Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Even More Cartoon Mayhem

In keeping with a common theme of late, here's a story about a stupid cartoon in a student newspaper that has been considered racially offensive. I actually find it most blatantly offensive to the art of comedy, and will now explain why in an excruciatingly pedantic way.

Okay, so the cartoon appears in the Central Connecticut State University student newspaper The Recorder. This is only noteworthy because they came under fire earlier in the year for printing a satirical column extolling the virtues of being raped. Funny, eh? Well, probably if you're the sort that likes your comedians to really hit you over the head with a hammer about the fact that they're making a joke. Subtlety... thy name is rape jokes.

The cartoon this time is not particularly funny either, but it perfectly mimics the structure of actual human jokes. The ''setup'' is that a cartoon triangle is talking on the phone with a cartoon square. This is supposed to lead us to believe that these will be cute cartoon characters. Most one-liners rely on setting up false expectations in the setup and then deflating them in the punchline. This one however has the characters discussing urine from the beginning, negating any sort of false expectation of cuteness. ''The triangle figure says he noticed that his urine smelled like honey after eating a certain cereal.'' Okay, so basically dudespeak. Perhaps we the audience, being drunk state university students, are supposed to relate to the cartoon shapes. Already it's just confusing. And we're probably stoned.

In the next panel ''the square figure asks if the triangle figure's urine tastes like honey, too.'' Fairly grim stuff, right? We're actually now set up to expect more crudity rather than anything benign. The cartoon doesn't disappoint- the punchline "I dunno," the triangle replies. "I'd have to ask that 14 year old Latino girl tied up in the closet." Do you see how this sort of apes traditional shock comedy without having enough actual setup to be funny? The ''shock'' isn't in contrast to anything banal enough to make it funny. It's just rather stupid. But it's fascinating from a sociological perspective because it's almost as if they've seen other people being funny and have learned to imitate them. They're becoming just like us! Damn dirty apes!

Anyway, various student groups have gotten offended and Francisco Donis, a professor at the university and president of the Latin American Association wants the paper's editor- some tool- fired. "I would like to see him removed from his position because he clearly does not understand how the things he prints hurt people," Donis said. My personal opinion on this is that student newspapers are student business and there's sort of a weird power differential in professors calling for students to fire other students from student endeavours. I think it's fine for instructors and professors to disagree with student opinions, but I think they should also keep a sort of respectful distance from student groups. In my professional position, I would never call some tool a ''tool''.

''Several more campus student groups, including the Latin American Student Association, plan to protest the comic today as well, he said.'' A lot of people protesting comics these days. As I've said before, I'm fine with protests. It's seemingly just what students do. I don't really think that they should fire the tool. But I guess it's the students' decision in the end.

"I'm all for freedom of speech, but where does it end?" asked Benjamin Sevitch, a communications professor on campus... One might expect a communications professor to be better prepared to answer that question than the rest of us. The short answer is that it ends with speech that is involved with the committing of a crime or treason. However it's even vague there. I'd say that the kids have the right to make stupid jokes. But they should be forced to read back issues of the National Lampoon until they understand how ''shock'' comedy actually works.

Also, we've got to call bullshit on unfunny people who hide their lack of comedic chops behind ''political correctness''. This comic is a perfect example of someone making a completely inept joke and then writing off negative responses to that joke by pretending that ''all those PC types are just offended.'' I'm not offended, but I'm telling you- that joke is really fucking stupid.


Greg said...

That's no more offensive or shocking than anything on Drawn Together. The difference is that DT makes me laugh.

Rufus said...

Same with John Callahan, who has been funny for years, and who has had comics of his own pulled before-