Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Parody: The Bully's Humor

I have a few topics that have been piling up. But a moral logic homework assignment had me in panic mode -fearing I could not do the work.

Logic is like a puzzle, where you need to somehow recognize a track or special key - and then everything clicks into place. But, without that moment of special insight, you are doomed. There is no hope.

I got my logic homework done.

Now, on to philosophy.

Topic 1: Parody.

I have come to see parody as the bully's humor.

I have in mind the school bully who finds a fellow student to pick on, belittle, insult, denigrate, and abuse.

Then, when others accuse him of being mean, he says, "I was just having fun. You need to have a sense of humor." Suddenly, the abuse - or the response to it - is the victim's fault. It's a perfect trap. In response to the charge of cruelty, the bully adds another insult to those already given, and leaves the victim with no way out - no refuge or defense. The very act of seeking a defense is belittled and denigrated.

Parody can be funny. But, make no mistake, in every instance of parody somebody is being laughed at. There is a target - a victim. Somebody is harmed.

I cannot argue that all parody is wrong. Desirism holds that desires are molded using praise and condemnation. Condemnation, when properly used, aims to create aversions to types of behavior that people generally have reason to create aversions to. Parody is a form of condemnation - a way of creating aversions to the types of behavior being parodied. It is a part of morality.

If anybody thinks that parody must be wrong, one should note that parody contains nothing that is not found in condemnation and punishment generally. The person punished or condemned is harmed to some degree. Being laughed at is not as harmful as other forms of punishment - such as imprisonment - that are still, in certain cases, perfectly legitimate.

For example, President Trump's racism, ignorance, selfishness, cruelty, arrogance, untruthfulness, and incompetence deserve parody. It is one way of telling people, "Don't be like Trump." Because we have many and strong reasons to try to make it the case that we fill our community with people who are not like Trump.

Not do I deny that there are instances among friends where one can belittle or insult another and everybody is comfortable in the thought that this is not serious. Yet, the determination of whether the parody is serious is left entirely up to the target.

Parody, like other forms of condemnation and punishment, can be unjustly applied. The person creating parody may pick a target that deserves no condemnation. Parody may misrepresent the target's actual actions or intent. It seldom if ever gives the accused a chance to respond in his own defense - to set the record straight.

Here's where the bullying comes in. When the target does try to defend himself, the author or presenter of the parody often responds by saying, "I was joking. Doesn't anybody have a sense of humor?" This response makes the person presenting the parody a bully - somebody deserving of his own dose of contempt.

The proper response to a defense against the condemnation of parody is to provide an argument showing that the condemnation is deserved - to show that those being laughed at deserve to be laughed at. The person presenting the parody needs to either offer this or - if there is no such argument - an apology at the very least for harms wrongly inflicted.

Otherwise, the person presenting parody is just a bully.


Doug S. said...

Parody often isn't meant to hurt anyone. For example, Mad Magazine would feature silly "parodies" of popular movies that recapped the plot but in a ridiculous and absurd way, and Weird Al Yankovic's parody lyrics are often only loosely connected to the original.

Satire and parody aren't the same thing; the objection here applies more to satire than parody...

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Fair point. Search "Parody" replace with "Satire".