josh hadley | the shadows of pop culture | march 2018
Controversy is a word that is both overused and misunderstood. Let's get the actual definition of it out of the way: Oxford defines controversy as a “disagreement, typically when prolonged, public and heated."
The way we define controversy in a societal sense makes the Oxford definition vastly out of date and frankly, a little quaint when you think about it. Today, controversy usually entails outrage from some group that simply can't understand the concept of a joke.
The definition is really just a debate laced with some anger and not a real "controversy." Controversy is when bad taste from one side encounters bad taste from the other. We're talking true controversy that is, not fragile eggshells who see everything they don't like as some kind of personal slight.
Taste is obviously relative and many "controversies" are nothing more than clashing ideals and varying degrees of taste.
Recently there was a "controversy" over the new children's film “Peter Rabbit" where the animals find out that the man that's attempting to murder them has a food allergy to blueberries. While he is in the process of planting dynamite in the animals' burrow to blow them to bits and after failing to cut their heads off with a garden hoe, the animals fling a blueberry into his mouth to cause a reaction. Somehow this moment is "controversial." Yes, parental groups are protesting the movie for making fun of food allergies. This is moronic, even if the film was insensitive about it in some way; this was done in defense by an oppressed group attempting to stop a man from committing an act of terror upon them and their homes. It was arguably justified.
Stop with the non-controversies, people. Special interest groups take all this far too seriously and need to lighten up. A few years ago there was a perceived controversy over a tweet by SpaghettiOs. SpaghettiOs asked people to remember Pearl Harbor with them. Why was this controversial? Because it was a picture of a pasta O holding a flag? This ensuing backlash claimed SpaghettiO's was disrespecting the American flag.
Why is it that a US company that wishes to give a passing note about Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day gets so much ire? Do we not understand what it is to have a sense of humor? I could list non-controversies that become fake outrage all day, but the point is people need to lighten the hell up.
Such controversies exist in comedy as well. Isn't the very idea of comedy to push the envelope? Yet, every month we see some comedian in the news for some "controversial" joke? What happened to humor not being for everyone? How many times has a comedian told a joke and our response was, "That is a serious issue, that is not funny"? George Carlin once said that you can (and should) joke about anything. Nothing is off limits as long as it is funny. He posited that rape is indeed not funny, but then again, that didn't stop him from trying to prove that it was. Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd, anyone?
If we don't look for humor in what is "not funny," how will humor ever expand and grow?
I have issues with shock for the sake of shock; I find it to be empty and pointless. Now, when you are shocking to make a point, that's more interesting. Look at the difference in stand-up comics. Andrew Dice Clay and Daniel Tosh are just shocking without weight; they have no basis for humor other than "Look, I said something tasteless and shocking." Then look at George Carlin or Richard Pryor, they were shocking and had power and meaning backing them. Hell, my friend Charley McMullen has some incredibly shocking jokes in his stand-up routine, but they come from a place of reality and most importantly they make you think.
Let's end fake controversies and start living in the grown-up world and stop being so politically correct about everything. In fact, let's stop using the term "politically correct." This idiotic term only came about in the 1970s and has spilled into and tainted so many aspects of life and pop culture that it sucks the fun out of everything. Yes, there are times when a joke or a comment does indeed go "too far" but if it's just a joke or a comment; let it go.
A fiercely confrontational and arrogant critic whose stubborn nature makes him immanently readable and equally angering, Josh Hadley is a writer for magazines such as Hustler, Fangoria, Paracinema, Shadowland, Grindhouse Purgatory and Cashers du Cinemart, as well as a radio host on Jackalope Radio. Find more from him at 1201beyond.com, a website that only the most anti-social personalities would engage.