Where Should We Draw the Line when Parodying? (April 16th post)

So, this is something that has bothered me for quite some time, and I don’t have an answer for it. I watch a YouTuber called Filthy Frank, a guy who is half-white, half-Japanese. He’s supposed to represent a disgusting, terrible person. If you go to Frank’s YouTube description page, it says that he is “the embodiment of everything a person should not be. He is anti-PC, anti-social, and anti-couth.” Basically, his “character” that he performs is supposed to parody “the social media machine” and essentially reflect how terrible everything in the world is. So then, the actual character behind this persona, Joji, does not actually hold the views or believe in doing the things that are acted out on camera in his show. The reason I’m talking about him is because Frank essentially displays acts of human indecency in terms of ableism, racism, sexism, so on and so forth. The issue I have with this is that from one perspective, the things he is doing on this channel are a parody; they are jokes and are clearly described as such. They don’t actually represent what he thinks is good or right in the world. However, when people make these jokes, regardless of intention, that message is still technically being spread, and there are those who will agree with it regardless of whether or not the person conveying that message means it. This spread technically promotes that mindset. A similar example lies in the YouTuber “Pewdiepie” using a website known as “Fiver” to pay some people five dollars to hold up a sign that said “Hitler did nothing wrong.” News media took this and used it to claim “Pewdiepie is a Nazi”, despite him not truly expressing any actual anti-Semitic or Nazi views, and the fact that the fiver incident was meant as a joke. Pewdiepie also apologized for making the joke and recognized that he had gone too far with said joke. However, again, the idea presented here still potentially finds its way to those that agree with it. I’d personally like to believe that context matters, that intention matters, that every instance of controversy should be dealt with on a case by case basis to ensure that jokes remain jokes, and actual hate-speak and hate crime are prevented. However, I’m unable to think of any practical methods to ensure such a thing happens. I assume that McIntosh (based off of the list of privileges that she made in our text [FF p. 12-14]) would likely say my ability to have this view is due to my white privilege, and honestly I feel like there’s merit in that. My identity as a white male isn’t necessarily threatened by statements like “Hitler did nothing wrong.” Obviously Hitler did everything wrong, there should be no disputing that. But they’re also words that are linked to different intentions based on context and who says them. However, the message of hate is still there.

(Here’s a link to Frank’s Youtube description on his page. I will warn again, the channel does have offensive content.)

https://www.youtube.com/user/TVFilthyFrank/about

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27 thoughts on “Where Should We Draw the Line when Parodying? (April 16th post)

  1. I started to run over the 500 word limit, but I still have more to say about my feelings on this topic. I could talk for hours, so I’ll just say this. In a way, I’d like to believe so long as people aren’t actually expressing hate speech and are just parodying it and making fun of the hate speech, and those involved understand that and are not offended, then it’s ok. If people involved are offended however, then we should not continue to use such humor with those people and respect them. As an example, I have a disability known as tourrettes syndrome, and one of my friends whom I am close with and I know does not mean to offend me, will make jokes about it sometimes. Because I know he is not trying to offend me based off this, I do not mind and find it humorous.

    But I want to know what you guys think! Should there be a zero-tolerance for offensive and controversial comedy? Or should it be allowed in certain circumstances?

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    • I think there is a fine line between when things are okay and when they are not. I think it depends on the relationship you have with the person that you are making jokes about. If it has been established that it is ok to have that sort of joking humor then I think it is fine. I do not think it is fine if someone is instead making a joke about a group of people. For example, if a white person makes a joke about marginalized groups, then I do not think that is right since like there is not an established relationship there saying that these things are ok and so it then can be taken in a different manner. It is all about the situation

