Why are we so sensitive? In 2016, political correctness has become a reigning force in Western society. We’ve become hypersensitive towards anything that has the potential to offend.
With everything on the Internet, it’s only expected that people will find something that rubs them the wrong way. But when is that line crossed? And how far is too far?
In a 2015 documentary titled Can We Take a Joke?, director Ted Balaker explores the ways in which the general public absorbs the edginess of comedians. Many comedians featured in the documentary argue that a joke is exactly that: a joke. Humour is not meant to accommodate people’s judgements. “If you’re easily offended,” says comedian Heather McDonald, “please don’t come to a comedy show.”
It seems ridiculous that society is easily offended by people who are paid to be funny. Can We Take a Joke? argues that audiences like to be offended. Having something to talk about gives people a spark.
Gilbert Gottfried, a world-renowned comedian, is entertained by society’s hypersensitivity. “When people are outraged at something, they’re also patting themselves on the back, like, ‘Hey, I’m a good person. I was outraged.’”
Society is increasingly fearful of witnessing their favourite comedians target “sensitive” subjects. Can We Take a Joke? addresses the controversy of political correctness. For this reason, the documentary stresses the importance of making fun of ourselves. Learning to take a joke is far easier than stirring up controversy.
Isn’t it time for us to accept that we’re all just as flawed as each other? Or should we force comedians to make fake apologies for statements they completely meant to say? At what point does this become overkill? We can’t live our lives expecting everyone to make apologies.
Comedians who change their comedy routines to suit the interests of the audience can’t even guarantee their happiness. McDonald recalls a time she planned to perform an act about a Hispanic girl she saw on television, who “was clearly white, but spoke like she was a Latina gang member.” The producers were against the idea and wanted McDonald to portray someone less controversial. McDonald’s act was still there, but the humour was lost.
Can We Take a Joke? relies on society’s failure to embrace blunt comedy. Although comedy isn’t always conventional, it’s supposed to make us laugh. Comedians are risk-takers. They find the line and deliberately cross it. After that, it’s up to us how we choose to react.