When I read yesterday that the Mets organization had apologized for and promised to stop the practice of playing with their Jumbotron in such a way as to suggest that two players on the opposing team (both men, obviously) should kiss one another, I thought, oh god — here it comes. Hell hath no fury like an ignoramus caught up by the PC police.
People, including people I consider friends, will balk at the baseball team’s apology and decision. They will bellyache that it’s just no fun anymore — that we’ve all lost our sense of humor.
I do agree that we shouldn’t lose our collective sense of humor, and I even agree that most of us belong to groups that are fair game for mockery. Most gut-splitting humor finds its appeal in its reflection of real experience. There are things about straight men that are funny; there are things about gay men that are funny; there are things about straight women that are funny; there are things about lesbians that are funny; there are things about nearly any ethnic group that are funny.
It seems harmless enough to take a good-natured jab at most men, for example, for being rather less enamored of discussing their feelings than women. That’s because there is no inherent suggestion in such humor that being a man or being a woman is itself somehow funny and laughable. Rather, it is something about men and about women — and something innocent, at that — that makes us want to laugh. (To be sure, we have to be careful here too: when observations about groups descend into nasty stereotypes, there’s nothing funny about that.)
But we do inhabit a time when, as to the exercise of discretion in humor, much is asked of us. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We are a nation deeply scarred by divisions, prejudices, and bigotry, and it seems we’ve arrived at a place where it’s more important to be sensitive and inquisitive than it is to be funny.
Here’s the thing about the Mets’ Jumbotron homo cam: even if whoever hatched the idea did so without malice, the laughs weren’t generated by some good-natured observation about gay people that also happened to be funny; they were generated by making people look like they were gay in the first place. And while there might be some funny things to rib gay men about, there is nothing funny about merely being gay. To show two opposing players (immediately after showing numerous straight couples smooching), with the obvious suggestion being that they’re gay — ant that’s all — is not to make a group of people the butt of joke; it’s to turn them into a joke.
And that’s not funny.
by Brendan Beery