Film Crit Hulk Smash: HULK SMASHES THE PUNY PARADIGMS OF FILM CRITICISM WITH HULK-SIZED SEMIOTICAL ESSAYS ON STORYTELLING, CINEMATIC PRINCIPLES, AND MEDIA THEORY! HULK EVEN MAKE PRACTICAL HOW-TO GUIDES! See More...

Film Crit Hulk Smash: HULK VS. THE CONTEXT OF COMEDY

On that Onion tweet.

Film Crit Hulk Smash: HULK VS. THE CONTEXT OF COMEDY

WE'LL GET TO THE ONION TWEET IN A LITTLE BIT.

FOR NOW, LET US ACKNOWLEDGE THAT RELATIVISM AFFORDS US VERY FEW OPPORTUNITIES TO STAND UP FOR SOMETHING IN THE NAME OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. AND WHEN IT DOES IT IS OFTEN BECAUSE OF SOME TANGIBLE, OBVIOUS HORROR. CRIME. ABUSE. VIOLATIONS OF CIVIL RIGHTS. HULK USED TO USE TORTURE AS A GOOD EXAMPLE, BUT EVEN THE LAST DECADE HAS SEEMED TO SKEW THAT ONE FOR SOME FOLKS. AND FOR ALL HULK'S WILLINGNESS TO TRY AND CUT THROUGH THE BULLSHIT AND OBFUSCATION OF RELATIVISM IN THE NAME OF MORALITY AND DECENCY, HULK UNDERSTANDS THAT SOMETIMES IT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT THING IN THE WORLD TO SAY WHAT IS OKAY AND WHAT IS NOT OKAY.

AND WITH COMEDY IT IS NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE.

IDEALLY, WE LIKE TO THINK OF COMEDY AS A SAFE ZONE WHERE A COMEDIAN SHOULD FEEL FREE TO SAY WHATEVER THEY WANT. IT'S A STAGE WHERE TABOOS ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN AND FREE SPEECH CAN REIGN SUPREME. THAT FACT THAT IT CAN SOMETIMES OFFEND IS OFTEN PURPOSEFUL AS AN EXERCISE IN OUR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS. AFTER ALL, THE MOMENT WE REALLY TRULY RESTRICT WHAT PEOPLE CAN SAY IS THE END OF EVERYTHING WE STAND FOR.

ON THE FLIPSIDE, WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE EVERY LITTLE BIT OF SOCIETAL REINFORCEMENT OR ALLOWANCE COMES TOGETHER TO CONSTRUCT CERTAIN DAMAGING ATTITUDES. HULK FREQUENTLY ESPOUSES THE WAY STEALTH SEXISM (OR THE TACIT APPROVAL OR BUCK-PASSING OF REAL SEXISM) CONTRIBUTES TO A DEEPLY PROBLEMATIC SOCIETY. WHEN WOMEN MAKE UP 50% OF THE POPULATION WE HAVE TO ASK OURSELVES: IS IT REALLY AN ACCIDENT THAT SO FEW WOMEN ARE ACTUALLY IN POSITIONS OF POWER? WHETHER GOVERNMENT, FILMMAKING, CORPORATE BUSINESS, YOU NAME IT? EVEN SEEMINGLY MINOR THINGS CAN EFFECTIVELY COME TOGETHER TO SHAPE A DEEPLY PROBLEMATIC CULTURE. IT IS FIGURATIVE DEATH OF 1,000 PAPERCUTS. AND IN THAT KIND OF LANDSCAPE, HULK ARGUES THAT THE MOST MINOR SEEMING OF PROBLEMS OBVIOUSLY MATTER. AND WHEN YOU VIEW THIS SITUATION THROUGH THAT LENS, IS IT ACCURATE TO SAY THAT IN OUR RUSH TO DEFEND COMEDIANS' RIGHT TO SAY WHATEVER THEY WANT, SOMETIMES WE ARE DROWNING OUT THE VOICE OF OUTRAGE, RENDERING IT MUTE, FORGETTING HAPPILY THAT THE OUTRAGE MAY HAVE AN EXCELLENT POINT.

