Things that cannot be said. Imagine a world where being funny depended on picking on people less powerful than you: women; people from ethnic minorities; gay people; people with disabilities. The truth is, you don’t have to imagine – you can just watch mainstream comedy from not very long ago. There is a better way and, gradually, we’ve been finding it.
On the other hand, imagine a world where we’ve become so prickly that we just can’t rub along with each other any more. Some people think that’s where we live now. How do we pick a path between what shouldn’t be said and what cannot be said?
Our special guests for this ThinkIn included:
Jayde Adams, comedian, writer and actress.
Scarlett Curtis, writer, journalist, blogger, and curator of Feminists Don’t Wear Pink & Other Lies.
Michelle De Swarte, comedian and TV presenter.
Lynn Enright, journalist and author of Vagina: A Re-Education.
Libby Purves, journalist and broadcaster.
The ThinkIn began with a Ricky Gervais quote and a nod to Voltaire: “If you don’t believe in a person’s right to say things you find ‘grossly offensive’ then you don’t believe in free speech”. How does that apply to comedy and where should the limits – if any – lie? There were fascinating and surprising points of view:
Political correctness as power-play: PC language sees itself as offering protection to the vulnerable but there are other theories out there. What if, instead, it has come to be appropriated by precisely those people in power who don’t need protection, and used to silence minority voices?
A plea for the return of “good, old-fashioned despising”. Unfashionable, but that’s the point: if we find something despicable, let’s say so. Moderation in all things may sound healthy but what does it do for the blood pressure? And, as so many negative terms have been reclaimed and put to good use, a call for ‘snowflakes’ to be rescued from people who only use it perjoratively: why not allow a greater admission of vulnerability in society – a willingness to say “ouch, that hurts”?
Lessons of the 2015 attacks on the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. In the light of recent controversies about satirical cartoons (from the end of daily political cartoons for the global edition of the New York Times to the sacking of a Canadian cartoonist, Michael de Adder), how do we understand the power, potency and potential danger, of such satire in today’s world?
Political correctness-watch. The term has been so bandied-around and used so loosely that it’s lost its meaning. Has it been captured?
Is satire on the run?