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  2. I found this to be an interesting article because joking about topics does get brought up and honestly I couldn’t say where the line is drawn. It really depends on the situation and the relationship the people have with the person as stated above. The issue becomes jokes are about joking about something they aren’t serious and if we said you can’t pick on any one thing or person then it takes away the joking aspect. That being said I also do think there is a fine line. The only solution I could think of would be to put a warning about the material, and if a touchy topic is being addressed then make sure the person states their real opinion. While this is one possible solution I can also see how people would argue that takes away from the experience and people need to be able to take jokes better, but people do forget these jokes are people’s lives sometimes. I know what I have said in this comment may sound confusing and wavering but honestly that’s how I feel about the topic itself, it’s confusing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think the topic of comedy in light of social issues is okay, but only if done right. I don’t think Filthy Frank or Pewdiepie are funny, but it’s not because of the subject material of their content. For instance, someone like Louis CK, who is able to perfectly tip-toe around a subject using a carefully-crafted stand-up bit, does it right. When jokes become lazy and comedy becomes too dependent on shock value, I believe it is worth re-evaluating your chops as an entertainer or social commentator.

    The idea of comedy being taken as literal is a very interesting subject, as one of my favorite satirists has been the subject of this conflict in the past. Stephen Colbert (at least during his tenure on “The Colbert Report”) had a knack for making everyone who watched his show feel validated, as his particular style of comedy made everyone think he was making fun of the “other side”, no matter what it was. The difference with Colbert, I believe, is that this was the result of an ingenious character developed for that purpose exactly.

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    • I completely agree with your observation. Stephen Colbert used his position and character to make a humorous commentary on society. However, I think there is a huge difference that needs to be identified between intention and impact. You cannot take away harm that your words cause with the phrase, “It was just a joke.” It is important to make societal issues easier to talk about though, and I definitely think humor does that too.

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  4. This is a very interesting article, because I relate to it completely. there are soooo many YouTubers and celebrities who hide behind this idea of “Comedy” and “parody” and are able to say extremely sexist, racist, homophobic things and get away with it. Their argument is that they have “disclaimers” and that it’s our choice to watch it or not. However, I think that’s unfair because whether these people want to admit it or not, they influences others; often very young people. It’s alarming to see that this YouTube has over 4 million subscribers. I really think tat there should be a limit to how offensive his content is allowed to be.

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  5. Youtuber’s can definitely get out of hand when trying to make a joke that ends up in a lot of heat or controversy. Although, I do not have any great suggestions as to what point parodying should be stopped I do agree with the other statements that as long as the other person understand it is simply a joke. Being a Youtuber with millions of viewers it is difficult not to offend anybody and in large it is best to avoid sensitive topics, but obviously people will continue to make jokes whether they realize or not that it is offensive.

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  6. I think there is a fine line between what we find as funny and what one may deem as offensive. But I do agree that it depends on the person, if they are taking offense to it. One of my favorite older comics when growing up was Eddie Murphy and I used to watch his old stand-up routines many many times. Particularly in Eddie Murphy Delirious, which was one of my favorites, he makes fun of white people. As a mostly white person, I never took offense to it and would laugh along to his stand-up. I guess it just depends on the person but I also must say that I believe anti-semitic comments are crossing the line. Just my thought.

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    • I agree , there is a very fine line between things that are wrong and right. Because although one may not have the intention to be offensive, depending on the person it could be taken that way. I believe we as a society need to be a bit more sensitive to the things we say because everyones sense of humor is not the same. For every 100 people that may find a joke funny, there may be one individual who is hurt by it. Controversy and important social issues shouldn’t be the topic of jokes in my opinion.

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  7. I am not a typical youtube watcher but I know these people against and think they are helping by making jokes about serious topics. I personally believe if you make one joke about something then you are giving everyone permission to make it a joke and not a serious matter. It is kind of like thinking the people who actually struggle to live in this world dealing with racism or sexism are jokes as well, not people but jokes themselves. There are people who can’t even get out of bed some days and we joke everyday about things like that or the whole I am so broke but still have money coming in from their job, while there are people who literally have no money and no way of making it either. But you know that is how the world is now, everything is a joke and some things are taken serious but most of the time they aren’t.