AND WHETHER WE LIKE TO ADMIT IT OR NOT, WE ALL HAVE PERSONAL LINES THAT WE DON'T EVEN KNOW ABOUT UNTIL THEY START TO BE CROSSED AND OUR GENIAL SENSIBILITIES GO OUT THE WINDOW. AFTER ALL, WE COULD JUST BE SITTING THERE AND SOMEBODY COULD SAY SOMETHING SO PERSONALLY INSULTING THAT HULK WOULD DO THIS TO THEM:

DON'T TALK SHIT ABOUT HULK'S FRIENDS!

THE TRUTH IS THAT ALL COMEDY HAS A VICTIM. AFTER ALL, ITS ROOTS LIE IN THE DRAMATIC CONSTRUCT OF TRAGEDY. IT IS DISASTER (MILDLY) AVERTED. BUT LET'S GO ONE FURTHER WITH THAT AND REMEMBER MEL BROOKS' EPIC INSIGHT: "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when YOU fall into an open manhole and die."

COMEDY CREATES INHERENT DIVISIONS OF THOSE INSIDE THE JOKE AND THOSE OUTSIDE. AND QUITE FRANKLY, YOUR REACTION LARGELY DEPENDS ON WHETHER YOU RELATE MORE TO THE MAKER OF THE JOKE OR THE VICTIM. OFTEN COMEDY IS CONSIDERED THE MOST PALATABLE BY SOCIETY WHEN IT'S IN THE FORM OF LIGHT RIBBING AND INCLUSIVE LAUGHTER, A COMIC RAKING OF THEMSELVES OVER THE SAME COALS AS YOU OR HULK. BUT ALSO WITH PURPOSE IS THE COMEDY OF SCATHING INDICTMENT, WHETHER DIRECTED AT SOCIAL MORES OR SOCIETY AT LARGE. BUT WHAT RESONATES WITH AN AUDIENCE IS LARGELY DEPENDENT ON THE COMEDIAN'S INTENT.

SO IN A WORLD WHERE WE ARE FREQUENTLY BOTH PERPETRATORS OR VICTIMS OF COMEDY DEPENDING ON THE IDEOLOGY, WHAT UNIVERSAL APTITUDE DO WE HAVE TO TELLS US WHEN A LINE OF COMEDY IS OKAY? HULK KNOWS WE CAN'T DICTATE THE TERMS OF "WHAT" CAN ACTUALLY BE SAID, BUT WHAT MAKES OFFENSE PALATABLE? OFTEN IT IS THE INTENT OF THE COMEDIAN.

AND FOR THAT, WE HAVE CONTEXT.

HULK USES THE EXAMPLE ALL THE TIME, BUT WHY CAN ANTHONY JESELNIK EFFECTIVELY "GET AWAY" WITH JOKES THAT NICK DIPAOLO CAN'T?

IT'S BECAUSE ANTHONY JESELNIK DOESN'T MEAN IT.

HE CREATES A STAGE PERSONA CHARACTER WHO IS ESSENTIALLY BUILT AROUND SAYING THE MOST RIDICULOUS THINGS. AND THEY'RE NOT JUST MEAN, THEY'RE OFTEN PSYCHOPATHICALLY AND ABSURDLY MEAN. BUT IT'S A PUT ON. WATCH THE WAY HE ADOPTS AN INHUMANE MONOTONE VOICE. WATCH THE WAY HE SLYLY EKES OUT A SMILE. GO IN DEPTH AND READ INTERVIEWS WHERE HE TALKS ABOUT USING THE CHARACTER AS A WAY OF BRINGING US TO THAT ABSURD PLACE. HE KNOWS IT'S DIVISIVE., BUT HE DOESN'T MEAN IT. IT'S NOT LIKE HULK IS SOME BIG FAN OF HIS AND HULK'S NOT ENTIRELY SURE THERE'S GREAT WORTH TO HIS VERSION OF SHOCK ART, BUT IT'S A FUNCTIONAL AND VALID MODUS OPERANDI. AND WHEN HE'S AT HIS BEST JESELNIK IS TRULY GREAT AT MAKING FUN OF THE MOST SPECTACULAR FORMS OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE HUMAN BEINGS ARE CAPABLE OF.

