I Submit A Simple Question About Gay Jokes (And Mental illness)...

I think this country has come a long way, in just the past 20 years. Just 20 years ago (well within my lifetime), most Americans were opposed to gays and their rights. Now the reverse is true. But I still think we have a long way to go. I’ll give you one example.

Gay jokes. Even the most avid supporters of gay rights use them. Let me go into some detail of what I mean. People sometimes joke (in various ways) that they are gay. Then everyone has a good laugh, and that is the end of it. But should it be?

If someone jokes about being African American, and everyone laughed, we’d call them a racist. If someone joke they were Jewish, and everyone had a good laugh, we’d say they were antisemitic. So why is it okay for gays?

I can already hear some of you saying, Where do you see this happening? Oh, everywhere. I think it still is socially acceptable. But please, feel free to prove me wrong, even about this.

And then there is mental illness. It is the one disability you can still laugh at. And people use all kinds of derogatory terms, to describe these people. Loonies, crazies, demented, madmen. I am sure you will agree with at least this point. My father was mentally ill. And when I send letters or post comments, complaining about this, people say I am way too sensitive. Really? You can’t use derogatory words when speaking of the Irish, the Italians, the Germans, etc., even when they do something bad or noteworthy. Not good enough? Okay, then, let me put it this way. What if a mentally retarded person committed a crime? Would the media be justified in calling him a “retard”? I hope you see my point.

Most mentally ill are not violent. But I do agree, you usually only get the derogatory words for mentally ill, when they are reporting on a crime they did. I think it still is unacceptable, though, for the examples I just cited.

What do the rest of you think:)?

I think that any question that ends with “what do the rest of you think?” doesn’t belong in GQ.

I heard comedian Louis CK argue that nobody agrees on what you’re not supposed to laugh at. You don’t get to pick what’s funny. You have a “thing” regarding jokes about the mentally ill, someone else has a “thing” about rape jokes, someone else has a “thing” about police violence, someone else has a “thing” about car accidents, etc. etc. etc. There’s literally no topic that everyone can agree is definitely not off limits to comedy.

So the simple solution is to recognize in yourself that you have a particular hangup about an issue. It’s not because the issue is sacred, because the problem is in you. There is no such thing as a list of “allowed” jokes. People make Jew jokes and Italian jokes and fat jokes and mentally ill jokes and rich people jokes all the time! Depending on who you are, most of these jokes could be funny. Even 9/11 jokes can be funny. But if you pick a “thing” that isn’t allowed to be funny, you’re the problem.

Nope. What matters is if the joke is at the expense of the group in issue. You can laugh with someone or at someone. If the society hasn’t got that far yet, it’s kind of sad.

Moderator Action

This seems more opinion than fact.

Moving thread from General Questions to In My Humble Opinion.

I’ve never had a gay friend with whom I was unable to make good natured humor toward regarding sexuality. Within groups of friends I’ve been in, I could say the same about racial humor as well. Within small groups, these things are easy because everyone knows everyone else, so everyone knows that the intent is not bad (and on the flip side, no one is trying to find offense).

Remove the small group of friends context and there is no way in hell I would want to be affiliated with that sort of joking; too easy to misconstrue intent.

I would think that among a small group of friends like that, it can be done because they know whether you are making a joke because you actually believe the stereotype the joke is relying on (making a joke at the expense of that group) or making the joke ironically (making a joke at the expense of the people who actually do believe the stereotype). Of course, there are lots of people who wouldn’t be comfortable with with it in either case…

It’s simpler than that. My group of friends tend to be held together by ball busting. It’s all in good fun, and everyone likes each other.

I hear people making jokes about being black all the time. I have a white coworker who does this about herself. A black coworkers teases me about NOT being black. Laughs are had by all in these situations.

I’m mentally ill, and I use derogatory words for mental illness all the time. Not only does it not bother me, it is very important to me to be able to call my madness by its true name. If I treated it as something to be spoken of with respect, it would gain power over me. Therefore I am not just a “person with a different way of thinking”. I’m crazy, and I want you to understand that.

As someone who also suffers from mental illness, I agree. And not only that, reclaiming this language does several things for me… 1) It’s empowering. You don’t get to define me, I do. 2) It de-stigmatizes it. If everyone hides from it and covers it up, then people continue to believe that it’s shameful and other. That’s total bullshit, as believing that you brought, say, Leukemia on yourself. 3) Sometimes, there needs to be reminders that everyone views the world differently from their position, and what they deal with, in it. I often forget that some have a damn difficult time just by, so it helps me to check my privilege. 4) Finally, if anyone else does it, it’s wonderful to know you’re not alone.

So, all that said, I don’t think joking about it should be off limits at all. Sure, the over-the-top or insensitive portrayals get old occasionally and you really wish for a dose of creativity, but in the long run, you said it best that we’ve come a long way. There’s more information, acceptance and help out there than ever before. We’ve just gotta keep striving forward.

Also, a lot of jokes are about “cartoon” mental illness, like Looney Tunes, Bonkers Wildcat, etc. These bear just about no resemblance at all to serious mental illness. I don’t know of any mental health advocacy groups who are offended by Daffy Duck.

Just to defend (or at least explain:smack:) my actions, I originally thought I was putting it in Great Debates. I still don’t know how I could have put it in GQ. (I will be middle-aged in a couple of years. Maybe that has something to do with it;).) And I did think of IMHO at one point, but I wasn’t sure. Well, you know, if you don’t make mistakes, you don’t learn. I will try to be more careful in the future:cool:.

Now, please. Continue this (very important) debate:).

Jokes at the expense of some group aren’t really at the expense of anyone at all. They’re just words. Sticks and stones, and all that.

Still, some people are atypically sensitive. I’ll try to respect that if I know that about them, but barring any feedback it’s really just a matter of “tough cookies.”

I’m a person who was diagnosed schizophrenic, and although I was not dangerous to anyone (unless you want to claim that people who make life decisions and select priorities other than the ones you’d have selected are “dangerous to themselves”) that diagnosis was used to hold me for a little while. I got myself sprung.

I use “lunatic”, “crazy”, “nuts”, etc, all the time. Many of us in the psychiatric patients’ rights movement do. It is the medical jargon such as “mentally ill” that I find more insulting. If I’m batshit insane, I’m batshit insane, but if it isn’t a condition I find unfortunate, and I’m not hurting anyone else, it’s not a fucking disease. Diseases are undesirable conditions. I’m a proudly nutty lunatic.

A black, gay, Jewish, schizophrenic man walks into a bar…

Because in that sort of situation, the joking isn’t just about making funnies; it’s also about in-group bonding, to get all sociologically wankerish about it. That sort of humor, playing with stereotypes about one’s own subgroup, is self-deprecating; it’s ironic, and non-threatening. When, for example, Jeff Foxworthy says that his new blue lizardskin cowboy boots prove a fundamental principle: “You cain’t give a redneck money!”, the audience knows he isn’t actually attacking rural Southerners; he’s identifying with them.

When your gay friends implicitly give you permission to joke about gay stereotypes, they’re includingy you into the group, which is partly defined as “people who know enough about gay culture to recognize the gap between the caricature and the reality.”

Now, now. The proper term is “sanity-challenged”.

The “it’s just words” thing really isn’t true, words have great power. Wouldn’t you mind it if someone started casually referring to you as a child molester in your workplace or social settings? Or if someone said awful things about your/a child? They’d just be using words, no problem?

Words don’t leave visible scars, because they cut your soul, rip your heart apart, and can haunt you forever, but yeah just words.

just words… just words…