When did we lose our sense of humor?

January 6, 2020

weight-of-the-worldWhen did we become so grey and humorless–

–when did we become people who carry the weight of the world on our shoulders –all of it–taking ourselves and everything around us far too seriously?

I can hear the click of outraged responses on social media now. But hey, take a moment to hear me out:

Yes, serious things are going on in the world. Bad things. We do what we can. Some do  more than others.

But we can only do so much. Every waking moment can not be spent pushing an agenda and defending a position. The purpose of entertainment is to give us a break. That’s why it’s called “entertainment.”

And one size does not fit all. You do not have to be entertained by the same things that entertain me. It’s ok to have individual differences. And there are HUGE, VAST DIFFERENCES in the way different cultures view the world and yes, even entertainment.

That’s ok. We are all different. We view the world through our own cultural lens. We don’t have to view entertainment through everyone’s filter. Our own is enough. One size does not fit all.

weight-of-the-worldEveryone’s a critic

But in today’s social media climate, everyone is a critic, everyone feels they have to weigh in with their own pronouncements of what we should all be thinking.

Umm. No.

Not every piece of entertainment has to have a political or societal message. Our films, television shows and other entertainment don’t always have to reflect the injustices of the world. Yes, there is injustice in the world. Lots of it. Yes, life can be unfair.  All that can happen AND we can escape into fantasy. Into satire, into comedic entertainment. Our version of it. Which might not be someone else’s.

The danger of PC Police

Humor and escapism are not always politically correct. And yet, they can be enjoyed –for example, as satire. Where would Archie Bunker be today? That show would be vilified. And yet, in its way, it shined a light on the way things are. But…Not. Politically. Correct.

Not every film, TV show or book has to reflect all aspects of a culture. They’re not all documentaries. They are entertainment and that sometimes requires taking a snippet of a situation and painting with a broad brush. Exaggerated.  Comedy often requires a fall guy. It’s better if we are our own.

My own culture is often portrayed in dramatic and sensational ways. But I know that not every Sicilian is Mafioso and I also know that the Godfather portrays a segment of my culture that is very real. That resonates. I do not need the Italian-American Anti-Defamation Society to initiate a boycott of movies that portray the dark side of my culture. Because it exists. Pretty much the way it’s depicted.

Take my culture. Go on, take it!

I have no problem with that. And I have no problem with comics satirizing my culture. It does not offend me.

I know many Jewish women who find Mrs. Maisel amusing. Yes, it satirizes the culture. No, it doesn’t reflect the entire society as it is or even at times as it was. It is fluff. If you don’t find it funny move on to one of the other 10 zillion opportunities for entertainment that exist. 

Here’s the thing about stereotypes: they are rooted in truth. There is always a segment of a culture they reflect. That doesn’t mean that every part of that culture is that way. I can laugh at a stereotype and then move on.

Just because the TV show, All Rise, doesn’t depict the justice system as it really is, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy escaping into the character of a judge who actually takes the big picture into account. Yes, it’s fantasy. But fantasy has always been a refuge in a tough world. Why would we want to take that away?

The moral high horse is wobbly. Listening to people’s brittle fragility is tiresome.

Every show does not have to depict the world the way we want it to be. Or as it actually is.  

Fantasy is not a bad thing

We’ve lost our willingness to accept fantasy, fiction, fairy tale. And our appetite for clever satire or even just fun satire is waning.

It’s time we remind ourselves of this: We do not have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders every minute of every day. 

We can and should laugh, play and be entertained. Escape. God knows, there’s reason to want to escape the real world. And sometimes, yes, we can even let writers make fun of ourselves.

Especially ourselves. And enjoy it.

26 comments on “When did we lose our sense of humor?
  1. Beth Havey says:

    Excellent post, Caro! I agree on all counts. Fantasy is a great thing. Escaping is a great thing.But the bottom line is honoring creativity. If there is something out there you don’t like, fine. There are plenty of other books, films, shows to enjoy. Health discussion should be part of one’s decision to skip something. But we all need to lighten up. If we don’t, it’s going to be hard going for a long long time.

  2. Tamara says:

    I hear you!

    Some people take themselves way too seriously.

    Wanna hear my laugh of the day? Environmental activists demanded to ban the plastic baggies dog owners use to scoop up their pets’ poop. Because all plastic is bad. I can’t wait to read a grump on social media of somebody stepping into dog poop because it’s not being removed anymore. And I don’t think burlap baggies will do the trick, hahahah. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    Nice to meet you, happy new year!

  3. I enjoy Mrs. Maisel even though it arguably pokes fun at stereotypes in my own ethnic background. I suspect I find it even more entertaining when I can recognize old time “relatives”. Unfortunately, I think it matters where it’s coming from. I probably wouldn’t enjoy it if it were presented by an avowed neo-Nazi network. But, we live in such fraught times, I admit it’s sometimes difficult not to deserve the “snowflake” epithet usually found in social media posts next to the reference to “libtards”. This crops up in my social media because some people I otherwise respect are DT supporters. All this makes me feel on the verge of unhappy and worried too much of the time.

  4. Brava, Carol! We lost our humor when political correctness came to dominate everything! In today’s climate, George Carlin, Albert Brooks, Joan Rivers, Johnny Carson… Jay Leno would be hung at dawn! Sad, sad times when we can’t laugh at ourselves and others without being criticized. xoxox, Brenda

  5. Rena says:

    There are too many judges in the world today. Humor is few and far between which just causes people to be more stressed. It’s a never-ending cycle unless we step off.

  6. Donna Hanton says:

    I agree, Carol. I grew up in Britain in the 1970’s–The Benny Hill Show and others of its ilk that traded in double entendres and innuendo (much of it sexual). There were also shows that reflected problems that Britain faced at the time, many as a result of colonialism. The shows are no longer shown, deemed to be un-PC. They were funny back then and although they poked fun, did highlight some real societal problems. For myself, I have laughed at many an ‘Irish’ joke, but know that not all Irish people are stupid or drink Guinness!

  7. Jere Cassidy says:

    It’s so hard to be on the internet at all, let alone read peoples nasty comments. Even my food blog has nasty trolls that love to leave ridiculous comments. My goal in 2020 is for total kindness and if you can’t behave around me then bye-bye.

  8. Michael Mele says:

    Very well said and absolutely true. We should most definitely laugh more and not criticize others for enjoying what they do, it’s not our place.

  9. DOnna says:

    I wish more people felt this way. Offense is only offered, we don’t have to accept it. I wish both sides of anything would be available. But one side only sees things as square and the other side only sees things as a circle. It’s been hard to find real information.

  10. Laurie Stone says:

    So agree, although it can be hard to find the humor in our country right now. That’s why I watch reruns of “The Office” every night to get my equilibrium back!

  11. Lauren says:

    I totally agree, we are humorless now. I always think of the show In Living Color. It made me laugh my ass off and it totally wouldn’t fly today. Sad.

  12. RachAel stray says:

    Even during the darkest times humour can bring so much light.

  13. Jennifer says:

    I especially hate when people take offense at shows that were groundbreaking in their day. You can’t hold an All in the Family or Seinfeld up to today’s standards and then scream that they are racist, homophobic, and culturally incorrect. In their day, they were considered groundbreaking and applauded for bringing taboo subjects out into the light.

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