MEANWHILE, NICK DIPAOLO ACTUALLY MEANS IT. HE ANCHORS HIS TABOO CROSSING IN HIS DISGUST FOR MODERN SOCIETY. IT'S NOT THAT HIS COMEDY HAS A FREQUENTLY CONSERVATIVE BENT (WHICH IS IRRELEVANT OUTSIDE OF THE AFOREMENTIONED NATURE OF GROUP THINK AND VICTIMS), NOR IS IT LIKE HE'S COLBERT IMPERSONATING THE CRAZINESS OF RIGHTWING ANTICS TO MAKE A POINT. IT'S THAT IT COMES ACROSS LIKE HE FUCKING MEANS IT. AND EVEN IF HE'S AMPING IT UP FOR THE SAKE OF COMEDY, HIS VOICE ISN'T ABSURD. HIS SLY SMILE INSTEAD INDICATES THAT EVEN THOUGH HE SAYS HE'S JUST JOKING, HE TOTALLY MEANS TO COME ACROSS LIKE THE GUY "TELLING IT LIKE IT IS."

AND THAT SIMPLE DIFFERENCE WORKS AS THE LINCHPIN BETWEEN THEIR ENTIRE PERSONAS. SURE, JESELNIK CAN SAY UNFUNNY, INEFFECTIVE THINGS. AND SURE DIPAOLO CAN MAKE FUNNY, INSIGHTFUL JOKES TOO, BUT IT'S ABOUT THE SUMMATION OF THEIR IDENTITIES AS THEY RELATE TO THE "DO THEY REALLY MEAN IT?" FACTOR. LISA LAMPANELLI SAID THE SAME THING WHEN MARC MARON ASKED HER WHY SHE HAD SUCH A LARGE HOMOSEXUAL AUDIENCE WHEN SHE MADE SO MANY INSULTING GAY JOKES.. SHE JUST REITERATED THAT IT WAS INCLUSIVE AND THE TWO GROUPS HAD A GREAT RELATIONSHIP. THEY KNEW SHE DIDN'T MEAN IT IN THE SLIGHTEST.

THE COMPLICATION OF THIS DYNAMIC IS OBVIOUS: WITH THE CACOPHONY OF PEOPLE WHO SAY UGLY, UN-POLITICALLY-CORRECT THINGS AND THEN BACK IT UP WITH "I WAS JUST KIDDING!", RARELY IS IT A QUESTION OF THE JOKE CROSSING THE LINE, BUT THE SOCIAL CUES AND TACT THAT ARE OF ISSUE. USUALLY THE PEOPLE SAYING THAT DON'T HAVE ANY KIND OF HISTORY OR SIGNIFIER WITH THE PERSON THEY'RE OFFENDING TO LET THEM KNOW THEY DON'T REALLY MEAN IT. MOST OFTEN AN OFFENDER DOESN'T REALIZE THEY NEED THAT SOCIAL CUE. THEY JUST EXPECT AN AUDIENCE TO UNDERSTAND THEIR MEANING. BUT AN AUDIENCE NEEDS THAT UNDERSTANDING.

WE CALL THIS HAVING CONTEXT.

CONTEXT IS ESSENTIALLY THE HISTORY OF EVERYTHING THAT'S COME BETWEEN TWO PEOPLE/GROUPS SOCIALLY INTERACTING AND THE CADENCE OF THE MOMENT. IF ANYTHONY JESELNIK SAYS SOMETHING HULK GENUINELY FINDS OFFENSIVE, HULK WILL AT LEAST KNOW HOW IT IS MEANT AS A PIECE OF SHOCK ABSURDISM AND THAT HE DIDN'T MEAN IT. IF NICK DIPAOLO GOES TOO FAR IN A GIVEN MOMENT AND JOKES THAT OBAMA SHOULD BE ASSASSINATED, THE CONTEXT IS GOING TO DICTATE THAT HULK BELIEVES HE MEANS IT.

THESE KINDS OF CONTEXTS RULE SO MANY SITUATIONS. REALLY, THEY RULE OUR LIVES TOO. THINK ABOUT HOW THE THINGS YOU SAY AND DON'T SAY TO PEOPLE ARE DICTATED BY THE NATURE OF EACH OF YOUR SPECIFIC RELATIONSHIPS. THINK ABOUT HOW MANY BEHAVIORS ARE JUST FOR CERTAIN PEOPLE.

