No Britney Spears Jokes.

19 07 2011

“No human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:8-10; ESV)

Charlie Sheen is probably mentally ill. Have you treated him like a man made in God's Image? Or have you mocked and dishonored God's image in him?

If you know me very well, you know I can be kind of a talker.  If you find me in the right mood, you’ll find me speculating endlessly about the deep truths of existence, analyzing literature or film, or just trying to be funny.  Unfortunately, this often gets me into trouble.  I often walk away from a conversation thinking, “Shoot, I hope I didn’t hurt that person’s feelings with that joke (that wasn’t even very funny).”

Humor is a wonderful thing.  But it can also be dangerous, because humor in our society often comes at the expense of the dignity of other human beings.  I don’t know if this has always been the case, or if it’s a 20th & 21st century development, but it definitely seems to have gotten worse with the advent of the media age.  Whether on television, radio, or the internet, never have so many people had access to so many intimate details of the lives of people they have never met—and therefore feel no responsibility to treat as actual humans.

I fall into this trap all the time: I find myself making sweeping judgments or mean jokes about celebrities who I’ve never met—and even attempt to philosophically defend my right to do so.  Occasionally, I notice that I’ve done this again, and I remember this video that I saw a few years ago:

What about Britney Spears? If she degrades herself, do you feel that gives you permission to do the same?

Wow.  I didn’t even know who Craig Ferguson was before I saw this, but this makes me want to be his friend.  That is just pure class.

Can you imagine living in a world where every human being, regardless of his standing in society or what he has done was always treated with dignity?

I desperately long to live in such a world.

Help me, please: If you ever hear me trample on the dignity of another human being, call me out.  And you, too, do your best to treat all humans, always, with dignity and respect.

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What about Bin Laden? If someone is a murderer, does that mean you can celebrate his death? Should you not rather grieve that such extreme measures were necessary?

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2 responses

26 07 2011
Kathleen

Thanks so much for this post. This is something I’ve been thinking about too. In the spring I went to see a play called Diary of a Madman (based on story by Russian author Gogol). The lead character (the “madman”), played by Geoffrey Rush, is a sort of low-level functionary stuck in a bureaucracy. It starts off quite funny because at first Rush is just complaining about how stupid his bosses are, how nobody recognizes his greatness, and so forth, stuff that’s not too hard to relate to. You don’t feel bad laughing, you think this is just clowning, buffoonery. But the character becomes increasingly delusional, terrible things start to happen, and then at some point it stops being funny. It was so deeply uncomfortable and such a powerful critique of our willingness to laugh at the expense of others. I was so affected by the play I looked it up online after and I thought this review really got at its effect:

“There’s a moment where the play shifts from comedy to tragedy. What’s brilliant about Rush’s performance and the play itself is that the moment is different for everyone in the theater. Laughter slowly drains away and is replaced with silence and remorse. Diary ceases to be a comedy about bureaucracy and the drive to be someone and evolves into a critique of the audience’s perception of mental illness.

That transformation is deeply uncomfortable to the viewer because we are being criticized. The enjoyment we took in Rush’s slapstick returns to us as guilt. Rare is the play that sets out to strip the viewer of pleasure previously given with an open hand. I believe Brantley’s review mistakenly critiques Rush’s performance as not permitting us entrance into his character’s head. Gogol nor Rush intends for us to enter the mind of the “Madman.” Rather, we are meant to enter our own minds and observe ourselves.”

26 07 2011
Tim Courtois

Wow, thanks for sharing that story, Kathleen. I love that description; it really makes me want to see the play! (Plus, Geoffrey Rush is awesome.) That’s such a complex thing for a play to communicate, and to be able to do it so subtly is amazing.

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