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At Them With Them

Banes at 12:00AM, Sept. 7, 2023

Redlettermedia, in an old review of Michael Bay's Pain and Gain, contrasted that movie to The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese.

In the Wolf of Wall Street, the RLM guys say, there's a subtext that we're ALL capable of the mistakes the main character makes. There's something in human nature that is prone to being greedy and overreaching. We are looking at someone who went to an extreme, but in a very human way that calls us to think about those qualities in ourselves. In Pain and Gain, the ongoing subtext (and actual text) is “Look at these idiots! Aren't they stupid idiots?”

Both movies are based on true stories - and I should qualify that I've never seen Pain and Gain.

But it does bring to mind the difference between portraying something or someone flawed, and mocking or laughing AT someone.

I remember disagreeing with someone who thought the show “King of the Hill” was mocking certain kinds of Americans. I don't feel that way at all - or at least, I didn't think the show was laughing AT those characters in a nasty way. There was plenty of humanity in King of the Hill, and the differences between types of people was portrayed honestly (maybe exaggerated a lot), but it doesn't feel like the show is RIDICULING those redneck characters.

I know The Simpsons has come under fire at different times for its making fun of various cultures or groups - the writers' defense has always been that the worst offender is always their own character, the ‘Ugly American’ guy Homer Simpson.

The Simpsons (when I watched it anyway, which is going back quite a few years now), was pretty hardcore with its satire, and told some ugly truths (again, very exaggerated at times) but in a hilarious way. But somehow, it doesn't feel nasty, like some other sitcoms and cartoons can be. Remember Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights Cartoon? I only saw part of it, but it was so nasty. If the main character gets some comeuppance (like his meaner characters usually do in his live action movies) it might redeem it.

Anyway - there can be a fine line between mocking something or someone in a nasty way, and portraying flawed humanity in a truthful, funny way. I admit I don't think about it when I'm doing my own comedic comics. I mean, I don't want to offend or hurt anyone so I'll avoid doing that - if it happens, it's accidental - but I'd imagine I've done some “laughing with” as well as plenty of “laughing at” in my attempts to be humorous in my comics. How about you?

Sometimes the line is hard to see.

Take care out there!


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Banes at 12:59PM, Sept. 7, 2023

For anyone who wants to see the RedLetterMedia review I referenced, I was going from memory. It's actually their Wolf of Wall Street review where they compare that movie to Pain and Gain. And the clip of Martin Scorsese talking about it is excellent - he talks about portraying these characters/people with the understanding that we're not standing apart from those people. That any of us in their circumstances might make exactly the same choices. If we are laughing at others, so to speak, but understanding that we are ALL part of flawed's just better.

Banes at 12:55PM, Sept. 7, 2023

@Andreas_Helixfinger - thanks as usual for your insights as well! I agree completely with the point about the value of proceeding with what we feel is right. We see that over and over, that unpopular or outrageous stances are later embraced as common sense!

Banes at 12:53PM, Sept. 7, 2023

@PaulEberhardt - So well said as usual, and thanks for your insights! I wonder if these things are changing for the better? Sometimes it seems so, sometimes not...I do try to keep hope that we are changing for the better for the most part, as jagged as progress may be...

Banes at 12:50PM, Sept. 7, 2023

@Locoma - Thanks Locoma; I was surprised to see that the reviews I was thinking of were almost ten years old. Where does the time go? I don't want to let these worries stop me from making comics. Of course my stuff is not nearly popular enough for anyone to worry or complain about; anyone who doesn't like it will just not read it - or maybe tell me something I don't want to hear. That would be their right, but it hasn't happened yet haha.

Banes at 12:48PM, Sept. 7, 2023

@bravo - truly! xD

Andreas_Helixfinger at 7:10AM, Sept. 7, 2023

My point is. A humourous potrayal of a certain character type may be percieved as "too much" or "too far" at first glance, yet turn out later to be rather factual and relevant to the times. Ernie "Chip" Douglas character actually shows us a disturbing fact about the modern day human. We are all more or less disconnected from our fellow human being. We are all raised by TV, or in todays case I suppose, the internet. And is that perhaps more of a problem then we dare to admit? Chip's line "Don't you understand, Steven? Somebody has to kill the babysitter." before throwing himself onto the sattelite dish, knocking out the television signal to the entire city, actually rings with serious weight when you start reflecting upon how things are now. I say, whatever you got, if you think you got a solid or at least interesting point to make with a character, go for it. Because you might be onto something people don't see yet😉

PaulEberhardt at 6:43AM, Sept. 7, 2023

Now I'm not defending discrimination and going too far below the belt and not caring for hurting people's feelings, quite the opposite, but being too sissy about mocking others is to my mind a way of dumbing down in the long run. For one thing the lack of practice is losing us the unwritten code of playground honour that makes the difference between laughing with each other and attacking each other, and I think that's really sad.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 6:41AM, Sept. 7, 2023

This post makes me think of the character Ernie "Chip" Douglas played by Jim Carey in the psychological thriller-comedy The Cable Guy (1996) (Haven't seen that movie in a very long time and kind of forgot about it until now:P). Audiences and film critics alike had very mixed reactions to that film when it came out. Some thinking it was a good, thought-provoking subversive experience, others thought Jim Carey's performance was too bizarre and creepy, undermining the story and making it darker then it needed to be. Thing is though. That move may actually be more relavent now then ever. Back in the 90's you wouldn't believe that a person like Chip - a disturbed loner raised by TV who stalks and intrudes and disrupts the lives of strangers he becomes emotionally obssessed over - would exist in real life. But in the age of the internet we now know that people like that do in fact exist and we hear about their digital stalking and intrusion all the time now.

PaulEberhardt at 6:30AM, Sept. 7, 2023

Humour is almost always at somebody's expense, and if it isn't you can be sure that someone will act as if it was anyway. Well, screw this: making fun of each other is, well, too much fun, and moreover too important to stop doing, just because some prigs are trying to make sure by hook or by crook that people lose the valuable skill of taking a little jibe in good humour. Once upon a time, teasing each other while showing you're able to laugh at yourself as well, could be a way of relieving tensions, enabling people to get along without strangling each other right away. Satire (classic definition!) is a bit different in that it sees itself as a safeguard against things that go wrong in all earnest and is therefore supposed to be merciless - satire without any bite is just posing. Granted, to make either of it work towards a peaceful end takes a lot of skill and instinct - from both sides! Granted, too many people don't have them, but my point is they are a matter of practice.

Locoma at 5:01AM, Sept. 7, 2023

What a nice post. I concur with your thoughts exactly, I can't imagine writing characters or stories nowadays, it feels so risky and prohibitive to express thoughts if you are not willing to defend yourself to the teeth. Or maybe is just how I feel. I totally agree with the golden era of the Simpsons being truthfull, so many people reference life lessons from those episodes after so many decades like they were old proverbs. Greetings from a fellow RLM fan!

bravo1102 at 4:47AM, Sept. 7, 2023

Grumpy cat is not amused.

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