FOR INSTANCE, HULK IS A PRETTY PROGRESSIVE HULK AND HAS A GOOD FRIEND GOING BACK TO HIGH SCHOOL WHO IS PRETTY MUCH THE SAME WAY. BUT WHEN JOKING BETWEEN US WE OFTEN DO A COLBERT-LIKE THING WHERE WE TAKE ON THE AIR OF THE MOST RADICAL CONSERVATIVE THINKERS AND PRETEND TO BE LIKE THOSE PEOPLE. AND WE SAY THE MOST RIDICULOUS AND ABSURD THINGS. THE KEY IS THAT WE UNDERSTAND THAT CONTEXT. WE UNDERSTAND THAT THE OTHER DOES NOT MEAN A DAMN WORD WE ARE SAYING AND INSTEAD ARE DIRECTLY MAKING FUN OF THOSE WHO WOULD ACTUALLY HOLD WHAT WE EVALUATE TO BE INHUMANE VIEWS. AND WE CAN DO THIS BECAUSE WE'VE BUILT THAT UNDERSTANDING THROUGH YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP AND JOKING.

BUT THAT INTERACTION IS JUST BETWEEN US.

IF HULK JUST SUDDENLY TOOK TO TWITTER AND MADE THOSE SAME JOKES, PEOPLE WOULD LIKELY BE CONFUSED. THERE WOULD BE NO CONTEXT FOR IT. THERE WOULD BE NO SET-UP OR UNDERSTANDING. THERE WOULD BE NO MECHANISM TO LET THE AUDIENCE KNOW HULK DOESN'T MEAN IT.

THAT'S LARGELY WHAT THE "I'M JUST KIDDING!" GUY DOESN'T REALIZE. JOKES HAVE A SOCIAL CONTEXT BASED ON RELATIONSHIPS AND HISTORY THAT CAN REAFFIRM NOT SOME PURITANICAL VIEW OF "WHAT IS OKAY AND WHAT'S NOT OKAY." HECK, WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO SAY WHATEVER WE WANT. WE JUST NEED OUR CONTEXT TO REAFFIRM THAT "WE DON'T MEAN IT."

SO THE QUESTION IS: HOW DO YOU MAKE THOSE KINDS OF JOKES IN PUBLIC?

YOU LOOK TO COLBERT. YOU LOOK TO JESELNIK. YOU LOOK TO ANYONE WHO HAS ESSENTIALLY CRAFTED A DISSOCIATIVE PERSONA. YOU MAKE ABSURDIST SATIRICAL STATEMENTS WITH ACTUAL MEAT BEHIND THEM. YOU HAVE A POINT OF VIEW. YOU INSTILL IN IT A HIGHER PURPOSE. YOU DO SOMETHING TO CREATE A HISTORY THAT LETS PEOPLE KNOW WHERE YOU REALLY STAND. YOU GIVE THEM THE AMMO TO LET THEM KNOW YOU DON'T MEAN IT.

***

DURING THE OSCARS BROADCAST THE ONION TWITTER ACCOUNT MADE A NOW INFAMOUS TWEET WHICH SAID THE FOLLOWING:

"@TheOnion Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhane Wallis is kind of a cunt, right?"

TO WHICH A GREAT DEAL OF PEOPLE WENT UP IN ARMS REGARDING THE USE OF THE WORD CUNT TO DESCRIBE THE 9 YEAR OLD BEST ACTRESS NOMINEE AND ITS VARIOUS IMPLICATIONS. HULK SORT OF HAD A CURIOUS REACTION AT FIRST. FOR ONE, THE JOKE DIDN'T STRIKE HULK AS BEING VERY FUNNY. IT SEEMED SORT OF AN EMPTY FLIPPANT ATTEMPT AT SHOCK HUMOR AND SOMETHING LACKING THE USUAL WIT OF THE ONION. BUT AS FOR HAVING INDIGNATION? HULK DIDN'T. AND HULK WAS AT FIRST CONFUSED BY HOW MANY DID. HULK THOUGHT: PEOPLE KNOW THIS IS THE ONION, RIGHT? IF ANY PUBLICATION "DOESN'T MEAN IT" OR HAS EARNED THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT IT IS THE PUBLICATION THAT HAS BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR COUNTLESS YEARS OF THE BEST SATIRE ON THE PLANET. YES, THE TWEET WAS NOT UP TO THEIR USUAL STANDARDS, BUT IN THE RUSH OF OSCAR COVERAGE IT WAS LIKELY NOT CRAFTED WITH THE SAME FORETHOUGHT. IN FACT, HULK'S POSITIVE THERE IS BETTER WORDING FOR THAT JOKE IN THERE THAT BEST GETS AT THE DARKLY COMIC TRUTH. AFTER ALL, THIS IS THE PUBLICATION THAT BROUGHT US (IHHO) THE GREATEST BYLINE OF ALL TIME:

BUT, REGARDLESS OF ACHIEVING THE NEEDED HUMOR, THE CONTEXT OF THE ONION BEING A DEPENDABLE SATIRICAL WEBSITE COULD NOT BE MORE CLEAR. THE RELATIONSHIP TO BACK UP THE TWEET'S INTENT IS MORE THAN SOUND.

