Friday, June 20, 2008

Being unfunny is more offensive than being offensive

I haven't seen Mike Meyers' The Love Guru, and I really didn't have any plans to. The posters and ads didn't thrill me, not only because it looked like one of those "Last Samurai"-type movies where you drop a Neocolonial guy into a different culture and he proves that he can do their culture better than they can -- and proves that we only care about other places when we can watch a Neocolonial interacting with it -- but it looked like he was out to offend everyone he possibly. Mostly Vern Troyer (whom I actually came to love after his stint on The Surreal Life), but also various facets of Hinduism -- rather, a stereotype of Hinduism.

Back when Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan came out, I avoided it because I thought it would be so offensive I wouldn't be able to sit through it. Lacking HBO, I hadn't seen Da Ali G Show but I 'd seen Borat from his visit to 
the Oklahoma City Traffic Commission where he put out a very long rambling speech in which he apologized that our food made him create a terrible smell and said he wanted to make romance with one of the women in the room -- not by force, of course (and also made me very proud of my city officials for being so beyond-the-call-of-duty polite to him). When I heard he was an "equal-opportunity offender," I really didn't want to see it. "Equal-opportunity offenders" use humor like a blunt tool instead of a scalpel, whacking indiscriminately at anyone and everyone when they could be excising injustice and oppressive elements of society through satire.

I was wrong, Borat was very satirical and very good, and there was a moment where I almost cried because the offensive, awful, anti-Semitic character of Borat was the only one who treated a prostitute with respect. But he was also very very funny. Freakin' funny, actually. And funny makes up for offensiveness most of the time. I know that funny is very subjective, but it seems to me that when you're really funny, you make us laugh at ourselves, not other people, and you make us have sympathy with the clown who's pointing out our foibles, who also has sympathy with us. 

I don't know if Mike Meyers does that, but it doesn't seem like it. There's been a lot of uproar over The Love Guru (check out The Washington Post's On Faith blog's blogs on The Love Guru), but it seems like the controversy can't save it. The reviews are out, and it's just not funny. I'm not actually surprised, I think that Mike Meyers hit his high point with So I Married an Axe Murderer and the first Wayne's World movie. So I won't even get to see if it was offensive or stereotypical. It just doesn't seem worth the $5 to go decide.

If you want funny, go watch the Borat link above. That's pretty funny.


Kirsten said...

I first saw the website for the movie several months ago, but just the bit that had the made-up yoga poses. Must admit that they were pretty funny at the time, mostly because yoga poses are often kind of ridiculous and those of us who practice will end up laughing at ourselves at times because of that.

But when I finally got around to looking at the rest of the site, suddenly the bits I had thought humorous weren't any longer. So yeah, laughing at ourselves is one thing. Making fun of others, not so much.

(h)apaThealogy said...

I wonder if there's a way to do a fart joke that's satirical.