Monday, March 30, 2015

Ray Badran rape joke furore reveals comedy scene's PC culture

One of the reasons I really like blogging as a medium is that you can actually say what you want to say. If people don't agree with it, fine. If they're deeply offended and even hate your guts for what you said, then they'll snark at you in comments. Also fine.

This is definitely not the case in standup comedy. The culture is heavily, drearily PC. Sheesh, you're treading on egg-shells the whole time in that joint!

That right-on and very selective outrage is mind-stunting, creativity-killing poison for all the arts, of course. But it's particularly toxic (and sad) when it dominates a genre like standup which should be anarchic, rebellious and disrespectful to all po-faced finger-waggers across the political spectrum.

A good illustration of how depressingly childish and nasty it can get involves a comic called Ray Badran. See, at a recent gig for The Melbourne International Comedy Festival he told a joke that some idiot in the audience didn't comprehend. Seizing an opportunity to advertise her spurious sense of moral superiority she basically heckled him (in a rather unique way). He lost his cool and now all hell's broken loose.

The offended audience member, a woman called Cecilia Devlin, claims to have staged a silent protest by sliding under the table. Her malignant pettiness comes through loud and clear. She wasn't staging a protest. She was trying to wreck his act by drawing attention to her own! And she succeeded.

That said, you gotta give her some cool points for inventiveness. Most twits who are too literal-minded to actually get a gag and instead get all offended just yell stuff out or storm off in a huff. But this sustained display of passive aggression certainly subverted that dominant paradigm. It was a kind of anti-performance performance art, really. It was culture jamming of the highest order. She could prolly even get a grant for it ...

Hmm. You never know, it might even become an official artistic genre in its own right! Knowing how many sour-faced, witless, whining hand-wringers there are pumping their pompous poison into the performing arts here there may even be a Festival of Faux-Feminist Table Sliding before too long. We shall see.

But back to Badran's proscribed behaviour: Depressingly, quite a few comics have sided with the sinister forces of censorious sanctimony. And predictably the festival's big enchilada mouthed the requisite PC cant:

This week Comedy Festival director Susan Provan said organisers did not support racist or misogynistic material.

"We would never censor anyone but usually when inexperienced comedians attempt big topics, they tend to fall flat. People will vote with their feet."

That line about censorship is bollocks. Provan declared a fatwa on jokes about Islam remember. And saying people vote with their feet just begs the question: Why didn't Ms Devlin walk out if she was so offended?

Seems remarkably malicious -- not to mention weirdly masochistic -- to hang around under a table, poisoning the atmosphere like a fetid fart in a jammed elevator. For Provan, whose purported position is to promote comedy and encourage creativity, it's quite remarkable to implicitly side with an obnoxious arsehat whose clear aim was to ruin a performance, don't ya think?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fictional drug smugglers usually evil. Odd, considering who creates them

Have been watching the latest Rebecca Gibney mystery-thriller called Winter. Actually enjoying it quite a bit. I love this kind of TV show, and not just because of the whodunnit aspect. Being a fusty old conservative the moral polarization appeals to me. While the good guys are far from perfect, they are very clearly on the right side of the conflict. And the bad guys -- be they serial killing psychos, ruthless terrorists or other sinister subspecies of low-life -- are most definitely bad. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer that kind of clarity to the moral equivalence and ambiguity you see in so many edgy, hip productions in other genres. 

In Winter, as in many similar shows, the bad guys masterminding the murderous mayhem are making squillions out of the illicit drug trade, among other things. Without a doubt drug smuggling is one of the unequivocally evil occupations in this genre. If you're a drug king pin, well, you're the scum de la scum of society. And if you're one of his goons or salespeople you're not quite that bad, but you're still seen as an irredeemable waste of skin.

Given the pervasiveness of this televisual stereotype it seems quite odd that so many arty wankers in the industry are outraged over the impending executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

You've got to ask: If they don't think smuggling drugs is such an evil thing, then why do they participate in productions that invoke that perception, and very strongly? So strongly, in fact, that in many cases murder is often seen as completely justified, with the hero or heroine ultimately sending the villain to hellfire and damnation in a hail of bullets!

This contradiction doesn't apply so much to actors, of course. Evil characters can be the most memorable and fun to perform, after all. And the surest way to a crap performance is to telegraph your personal judgement of the character as you play him. But scriptwriters, producers, directors and the like must be quite conflicted over this issue, surely. They tell stories, and stories make statements -- even if they're in genres not seen as primarily political.

If they think drug traffickers are not the apotheosis of evil, then why do they keep presenting them in this way? They couldn't be working only for the money, surely! Or maybe their near unanimous condemnation of Indonesia's punishment of drug traffickers is not as sincere as it is presented to be ...