Humor is subjective.
Do you know why I think that tweet is hilarious? Because absolutely nobody at all – not a single soul in the entire universe – is thinking or saying that the adorable, precious, 9-year old Quvenzhané Wallis is anything other than innocent, delightful, and a beautiful child. And that universal fact is subverted by applying the same characteristics of a bitter, unhappy nominee, and then cemented by using the only word in the English language left that has any shock value whatsoever.
The tweet by The Onion made me laugh, because it was shocking, funny, and ran counter to every single cultural and social more out there. That’s what humor should do. It should cross lines. It should make people uncomfortable, and it should turn things on their sides.
By laughing at this, am I supporting, implying, thinking, or considering that the subject of the tweet is a cunt? No, and to say otherwise is to absolutely ignore the entire point of humor. Laughing at this tweet recognizes it for being hysterically funny BECAUSE it’s absurd. It’s not only unlikely, it’s impossible. And that’s why it’s funny.
But, humor is subjective. And we live in a society where many people have decided that if it’s not funny to them, it’s hateful and offensive and must be censored and stricken. That’s unfortunate. If you didn’t laugh, just move on. That’s it.
By legitimizing the complaints, sources of humor like The Onion (and Daniel Tosh) give weight to a voice that doesn’t deserve that power. It’s the humorists who push that envelope, who give censors heart attacks, who cross lines and who make enemies just to make people think about what they’re saying and what they’re thinking. Once we start down the slope of determining on a public scale what’s allowed to be funny and what’s not, we quiet one of the most important voices for any generation to progress and change.
Originally, this post was going to also defend Seth MacFarlane as the host of The Oscars, but it’s the same argument. Humor is subjective. Did anything that he say make me laugh? Not really, but I also wasn’t offended. His humor was immature and trite, but it wasn’t hateful. Calling someone misogynistic every time he (or she) makes a joke about a woman’s appearance or about nudity or sexuality is a waste of the word. It takes power away from identifying the true misogynists out there – the people who truly hate women and want them to return to a submissive state of life. Those are the people to watch out for, but they’re not that one gay guy who sang a song about seeing boobs when he hosted the Oscars.
(And, just as an aside, if you think that Amy Poehler or Tina Fey wouldn’t have made a joke about the age at which Quvenzhané Wallis would be old enough for George Clooney to date, you’re experiencing a big bout of wishful thinking. Female comedians are just as edgy, just as boundary-crossing, and just as vicious when it comes to humor, and if you ever want to point the finger of misogyny at someone, check out Whitney Cumming’s old stand-up. )
Humor never deserves to be censored, yet that’s what happens when the loudest voices become a chorus of protest. People will argue that it’s jokes like the one above that set our society back, and I will argue that it’s people who protest jokes like that who are setting us back. If you want to stifle creativity and originality, continue to call for the heads of those who express their freedom of speech. Hell, let’s just burn them at the stake while we’re at it.