My previous post was about the seemingly spontaneous groundswell of defiance against Jay Leno’s continued homophobic, lame comedy on the Tonight Show. The full response is still growing. BTW, I learned in this event that the Q of LGBTQ would make it “Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transsexual & Queer” (or Questioning). One commenter today was critical of all the posters saying there were more important issues than being so hyper-sensitive to this comedy. Melissa McEwan gave her usual erudite response. A portion follows:
Jeff and I have already gotten so many emails expressing gratitude for providing a space in which LGBTQs and their allies can express frustration or contempt or anger at something of which, we have all been told in explicit or implicit ways, our jovial and uncomplaining acquiesce is expected.
In the larger world, people are silenced by the fear of reprisal, by the fear of being told they are humorless, hypersensitive, over-reactionary, boring. It's a terribly effective silencing strategy, which is why the conveyance of heteronormativity is so often closely associated with humor. Anyone who dares complain is just No Fun -- hence, we find ourselves mired in a culture in which LGBTQ and allied people who don't laugh at gay jokes and treat them as No Big Deal are the ones considered weird.
It can be really daunting to go up against all that, especially in one's everyday life, on one's own, just one person against someone(s) equipped with such an effective institutionalized mechanism for shaming and silencing.
I am fully aware of my own behavior. I have used humor to silence, to put down and to fight back. In retrospect I was taught this passive, aggressive style since I was a little girl. This week is an 'Earth' week, so I'm thinking of my roots. My father was always considered a funny, funny man. This family photo below really struck me. My father brought howls of laughter more than fifty years ago by imitating a drunk. What irony that he died in his early fifties largely because of alcohol.
Oh yes, he was constantly imitating limp-wrist fairies, the cliché of the times for all homosexuality. In later years, after my parents were divorced I heard that he had some latent homosexual experiences before he remarried two more times. It made a lot of sense to me in retrospect as I could well imagine this tortured man was closeted.
But, my biggest battle in my young life was against my father’s bigotry and racism. He was a Kentucky-born man who was proud of his racist views, though he learned to mask them in the
Let me be clear, a life without humor is unimaginable. Laughter is healthy, it feels physically cleansing and deliciously sensual. One of my primary fears in my life is taking myself too seriously, and laughter is a great antidote to pomposity or navel gazing. I just think that Melissa makes a wonderful point of laughter or fear of being laughed at is a tool of manipulation. It opens a flood of ruminations.