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  8. To answer the fundamental question “where should we draw the line at parodying?”, well there is no line as parodies are considered art. This means that as long as no significant laws are broken, parodies are legally allowed no matter how grotesque and disturbing as cracking down on them would in essence violate freedom of expression. However, art pieces ultimately make money by charging a fee for viewing or relying off of ad revenue, so if there is no interest or viewership, then such parodies will not exist. My opinion is that since there has always been a market for counter culture entertainment, there is pretty much no chance of the viewership of these parodies going away. This means that there is no real way to draw a line to stop them from being created since the creation of these is rightfully protected by the US government and the market for such parodies is not going away.

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  9. I feel like this is a long debated topic. How far is too far? Where should comedians draw the line? Personally, I feel like trying to draw an arbitrary line in the sand to denote what is and isn’t right to say in the realm of comedy doesn’t make any sense. Arbitrary decisions hardly ever promote universal social good. I feel like comedy is a craft that should be allowed to go as far as it likes in order to make the joke. That is to say, it is up to the comedian to use whatever he has at his disposal in order to make the audience laugh. I don’t think it’s necessarily a comedian’s job to fix the ills of society with his comedy, but rather to craft jokes for his audience that allow them to distance themselves from social problems by laughing at them.

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    • I agree with Chi, as in comedy I feel like it is really difficult to have a set of guidelines to follow in parodies. There is a lot of content in the world that can be humorous to one set of people and offensive to another, and ultimately it is up to the comedian. Hate should not be used as a topic of anything, but in many cases I don’t think that hate is presented as something to follow in these jokes.

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    • I know that a lot of comedians like to create comedy and make others laugh with good intentions such as helping people distance themselves from social problems. However, I feel like there are many comedians that justify blatantly offensive humor under the guise of comedy. Even in normal conversation, it’s common for some people to say something extremely rude or insulting and then quickly say “Hahaha I was kidding, it was just a joke, don’t take me seriously”, but the harm has already been done to the recipient. Although it can be difficult to know where to draw the line sometimes, comedians should try to be aware of when their statements become ridiculous and inappropriate for most circumstances, even if they may not inwardly believe the ridiculous things they are saying.

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      • I do feel like there is a line that can be drawn between conversational comedy and professional comedy. I feel like with conversational comedy it’s up to the individuals in the conversation to refrain from saying things that are harmful to the people they are talking to. However, when it comes to professional comedy, I feel like trying to police that space is too restrictive on the art that is created there. This view has its own issues since it brings up the question of what can be considered professional comedy but I feel like that’s a tightrope for comedians themselves to walk and figure out.

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  10. I do see both sides of the coin in which the nature of parodies, which is to expose some sort of idiotic nature through humor, and that parodies also still spread the values that it’s trying to make fun of. I do think that there is some sort of line in which the actually message of the parody becomes unclear when the irony because not flagrant anymore

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  11. I personally feel like sometimes there are just things that are not right to joke about no matter what especially if presented a certain way. Especially in the case of Pewdiepie, i mean really I don’t see how a sign “Hitler did noting wrong” is a joke in anyway especially the way it was went about it. Like you pay someone 5$ to hold a sign that says something stupid and that’s the first thing that comes to mind?? Also its so “matter of fact” in nature like its not like it has some layered sarcastic commentary. I mean I could just be wrong because I do not keep up with the youtube community much but from what I know this is how I feel. Also with the internet its so easy to stumble upon things by accident and out of a bigger context like with Filthy Frank even though his videos may be jokes someone could easily stumble upon them and not look at his profile first and feel like he is being genuine when he is not. I’m not saying parodies should be done away with but with communities like you tube especially the bigger the you-tuber i feel like they also get away with more than they should.

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  12. There are some people in the world who take jokes too far. They take something serious and probably have the best intentions to turn it around so that people can laugh, but there are just some subjects that should never be looked at in a humorous manner. Prime example in this post was the “Hitler did nothing wrong.” Hitler killed millions of innocent people in horrible ways, there is nothing funny about that. Also, holding up that sign to get only $5 does not even seem worth it to me. Why would you want many people to look at you and think that you actually believe that (and if you do I have no words for you) if you wrote and held up that sign for only $5? Go get a job and put your efforts into good use. Parodies of movies, music videos, and certain people can be funny and the creativity people put into making parodies is great, but there is a fine line between what can be deemed funny, and what under any circumstances is not ever going to be funny.