AS TO THE ACTUAL POINT OF THE SATIRE IN THAT TWEET, HULK THOUGH MARYANN JOHANSON CAPTURED IT QUITE NICELY. PARTICULARLY HOW IT FUNCTIONED WITHIN THE SPECIFIC DIALOGUE OF THE PRESS AND THE MASSES ALREADY TURNING ON YOUNG INGENUES LIKE ANNE HATHAWAY AND JENNIFER LAWRENCE WITH SCATHING COMMENTS. IT REFLECTED A MEDIA / PUBLIC THAT COULD SIMULTANEOUSLY BE INTRODUCED TO A YOUNG SPRIGHTLY PRESENCE AND IMMEDIATELY TURN ON HER IN VICIOUSNESS. THE INTENDED VICTIM OF THIS COMEDY WAS CLEARLY NOT THE YOUNG 9 YEAR OLD BEST ACTRESS NOMINEE. THE VICTIM WAS THE PRESS AND LEGIONS OF SOCIAL COMMENTERS TEARING DOWN THE ONES WHO ARE JUST A FEW YEARS OLDER.

HULK IMMEDIATELY TOOK TO TWITTER AFTER READING MARYANN'S COLUMN AND TWEETED IT SAYING: "YUP. NAILED IT.'

BUT THEN HULK DID THAT THING WE OFTEN FORGET TO DO AND THAT IS TAKE A MOMENT TO REFLECT. HULK ENDED UP TALKING TO A FEW FRIENDS. HULK LISTENED. HULK TALKED TO SOME AMAZING FOLLOWERS ON TWITTER. HULK LISTENED MORE. HULK READ A FEW MORE COLUMNS. HULK LISTENED SOME MORE. SOME OF THE OBJECTIONS WERE ADMITTEDLY A TAD REACTIONARY AND FLIPPANT. BUT SOME OBJECTIONS WERE MEASURED AND DEEPLY RESONANT. AND SO HULK STARTED TO THINK ABOUT THAT OPINION HULK PREVIOUSLY SIGNED OFF ON AND IN RETROSPECT, HULK REALIZED THAT THE PIECE DIDN'T SO MUCH "NAIL IT" AS IT DID ARTICULATE A RELEVANT ARGUMENT THAT HULK NEEDED TO HEAR AT THAT SPECIFIC MOMENT. "NAILED IT" IMPLIES OPEN AND SHUT CASE. AND THIS WAS ACTUALLY FAR FROM THAT.

HULK TALKS ABOUT THE EVOLUTION OF OPINION ALL THE TIME. THERE'S A TIMELINE OF PERSPECTIVE TO THINGS AND IT'S EASY TO FORGET THAT IN OUR MOMENTARY CERTAINTY. IT'S ALSO EASY TO COME UP WITH AN OPINION BASED ON A GUT REACTION AND SUPPORT IT STAUNCHLY. AND WHEN THAT'S MATCHED WITH A VALID COUNTERARGUMENT THAT BRINGS THINGS INTO A GRAY AREA, IT'S SO EASY TO REDUCE THAT COUNTERARGUMENT AND ARGUE ADAMANTLY AGAINST IT. AND SOON ENOUGH YOU'RE ADVOCATING OTHER POSITIONS YOU MAY NORMALLY HOLD AND THEN DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE ARGUING FOR AT ALL. HOW MUCH OF OUR YOUTHS DID WE SPEND DOING THAT? AND IT'S GOOD FOR PRECISELY NO ONE, LEAST OF ALL YOURSELF. AND AS CERTAIN AS HULK CAN BE IN A LOT OF THESE COLUMNS, HULK NEVER WANTS TO STOP THE EVOLUTION OF LEARNING. THE DAY HULK'S NOT WILLING TO CHANGE HULK'S MIND IS THE DAY HULK WILL CEASE TO BE OF ANY USE TO YOU.

