The Washington Post takes Amy Schumer to task—and takes it too far | Bleader

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Washington Post takes Amy Schumer to task—and takes it too far

Posted By on 07.07.15 at 04:00 PM

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click to enlarge Amy Schumer in May 2015 - CHARLES SYKES/AP PHOTOS
  • Charles Sykes/AP Photos
  • Amy Schumer in May 2015


Look, I think Amy Schumer's funny. When I spotted an essay online late Monday night ripping Schumer a new butthole over ugly, racist humor that makes her a few fast bucks but poisons the well of American comity, my reaction was, "Say wha'?" But I was half asleep. I figured the authors might be making good points I was too wiped out to appreciate, so I let it go.

And I had a cold. I really wasn't up to thinking hard about anything.

But Tuesday morning, there was the same essay in the Tribune. Headline: "Amy Schumer's blind spot on race." I read it again.

It was written by Stacey Patton and David J. Leonard, both academics, for the Washington Post. Some things are too important to joke about and "America's soil of racism" apparently is one of them; they lit into Schumer something fierce. That racist soil "is fed [shouldn't that be watered?] by jokes and incendiary speeches, by stereotypical images and symbols like the Confederate flag." Key word—jokes. Some would say a joke is harmless, Patton and Leonard reason, "especially when told by a supposed white liberal feminist." Apparently not so.

I say apparently because their next sentence is not totally clear. I'm not sure which side of the humor divide it comes down on or whether the authors know themselves. What they write is this: "We can distance ourselves from the anger, from the harm, from the ideology, and from the hatred of the 'extreme,' but also find comfort in the same anger, ideology and hatred that is 'just a joke.'"

What I want this to be saying is that humor can sidle in close to anger, ideology, and hatred and pants them when outrage can't. I believe this is true and I'm sure it's a good thing. But honestly, I don't think it's what Patton and Leonard have in mind. Here's what they say next.

This rhetoric isn't just ugly. It contributes to a worldview that justifies a broken immigration system, mass incarceration, divestment from inner city communities, that rationalizes inequality and buttresses persistent segregation and violence. Yet nobody wants to take responsibility for spewing rhetoric that breeds the fear that results in soaring gun purchases, that 'inspires' monsters like Dylann Roof to craft a manifesto with deadly consequences.

Schumer inspired Dylann Roof! How does she sleep? But by now you're asking another question: What rhetoric did she spew?

The bill of particulars compiled by Patton and Leonard consists of two jokes from Schumer's stand-up routines. Joke one: "Nobody works 100 percent of the time, except Mexicans." Joke two: "I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual."

The first joke buttresses segregation and violence by caricaturing Mexicans as people who work hard. As for the second joke, it wasn't Schumer's place to tell it. "Nor is it a laughing matter," Patton and Leonard explain, "for a white woman to suggest that Mexicans, or other men of color, are natural-born rapists." Let a Mexican woman be the one who jokes that Mexican men are rapists. Then it's hilarious.

Patton and Leonard allow Schumer to state a defense, but it's paltry. "It is a joke and it is funny," she insists. "I know because people laugh at it."

So what! To Schumer and her defenders, the authors say this: "The motivation of the joke-teller and what compels laughter is not at issue. What matters is the costs and consequences of these 'jokes' to those being objectified." Objectification is the great curse of our age, and to my mind the worst thing about it is that most of the time you don't even know it's being done to you, that somewhere in our great land a wisecracking blond at a mike is condemning you to mass incarceration, divestment, segregation, and violence. Until you read about it on an op-ed page you have no idea!

There ought to be an app!


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