Okay, I admit it. A few days ago, I made an OKCupid account because of reasons (that we don’t have to talk about). I’ve never had luck with online dating, but this time something different is happening.
Normally, I don’t like writing or talking much about myself. However, in a dating profile, you absolutely must talk about yourself—the more, the better! So I went for it. I wrote about myself and I wrote way too much. I keep adding little bits as I go. I didn’t hold back or hide tiny nuggets of information behind layer after layer of sarcasm and/or apathy. It was surprisingly freeing to write and… I’m having a lot of fun.
It almost makes me feel bad that I’ve shamed myself out of making that kind of profile, describing myself that way for so long. I had a traumatic experience one time, looking back at a Yahoo Geocities website I had made for myself when I was only a couple years younger. The embarrassment I felt still keeps me up most nights.
It still makes me a little uncomfortable to dedicate hundreds of words to describing myself, my thoughts, what I like and dislike, but I feel like an online dating profile is the appropriate place to do that sort of thing. Anyway, I got a date out of it. (Wish me luck.)
It’s Always Sunny… If You Don’t Think About It?
I’ve been watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia non-stop lately and I’ve been loving it. The show is amazing.
That said, there have been moments of discomfort. At times, things happen, things are done, things are said or words are used that aren’t… awesome. Actually, they really might be considered pretty problematic.
The show depicts homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, violence, reckless alcohol and drug use, addiction, mental illness, sexual abuse… the list goes on. I think there’s a debate, or at least a conversation to be had about entertainment that approaches these kind of issues, especially when it isn’t entirely clear what is being condoned and what is being censured.
At the very least, it raises a few questions. What is a viewer’s responsibility when it comes to watching (and thus, supporting supporting to some degree) content? Is it permissible if the show comes out to a net positive? Is it enough to acknowledge that something you like and enjoy has problematic parts? Is it possible to depict all of these things and use them to create humor without perpetuating a culture that permits those ideas and behaviors? Is it possible to show a protagonist behaving badly or ignorantly without promoting that behavior?
Similar questions could be asked about any number of shows. Breaking Bad comes to mind, though bad behavior for the sake of entertainment seems to be approached differently when it doesn’t have humor tied to it.
I have a hard time imagining a satisfactory answer that would cover all cases. I think humor is incredibly important, both as a mechanism to deal with pain and painful topics, but also for social change.
When it comes specifically to It’s Always Sunny, it’s a show about bad people who have bad ideas and do bad things. Bad things happen to them because of the things they do and say. It is designed to make the audience laugh at these bad people, not the people they harm… and they consistently get what they deserve. The victims aren’t the punchline, these awful people are and moreover, they’re often criticized by responsible, decent people.
It’s worth noting that it’s a depiction of bad behavior and ideas, not an statement of approval—it doesn’t condone or encourage such behavior, language, or ideas. It creates humor with a lot of it, but it doesn’t seem to endorse any of it.
I also have a difficult time finding any point at which painful or problematic issues are made light-of. Again, victims aren’t the ones who come out looking bad, it’s the people who treat them poorly. Sure, there’s humor tied to it, but humor doesn’t necessarily make information less meaningful. In fact, it can make it that much more accessible. Often, these bad people are used to deliver positive messages and point out real problems in the world.
One specific example is how the show treats death. I use this because we’ve all experienced death in our lives in one way or another. It’s common, familiar ground. Like most topics on the show, the death in and of itself isn’t the joke. People suffering the loss of a loved one aren’t being made fun of. It’s always, always the five central characters and their outrageous (bad) behavior that is being laughed at.
So, when Mac and Dennis compete to have sex with a woman whose father was found dead in their bar, the joke isn’t that she’s in pain, it’s not that she’s vulnerable and emotional or easily manipulated, the joke is that they are so selfish and have so little compassion that not only do they make fools of themselves, they repeatedly sabotage each other, they reveal their true intentions, and they fail miserably.
They are the butt of the joke. They are the punchline. The bad guys.
Of course, Mac, Dennis, Dee, Charlie, and Frank aren’t always in the role of the bad guy. Sometimes one, a couple of them, or all of them take on the role of the good, decent, caring person for an episode. Sometimes it fluctuates from scene to scene. I guess this is where moral absolutists will find it impossible to enjoy the show.
Mac and Charlie may spend two episodes faking their deaths and stealing from their own friends, only to start an episode soon after by making astute observations about American health care system…
In one episode, they are punished for being selfish, heartless, jerks and we laugh at them, appropriately. An episode or two later, they take on the role of the good guys and we laugh at a different bad guy, albeit an abstract one—a flawed system, represented by the doctor in the scene.
At the beginning of an episode, Charlie may be the only reasonable voice, defending victims and oppressed people, but by the end his insecurities may open him up to be manipulated into being a villain. Still, on It’s Always Sunny, when you’re bad, you get made fun of and when you’re good, you get rewarded (or at least not laughed at).
The show consistently creates humor with sensitive topics this way. It is an incredibly complicated way to structure humor, it is risky, and the show maybe doesn’t always succeed flawlessly, but I think the creators, writers, and directors deserve a lot of credit. In a way, It’s Always Sunny is the Louis C.K. of sitcoms… okay so, there’s also that show Louie, but you get the point.
If nothing else, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has made me think about these topics and ask these questions while entertaining me and that’s worth considering.
I have learned more from Tumblr than I did from college.
the hardest part about dieting is all the math
Just tell me how many calories are in the whole bag because there’s no way I am only eating ten chips.