SO HULK RECONSIDERED A FEW THINGS. FOR INSTANCE, PEOPLE BROUGHT UP THE WHOLLY VALID ARGUMENT THAT EVEN THOUGH THE JOKE IS SATIRE IT STILL BECOMES THE ACT ITSELF WHEREIN YOU ARE CALLING A 9 YEAR OLD GIRL A CUNT AND PUTTING IT OUT IN PUBLIC. EVEN IF IT IS MEANT TO BE SATIRICAL, IT STILL TURNS THE WORDS THEMSELVES INTO A LIGHTHEARTED, RETWEETED REALITY. IT'S JUST ANOTHER JOKE OUT IN THE ETHER. FOR SOME, THIS COULD SEEM EASY TO DISMISS. THE INTENT WAS PURE! BUT WITH THE LACK OF EFFECTIVENESS DOES IT OUTWEIGH THE COSTS? DOES IT OUTWEIGH THE WHOLLY VALID WAY THE COMMENT CONTRIBUTES TO THE DEATH OF THE 1000 PAPERCUTS WITHOUT MUCH OF A TANGIBLE GAIN? IT WAS THEN THAT HULK REALIZED THIS POINT ACTUALLY MIRRORS ONE OF HULK'S ONGOING CRITICISMS ABOUT THE PLETHORA OF RAPE WE SEE IN MOVIES. BY RECREATING AND GRAPHICALLY SHOWING RAPE SO OFTEN WE DILUTE ITS POWER, ESPECIALLY GIVEN HOW OFTEN FILMMAKERS USE IT AS SHORTCUT TO SHOCK AND INTENSITY. OR LOOK HOW MANY REPETITIVE RAPE REVENGE FILMS ARE MADE BY MEN WITH NAKED ACTRESSES GALORE? IT SIMULTANEOUSLY CONTRIBUTES TO THE EPIDEMIC AND LOSES ALL VALUE TO THE POINT IT IS WEAKLY TRYING TO MAKE. HULK'S NOT ALONE IN THE SENTIMENT AS DREW MCWEENY WROTE SO BRILLIANTLY ABOUT THE ISSUE HERE. GOOD INTENT IS WELL AND FINE, BUT THE DANGER IS IN THE LACK OF VALIDITY.

IN ANOTHER CONVERSATION HULK WAS ILLUMINATED TO OBVIOUS, STRIKING REALITY THAT MARYANN'S ARGUMENT LARGELY HINGES ON THE IDEA THAT CALLING A 9 YEAR OLD BLACK GIRL A CUNT IS INHERENTLY AN UNIMAGINABLE THING; SOMETHING THAT EVERYONE WOULD RECOGNIZE AS ABSURD... AND WHILE IT'S EASY TO THINK THAT, IT'S NOT ABSURD IN THE SLIGHTEST. WANT TO TALK ABOUT COGNITIVE DISSONANCE FOR A MOMENT? HULK'S SEEN IT LOBBED AT GIRLS WHO LOOK EXACTLY LIKE QUVENZHANE WALLIS PROBABLY A DOZEN TIMES. BY OTHER KIDS, ADULTS, YOU NAME IT. REALITY CAN BE MIGHTY GRIM, FOLKS, AND IT'S EASY TO FORGET THAT SIDE OF LIFE WHEN IT'S NOT STARING US IN THE FACE ALL OF THE TIME. IT'S EASY TO FORGET HOW CLOSE SOMETHING LIKE THAT SKEWS TO REAL LIFE. IT'S EASY TO FORGET THAT JOKE EXISTS IN THE STRATA OF SOCIAL CONSTRUCTS, SOME OF WHICH ARE DOWNRIGHT HORRIBLE. SO DO THOSE JOKES ACTUALLY HELP? AND IF THEY DO, WHO ARE THEY HELPING?

