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Excessive Political Correctness

In my article Political Correctness (PC), the case was made that PC is double-edged.
It can be helpful or not, changing society for the better or entrenching elitist systems.
This article continues to examine this duality of PC and focuses on how excessive PC can inadvertently be hilarious or can kill comedy.

Hilarious PC
  • A UK recruiter was stunned when her job advert for 'reliable' and 'hard-working' applicants was rejected by the job centre as it could be offensive to unreliable and lazy people.
  • A USA school renamed its Easter eggs 'spring spheres' to avoid causing offence to people who did not celebrate Easter. 
  • Some USA schools now have a 'holiday tree' at Christmas, rather than a Christmas tree.
  • A UK council has banned the term 'brainstorming' – and replaced it with 'thought showers', as local lawmakers thought the former term may offend epileptics.
  • Short people should rather be called 'vertically challenged'.
  • Health and Safety is often an area where hysterical PC happens, like banning children's sack races. Maybe one day we will be advised not to breathe - as air pollution could kill us?
How PC Kills Comedy

(1) My notes from the legendary
John Cleese in discussion with Bill Maher (here, posted 11 January 2017, accessed 23 June 2017; and here, posted 25 November 2014, accessed 28 September 2017):-
  • Comedy is about things not going right, people not behaving appropriately or intelligently. [So, PC, which is meant to make things perfect, kills comedy.]
  • Political correctness (PC) is a good idea where it shields meanness to those who can’t look after themselves very well. PC starts as a half-decent idea, and then it goes completely wrong, it’s taken to an absurd level.
  • Any criticism of any individual or group can be labelled cruel. However, the whole point of comedy is that all comedy is critical. If you can’t criticise particular people or groups, then humour is gone, and along with it any sense of proportion. Then you’re living in 1984 [i.e. a dystopian novel about a dictatorial superstate that watches everything you do, is extremely controlling, persecutes individualism and independent thinking].
  • He argues for less PC. Offended people can choose to defend themselves.
  • Cleese does not at all subscribe to the idea that you have to be protected from any kind of uncomfortable emotion. Cleese cites Robin Skynner: “If people can't control their own emotions, then they have to start trying to control other people's behaviour.”
  • When you’re round supersensitive people, you can’t relax and be spontaneous because you have no idea what will upset them next.
  • Cleese quotes an ex-BBC chairman who said there may be people you wish to offend.
  • However, if you make jokes about people who are going to kill you (e.g. Muslims), there’s a tendency to hold back a little.
(2) Mel Brooks, one of Hollywood's funniest film-makers, has told the BBC political correctness is "the death of comedy". He said Blazing Saddles, his Western spoof about a black sheriff in a racist town, could never be made today. "It's OK not to hurt the feelings of various tribes and groups," he said. "However, it's not good for comedy. "Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks. It's the lecherous little elf whispering in the king's ear, telling the truth about human behaviour." (BBC, posted and accessed 21 September 2017)

(3)
"Imagine if the most brilliant comedians in history were working today. They’d never stop apologizing. Charlie Chaplin would have to apologize to all the homeless people he belittled with his Little Tramp character. W.C. Fields and Dean Martin would both have to apologize to alcoholics. The Marx brothers would have to apologize to Italians, mutes and uptight British ladies. Comedy has been around for a long, long time, and there have been a lot of impolite, unpleasant and jaw-droppingly politically incorrect jokes." (Gilbert Gottfried)

(4)
"Most comedy would go out of the window, if political correctness really took hold. There'd be absolutely nothing that you could make fun of. And that would never do, would it?" (June Whitfield in a Carry On documentary)

Also see:-

Political Correctness [PC1]

Blame or Empowerment? [PC2]

Skirting Around [PC3]

Dress Codes [PC4]




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