Wednesday, February 17, 2010

haha..wait..should I be insulted?

As I was reading Douglas's excerpt about the thin line that exists between joking and insulting, I was reminded strongly of my family. To the outside observer, it might seem at times that respect for one another is frequently lacking in our family. Jokes and insults abound and someone who escapes unscathed for a day is considered lucky. I guess to Plato and Hobbes the personal jabs would confirm their negative view of humor - that it is nothing more than a display of malice held towards another. However, the type of humor that surfaces frequently in our family is more like the humor described in Douglas's "The Joke". For instance, whenever someone besides my mom ventures into the kitchen to try their hand at cooking, a cacophony of jibes will ensue - "I'll order the stomach pump", "clear the area", or a chanting of one of various prayers of protection. However, while the personal jabs are usually intended to be insulting, they are only said in a good-natured and non-serious way. If somebody accidentally goes too far, an apology usually quickly follows and everyone tries to avoid crossing the boundary to blatant meanness.
For me, it wouldn't really feel like home without all of the good-natured bantering that usually causes a lot of laughter all around. Like Douglas mentioned in his paper, I think that good-natured jibes, if they stay within certain limits, can promote intimacy and can serve as indicators of strong relationships.
Sometimes though, it can go too far. When I read Turner's description of the clown, a common literary character-type, who can say anything with impunity, I thought of the popular comedian Steven Colbert, and of when he spoke at the White House correspondent's dinner during Bush's presidency. He gave a hilarious speech about the state of affairs in America and abroad, including the Iraq war. However, he stayed true to form and peppered his speech with funny, but wincingly caustic jokes about the Bush administration. George Bush was sitting only a few chairs down at the time, and while he good-naturedly chuckled at the jokes, at certain points his face betrayed obvious discomfort. While Colbert's speech was funny, it was a good example of how fine the line can be between a joke and an insult.

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