the devout out there. In particular, I'm thinking of his monologue on the Ten Commandments. If you've heard it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, go and download it, it's hilarious.
But I am NOT comparing myself to Carlin, don't get me wrong. Sure, I think I'm a pretty funny guy, and so do a lot of others, and I always have the ability to make people laugh on the internet and in real life, but I can't hold a candle to that guy or anybody else of his caliber. I doubt I ever will.
Religion, though, is something that a lot of folks hold sacred. Another is dead babies. There are certain things we as a society think of as sacred and as such can not or should not be mined for comedy. And what those things are we have trouble agreeing upon. Race is another touchy subject. More and more, as the generations go by, racist jokes are going more and more out of style. It's also becoming more difficult to define what a racist joke is. Scores of stand up comedians rely on, in their material, the differences in the races and poke fun at certain aspects of blacks, Asians, hispanics, and even whites. I applaud most of it, even digs at my race. I don't happen to think that racism means simply discussing the differences between cultures and races; I don't think eliminating racism means sweeping those differences under the rug. I guess what I consider a racist joke is something that's intentionally malicious, jokes that come from ignorance, from people that are, in fact, racist. What's long and black? The unemployment line. Those types of jokes. I will shamefully admit that when I was a child, young and stupid, I might have found that funny, but now that I'm older, smarter, and more world-weary, it really bothers me.
But I digress. (I'm gonna have to sum up here and stop rambling, I suppose.) What was offensive about my write up didn't have to do with race (at least I hope it didn't - I'm not making fun of blacks with Vichizzle anyway, only a certain subculture). The downvotes came from those still shocked and saddened by the tragedy down south and balked at my attempt to use it for comedy. I understand that. But what I want to get across to you is that the horrific, nightmarish situation down there does sadden me, I am just as heartbroken as you when I see the footage of the people who've lost their wives, husbands, children, and have no water or food and can't get out. I am sorry if I've offended you with the write up, I truly am, and I've taken all the criticisms to heart; I haven't gotten angry with anybody who has told me it was bad. I have not thought "These idiots, they just don't get it!" I've been understanding and I've been listening. HOWEVER, I am NOT apologizing for the node itself. I stand by it. I will stand by it even it goes down to -100. I will defend it until the cows come home. People have went so far as to suggest to the Powers that Be that it be deleted, but it has not been, and as such I will not ask for it to be, either. I am compassionate and understanding, but I have a spine, too (and balls). I wasn't trolling when I wrote it, serious thought went into it, it brings up deep issues, especially Tyler's part. And some, I included, thought it was funny. It wasn't an intentionally offensive flight of fancy meant to be as obnoxious as possible. If you don't like it, downvote it, complain to somebody if you want to, you have that right, that's how this community works. And I love this community and I have greatly benefited from it ever since I first joined in September of 2003 because of how it works. But I am not going to request it be nuked. And as long as it gets at least one upvote, I will never request for any of my write ups to be deleted, no matter how many XP it bleeds me of. Some would disagree with that philosophy, but oh well. That's me.
Thank you for indulging me and reading this entire rambling write up, if you did. That's all. And godspeed to anybody affected by this tragedy and anybody who is making an effort to help with it.