WHILE HULK IS CERTAINLY SAD THAT ONION APOLOGIZED IN SUCH AN OBLIGATORY FASHION, REFRAINING FROM TRYING TO EXPLAIN BOTH WHAT THEY DO AND THE INTENTION OF THE TWEET BEYOND THE VEIL OF SATIRE, HULK IS EQUALLY SAD ABOUT THE WAY THE VALID POINTS WERE SHUT OUT OF THE CONVERSATION SO DEFIANTLY. AND HULK'S JUST AS MUCH TO BLAME AS ANYONE. IN HULK'S RUSH TO SUPPORT HULK'S BELOVED SATIRICAL PUBLICATION, ALSO CAME THRONGS OF MEN (AND SOME WOMEN) THROWING THEIR WEIGHT BEHIND ONE WOMAN'S OPINION DEEMED "CORRECT" WHILE EVERYONE ELSE WAS CONSIDERED OUT OF TOUCH. THAT'S NOT TO SAY HULK AGREED WITH EVERYONE ELSE, BUT ONE FEMINIST AGREEING TO THE ONION'S POINT OBVIOUSLY DOES NOT VALIDATE "CONSENSUS." HECK, PERHAPS IT'S WRONG TO THINK THAT EVEN 99% WOULD VALIDATE A CONSENSUS TOO WHEN IT COMES TO SOMETHING THIS SERIOUS. IT CAN'T BE SOMETHING WE EVER DO LIGHTLY. IT'S JUST SO DAMN EASY TO DO OTHERWISE AND NOT EVEN REALIZE. TO NOT SEE THE CONSTRUCTS WE PLAY INTO. THERE'S ENOUGH OF MEN TELLING WOMEN THINGS IN THIS CULTURE, SPECIFICALLY FOR WHAT'S OFFENSIVE AND WHAT'S NOT, WHAT'S OKAY AND WHAT'S NOT, WHAT'S APPLICABLE FEMINISM AND WHAT'S NOT, THAT HULK KNOWS ENOUGH TO JUST STOP FOR A DAMN SECOND AND CONSIDER THE MOST IMPORTANT POSSIBLE QUESTION IN ALL OF THIS:

DEFEND THE RIGHTS OF COMEDY ALL WE LIKE, WHAT IS OUR OWN INTENT AND PURPOSE WHEN WE SUPPORT A JOKE THAT WOULD MAKE A RAPIST MORE COMFORTABLE THAN A RAPE VICTIM?

IS THAT AT LEAST NOT A VIABLE QUESTION?

WHETHER OR NOT WE AGREE OVER THESE SENTIMENTS AND QUESTIONS, THERE IS NO DENYING THAT THESE RESERVATIONS HAVE DEEP AND INTRINSIC VALUE; THESE RESERVATIONS SPEAK TO REAL ONGOING PROBLEMS IN OUR SOCIETY. AND SO ONE MOST ALWAYS CONSIDER THE PURPOSE AND INTENT OF THE JOKE, ALWAYS. NO, THE ONION'S TWEET IS NOT INHERENTLY OUT OF BOUNDS. IT HAS EVERY RIGHT TO MAKE THAT JOKE. IT'S JUST EQUALLY AS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THE ONION IS MEANT TO OFFER THE BEST AND MOST RESONANT SOCIAL CRITICISM IMAGINABLE. THROUGH COMEDY, THEY UPHOLD A GREATER STANDARD OF MORAL BEHAVIOR AND STRIKE DEEP AT THE HEART OF TRUTH. IN TIMES OF CRISIS THEY HAVE DELIVERED SOME OF THE MOST RESONANT AND LIFE-AFFIRMING JOKES THAT HAVE STUCK WITH HULK FOR DECADES. THAT PURPOSE SHOULD BE A MODEL FOR YOUR OWN COMEDY. FOR YOUR PURPOSE.

BUT THEY, LIKE YOU, ARE ALSO FREE TO FAIL. A FEW DAYS AGO, ONE SIMPLE JOKE DIDN'T WORK AND IT SPARKED A CRITICISM OF THE PUBLICATION IN A MANNER WE'VE RARELY SEEN. BUT AT LEAST WE CAN BE CERTAIN THAT NO OUTFIT IS MORE ENTIRELY AWARE THAT FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS NOT FREEDOM FROM RESPONSE. AND THAT RESPONSE IS WORTH ALL OF OUR CONSIDERATION.

IT MAY SOUND TRITE, BUT HULK ALWAYS TRIES TO DO THE SAME THING ANYTIME HULK'S STRUCK WRONG BY A COMMENT. HULK LOOKS AT THE CONTEXT. HULK LOOKS AT THE HISTORY. HULK TRIES TO READ INTO THE INTENT AND PURPOSE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. YES, IT'S HARDER. YES, IT'S MORE WORK. BUT ANYTIME WE CRITICIZE IT DESERVES AS MUCH FORETHOUGHT AS POSSIBLE. AND THE CRITICISM NEEDS TO BE EQUALLY CONSTRUCTIVE. CAREFUL CONSIDERATION IS ALWAYS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. BUT IS THE JOKE-MAKER'S GOOD INTENT GOOD ENOUGH?

