Friday, February 29, 2008

A lack of a sense of humor

A friend recently sent me a link to this blog. It's called "Stuff White People Like" and is a bunch of musings on "white" middle / upper-middle class American culture. The site's description says: "This is a scientific approach to highlight and explain stuff white people like. They are pretty predictable." It's obvious satire, but as with most satire, it takes some very true points and exaggerates them for humor. For a quick example, take a look at this recent entry about bottled water. Personally, I found it quite funny.

Apparently, some people don't get the joke. I got sucked into reading the comments people left on the blog. Yikes! There are some wicked scary / crazy / angry / racists out there who don't have a sense of humor. I'll just stick to reading the regular articles from now on and skip the comments. But it's scary to think there are people having such angry and violent reactions to the blog. Telling the author they hope he/she dies or gets gang raped in prison?!?!? What the heck?

It reminds me of the time I was talking to two coworkers about a visit to San Francisco and how I was walking with some friends and we stumbled across a really crazy gay block party. One of my coworkers responded with something along the lines of, "Didn't you just wish you had a machine gun and could have mowed all those fags down?" I was so stunned I was left speechless. At first I assumed he was just making a really bad joke, but he was serious! I had worked with this guy for a couple years and had no idea he was so wacko and prejudiced.

It makes me wonder what percentage of the people in the world sincerely are nice people. I hope it's a significant majority and it's just the loud mouth jerks who sometimes make it seem less.


Mark said...

Heheh, it is pretty funny.

However just imagine if it were "Stuff Black People Like" or substitute any minority for black there. It's just as racist as those would be.

I think MLK's dream will only come true when we truly become color blind. Perhaps a better title would be, "Stuff Upper Middle Class People Like". Cuz I'm sure that entire class of people would fit with most entries in that blog no matter what their color.

Mostly Torn said...

I think there's an implied negative connotation with the word "racist". It's the belief one race is superior or inferior to another. What the web site is doing is different. It's not like the web site is trying to perpetuate negative stereotypes - the person is poking fun at pretty harmless stuff. And yes, it's true the stuff generally applies more to a whole socioeconomic class of people rather than a race. Some people have said it would be more accurately title, "Stuff Yuppies Like".

But, what's the difference between making light-hearted generalizations about a race, or a class of people, or a location someone lives? In all cases these are stereotypes and obviously don't apply to all people of whatever group you are describing.

You don't generally hear of people mailing death threats to Mark Patinkin (a local newspaper columnist in RI) when he writes his "only in Rhode Island" humor lists. He not trying to be insulting of Rhode Islanders, he's just poking fun at some things Rhode Islanders generally have in common.

Why can't the same be done with race if it's not meant to breed hatred? I could understand an uproar if the web site was saying "White people are nazis" or "White people enjoy incest" or some other ridiculous and hateful comment, but threatening someone with death or bodily harm because they jokingly said white people like to drink bottled water??

Mostly Torn said...

Actually, on thinking about this some more, I have to agree more with your comment, Mark. When I was thinking of the concept of "race", and wondering what's the harm in poking fun, I was more thinking of a class of people rather than the scientific definition of what physically or biologically defines a race. I think in the case of the web site in question, it's more a culture that is being lampooned, not a race.

So, I suppose I agree it's a poor choice of words to name the site after a race. I suppose it could even be argued that there's some underlying "pro-white" racism to the naming of the site, since it could be inferred that the author is attempting to imply that only white people make up the cultural group of upper-middle class America.

But, back to my original point. The people writing hateful comments on the web site appear to be upset that the site is poking fun at white people. In any case, that just doesn't seem to make sense to me. There's nothing spiteful or degrading being written in the jokes, yet people complaining are suggesting that in retaliation for these joking comments, the author should be physically harmed. Where's the logic in that?

TheRamblingElder said...

There usually isn't logic involved in situations like that.

I found the site quite funny, by the way.

Mark said...

I dunno Brian. The tone is definitely derogatory. Take the first paragraph of that bottled water post:
"Water seems like a fairly simple concept. You turn on the tap, put glass underneath, and drink. Sadly, it is not this simple for white people..."

As far as I can tell the blog is making fun of "white people". Again, just imagine the outcry if this kind of thing were directed at African Americans. How "they" (a totally stereotyped "they") enjoy fried chicken, collard greens, watermelon on the porch, etc. Fairly harmless stuff, but...

As for the threats against the author, that is indeed very sad. I mean, it IS funny stuff and examining our idiosyncracies can be enlightening AND hilarious. It's just too bad that we as a country aren't quite ready for it.