Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bigotry Is Hilariously Funny

In this age of very brittle and anxious sensibilities, here are 2 of the most serious transgressors of public decorum.

First is that vastly underrated genius of social critique, Mel Brooks. In this scene from Blazing Saddles, as in so much of his comedy, decorum goes right out the window. The N word, the F word, the S word, the K word, the Z word, etc. are used generously throughout. And yet, just what is it that Brooks is mocking with such blistering glee? It's not the new sheriff of Rockridge. It's not even the townspeople. It's their obstinately stupid racism.
For all of its foul and brutal language and schtick, Blazing Saddles is a very heartfelt liberal movie. If you've ever watched the whole movie through (even if you had to take smelling salts to get through it), it's actually very generous in its outlook. Evil railroad barons like Heddy Lamar ("that's Hedley!") can be overcome and towns saved if people just put aside their incredibly stupid (and hilariously funny) bigotry.

Much less generous is the comedy of Sacha Baron Cohen.
In his fictional Kazakh character Borat, Cohen makes a kind of comedy of entrapment. He sets up actual people to go public with their prejudices, and holds them up for ridicule. The primary target of so much of his comedy is antisemitism, though racism, misogyny, and homophobia get their due as well. He savages the complacent bigotry of the Developed World with the same ruthless glee as he satirizes the resentful bigotry of the Developing World.

"Baby, you are so talented! And they are so dumb!"

I can't decide which I find more irritating, Political Correctness (whatever that is), or people who complain about it. There will always be, as there always have been, humorless people with brittle sensibilities. On the other hand, so many of the people who complain about PC seem to resent losing their license to behave like rude pigs at other people's expense, more than they do any real infringement on liberty (theirs specifically; the liberty of others is not a concern).
In the end, I think Hendrik Hertzberg said it best when he said, "niceness is the enemy of fairness."


Leonardo Ricardo said...

¨obstinately stupid racism¨ CP

or ¨obstinately stupid anything¨ covers it nicely.

Grandmère Mimi said...

I suppose I fall a bit into both irritating categories, but I think I'm a mild case.

I like 'em both, Mel and Borat.