December 16, 2006

CORRUPTION IS A NATURAL SOURCE OF COMEDY:

Subversive Palestinian Cartoons Reflect New Political Introspection (Scott Wilson, December 17, 2006, Washington Post)

The readers of al-Quds, the leading Palestinian newspaper, opened the opinion pages this month to a jarring sight. In the editorial cartoon, once the daily forum for a sharp jab at the Israeli occupation, appeared two bushy-bearded Hamas officials clutching suitcases full of cash.

Smuggling money into the Gaza Strip has been the preferred way of getting funds to the Hamas-led government during the months-long international economic boycott of the Palestinian Authority. But the cartoon suggested that the Islamic movement, then in talks with the rival Fatah party to form a power-sharing government, was using the cash in less public-spirited ways.

"Why do we need a unity government?" ask the two men, grinning broadly.

For Khalil Abu Arafeh, the cartoon's slight, bespectacled artist, the work amounts to a subversive, even dangerous critique of Palestinian political life. Such expressions are increasingly common in a society where many people have embarked on bitter self-examination after years of tracing all their ills to Israel and the United States.


Anti-Gay Slurs: The Latest in Hilarity (CHARLES ISHERWOOD, 12/17/06, NY Times)
In “The Little Dog Laughed,” Douglas Carter Beane’s Hollywood satire at the Cort Theater, the central character, a ruthless female agent played with verve by Julie White, uses the following terms, among others, to refer to her client, a closeted gay movie actor: “that pansy,” “Mary” and “Miss Nancy,” “little fairy Tinkerbell” and “little fruit.” Coining her own variation on derogation, she calls another character “St. Francis of the Sissies.”

At the performance I recently attended, virtually every one of those lines got a laugh. As they were meant to. For the character’s noxious vocabulary isn’t meant to mark her as a bigot. The epithets, generally employed in acerbic monologues addressed to the audience, are meant to establish her as a funny gal, if maybe a little soulless. It seems for most people they do.

Little notice has been taken of Mr. Beane’s comic exploitation of what is, in other contexts, called hate speech. [...]

For a dose of truly discomfiting — and provocative — comedy trading on man’s universal tendency to sort by group and sneer at the guys in the other camp, you’ll have to look not to the stage but to the movies, where a certain boob from Kazakhstan reigned this fall. In contrast to the tame, middlingly funny and rather retrograde flavor of “The Little Dog Laughed” and “Regrets Only,” the often uproarious “Borat” has the harsh sting of just-distilled vodka.

Mr. Cohen is himself Jewish, so Borat’s smiling anti-Semitism is a con mostly used to seduce the clueless rednecks and drunk frat dudes. But I wonder what would happen if Borat trained the cameras on a cross section of the audiences delighting in his easy evisceration of the all-American boob. Do the millions of people in on the Borat joke really think they’re immune from even the smallest trace of bigotry? Unless they are among the unlucky few who meet Mr. Cohen’s next alter ego, they may never have to acknowledge their laughter’s unfunny origins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 16, 2006 11:59 PM
Comments

They don't call it "gay" for nothing.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 17, 2006 3:43 PM

What amazing self parody! A mere few lines after clucking his tongue at "man's universal tendency to sort by group and sneer," Isherwood himself refers to "rednecks" without a trace of irony. Did he mean that nice lady to whom Cohen handed over a bag of supposed human waste?

We should thank him for the real-life illustration of the kind of bigotry NYT writers engage in. I suppose after the Duke lacrosse scandal, it's clear that even drunken frat boys can be victims of unfunny victimization.

Posted by: John Ziemba at December 18, 2006 5:52 PM
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