NO MATTER HOW MUCH SOCIAL MORES SHIFT, IT IS AND WILL ALWAYS BE A GRAY AREA. WE ALL HAVE A CONTEXT IN WHICH CERTAIN JOKES MAKE SENSE OR COME ACROSS AS RUDE. AND SO OFTEN IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO DIVORCE OUR EXPERIENCES FROM THAT REALITY. HULK GREW UP WITH A LOT OF CRAPPY CANCER STUFF IN HULK'S LIFE. HULK'S FAMILY'S WAY OF DEALING WITH IT WAS USUALLY TO MAKE JOKES, SOMETIMES ABOUT THE WORST STUFF IMAGINABLE. THAT MAY SEEM STRANGE GIVEN THAT HULK SEEMS TO BE PRETTY STRAIGHT-LACED (AND SURPRISINGLY SENSITIVE?) IN THESE COLUMNS, BUT THAT'S HOW IT WAS. LAUGHING IN THE FACE OF THE VOID WORKED. BUT IT DOESN'T GIVE HULK SOME INALIENABLE RIGHT TO MAKE CANCER JOKES. HECK, HULK'S PRETTY SURE SOME OF HULK'S FAMILY'S JOKING OFFENDED SOME OTHER FAMILIES IN THE WARD. CONTEXT CAN BE A PRETTY MUDDY AREA SOMETIMES.

THAT MAY SOUND STRANGE COMING FROM HULK. BY NOW YOU  MAY HAVE ENOUGH OF A PERSONAL CONTEXT THAT YOU'LL UNDERSTAND THAT HULK ISN'T THE BIGGEST FAN OF DIVERTING AN ARGUMENT TO RELATIVISM. SO OFTEN IT'S USED TO BLINDLY REDUCE A VALID MORALITY TO A PLACE WITHOUT FUNCTION.. BUT SOMETIMES EVEN HULK CAN ADMIT THAT CERTAIN THINGS EXIST WITHIN BOTH REALMS.

THE ONION TWEET IS BOTH A SCATHING SATIRE THAT IS MEANT TO CRITICIZE A RAVENOUS AND AMORAL MEDIA, BUT IT IS ALSO A REFLECTION OF HOW EASILY WE TREAD IN THE WATERS OF YOUTHFUL SEXISM WITHOUT EVEN THINKING TWICE AND THUS CONTRIBUTE TO THE FIGURATIVE DEATH OF 1000 PAPER CUTS.

THE TWEET EXISTS AS BOTH. MAYBE THAT SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE. MAYBE YOU THINK HULK IS TRYING TO HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. MAYBE YOU'RE CLOSE TO THE VALUES OF THE JOKER. MAYBE YOU'RE CLOSER TO THE EXPERIENCES OF THE VICTIM. MAYBE YOU FIND THIS WHOLE DISCUSSION ABSURD. BUT ALL ARE VALID. WE LIVE IN A UNIVERSE WHERE WE POSTULATE THE EXISTENCE OF THE WAVE-PARTICLE THEORY, WHEREIN THE MATTER THAT MAKES UP OUR UNIVERSE BEHAVES AS BOTH A WAVE AND A PARTICLE. QUANTUM MECHANICS GOVERNS THAT THIS ESSENTIAL PARADOX IS A FUNDAMENTAL PROPERTY OF THE UNIVERSE. MATTER EXISTS AS BOTH. WE EXIST AS BOTH. SO THIS TWEET CAN EXIST AS BOTH TOO.

AND SOMETIMES THE HEALTHIEST THING TO DO WHEN FACED WITH THIS "BOTH" SCENARIO IS TO SIMPLY ADMIT WE HAVE NO IDEA AND JUST PATIENTLY KEEP THE DIALOGUE GOING IN EARNEST.

SO... HULK DOESN'T KNOW WHAT TO THINK.

BUT HULK WILL ALWAYS KEEP LISTENING TO YOU.

<3 HULK

Film Crit Hulk's photo About the Author: FILM CRIT HULK WAS CREATED IN A CHAOTIC LAB EXPERIMENT INVOLVING GAMMA RADIATION, TELEPODS, AND THE GHOST OF PAULINE KAEL. NOW HULK HAVE DEEP AND ABIDING LOVE CINEMA.
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