Many people have noticed a shift in our culture toward what some have dubbed “Political Correctness,” or PC. This means that words, while technically legal, must be policed by others in order to preserve the sensibilities of those who might be offended or hurt. While you don’t see this enforcement too much in everyday life (though it does happen), the idea has certainly permeated the internet — some support it, saying that it’s just another step in respecting one another, and others condemn it, saying that it promotes a culture of victimhood.
However, with the rise of a PC culture has come another, unexpected rise — more and more irreverent comedy. The fact that the two seem to have catapulted in opposite directions (especially in Hollywood) seems contradictory.
PC culture is most attributed to the political left (whatever that means), though it exists throughout the entirety of American culture today. Enforcing PC culture is closely linked to the outrage culture that has been cultivated over the last decade or so, and that is certainly alive and well throughout most of America, whichever political party, religion or race you are a part of.
It was probably spawned from good intentions, as words do matter (that’s why many parents teach manners and respect). It’s this sort of basic respect that prevents someone from making a joke about rough sex in front of a rape victim — common sense that some people need to be reminded of. However, it has recently been used as a weapon to silence those with dissenting opinions, to shut down discussion and demand that the opposing party shut up before the conversation continues any longer. It’s gone from respect and dignity to an unconscious, emotional strategy to win arguments.
The film industry is one place that is very well known for its enforcement of political correctness. It’s odd that people point to the film industry as a culprit for this, because for all their preaching and grandstanding, they have also put out some seriously irreverent, decidedly not PC humor in the last decade or two. Granted, they are by no means a singular entity, but one cannot deny the sharp increase of raunchy, crude humor from the industry since the dawn of modern political correctness.
American comedy has always had a vulgar side to it. Still, if you were to take 1959’s “Some Like it Hot,” or 1980’s “Airplane!” you could hardly compare the irreverence with “Superbad” or “Ted” of more recent years.
As I mentioned before, Hollywood isn’t a singular entity. People in the film industry generally run in the same circles, but they do not have a board or an oversight committee — different studios have different grounds of ethics, as do individual filmmakers. Still, many of these separate entities are based out of L.A. or New York, and they exist in circles that promote political correctness pretty ardently. It ought to be surprising then, that comedy has taken this turn.
“South Park,” “Family Guy,” “Archer,” or “Rick and Morty.” “Kick-ass,” “Deadpool,” “The Hangover” or “Wedding Crashers.” These are all comedies that spit in the face of political correctness, and the list is much, much longer than this. And people love them.
Is it possible that, unconsciously, people are sick of having to police their words around everyone? That is more common online, but we’re online a lot these days. Perhaps this is a natural reaction to the PC movement — after all, comedy is a release as well as an escape from the very serious real world.
Maybe this uptick in rude comedy is a societal coping mechanism. Maybe it’s an outlet, a way to vent all those bad things we all think but can’t say — even if we know they’re wrong.
What do you think?
Featured image courtesy of Paramount Pictures, “Team America: World Police”