The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:22-23 NRSV

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Damon Wayans

I am perplexed by the question of how much outrageous talk we should endure in the name of entertainment.

When I began the blog, I asked friends to forward ideas or situations they thought I should address. My friend took me up on this, after watching Damon Wayans peddling his outrageous and insulting ideas on The View. I watched the clip on and heard Wayans declare, in the name of not being hypocritical, that Don Imus was right in dubbing the Rutgers basketball team nappy-headed hos. When the hosts of The View objected, Wayans without originality implied that Black people would find his defense of Imus humorous, although white people would sit at home with a confused look on their faces.

It seems to me that the problem of blatantly offensive and misleading speech in the name of entertainment is inherent in the comedic genre. Of course, there have been comics who resist the urge simply to shock or go for cheap laughs, but usually the edginess that makes comedians funny skirts the boundaries of propriety, offense, and frequently meanness.

The Imus comment and the Wayans reprise are not simply matters of free speech or of (the lack of)taste. We who listen judge them to decide when attempts to be funny are just too mean or too false or too stupid to laugh at. And even when we laugh, out of nervousness or amusement, we have the right to consider whether our own laughter represents some baser emotion that we prefer not to indulge. And, yes, we even have the right to be so weary of seeing and hearing ourselves demeaned that we protest and refuse to take it anymore.

1 comment:

K E Alexander said...

I think some comedians and sometimes lyricists overestimate the ability of the public to understand sarcasm, satire and even metaphor. It is incumbent upon everyone who has the privilege of a public spotlight to take the responsibility of discerning the audience. And it is a responsibility: my "free speech" might be attached to a high cost on society.