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  13. I don’t think it should be anyone’s responsibility to be held accountable for spreading “hate” if the people taking the message aren’t looking in to the context of it. Anything could be taken out of context and displayed in quotes in the news and taken as bad. Literally anything. The context and intent is what matters and if both are obvious after taking a couple seconds to familiarize yourself with who the person is then it’s a larger societal problem of latching on to things too easily.

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  14. I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I used to watch The Colbert report every morning with my mother. I found the character he played hilarious, and wrote off the opinions of my classmates who took him seriously at his word as simply a group of ignorant people who couldn’t understand sarcasm. On the other hand, even people who don’t understand sarcasm can do horrible things and cite comedians as their inspiration. As a general rule, I think that those in positions of privilege should avoid attacking those who do not have their privileges, even if it is done in jest.

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  15. Finding the line between being comedic without being offensive is what makes it hard to determine whether or not parodies are acceptable in certain situations. I’ve watched parodies like BonQuiQui and Key & Peele episodes that I did not find offensive because of who was performing and the delivery, but parodies can easily be seen as culture appropriation, racist, sexist, etc. I watched one of Franks’s video and was more so annoyed than offended by how obnoxious he is. At the end of the day, I don’t know if there is anyway to get around offending atleast one viewer, but I believe there is a way to make parodies more tasteful.

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  16. I have never heard of those youtubers, however, there is a limit to everything especially when someone is making a joke about serious matter and incidents that has happened in the past. I find it insane that people make ’’characters’’ to hide themselves just to seem funny to audience. Some people can take the joke as it was meant to be or they can understand it the wrong way and get offended by it. It’s up to their judgement but sometimes these things are actually taken too far which is not okay

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  17. I feel like often times people use somewhat offensive language when making jokes as a sort of coping mechanism, to acknowledge their own pains but make things lighthearted and help make others laugh. Such as friends of mine who have assorted mental illnesses and make jokes about them to kind of stay positive even though what they are facing is serious. Same as my female friends who make some sexist jokes just to point out the common sexism that happens everyday, but we all know it is a joke. On the other hand, parodying humor for social issues or offensive topics that do not immediately affect you or someone you are close with and can have acceptable banter between is pushing it a bit too far and honestly I usually don’t like comedians because a lot of them tend to be offensive even if thery’re making jokes, but if theyre talking about their experiences I think it can be okay within limits. Idk! It’s a hard things to make a base line for, but a very interesting thought!

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  18. There certainly is a lot to unpack when it comes to whether anti-semetic, racist, sexist etc. parodies are acceptable, and at what point does such a thing go too far. Just as you’ve said, the problem with any content designed to be offensive, ironic or otherwise, is that even though such jokes are meant to ridicule harmful ideas, they often end up doing more to legitimize them in people’s minds. There is no doubt in my mind that when Pew diepie endorsed that message, even as obvious parody, people in their audience who agreed with it felt vindicated. There is no right answer to the question how far is too far with offensive humor, but it helps to ask who the real target is. E.g. will this joke isolate bigots, or vindicate them? When utilized correctly, offensive humor can be crude, inappropriate, and filthy, and still challenge systems of oppression.

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  19. i agree with the post completely. this is especially true because it remains an issue that means some people still believe and or think that way regardless of how insensible we might see it and how much of a joke we can see it to be others in other mindsets just are reinforced by thinking they arent the only ones who think this way

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  20. I personally feel that satire and parody is a great device in which we can make change in the world. Of course there are radical people in every situation that agree with wrong things, however displaying how ridiculous people can be is a great way to emphasize and encourage change. No matter what we do the world isn’t going to be perfect and there will always be people to agree and disagree but the tools we use have to be impressionable enough to instill the want to change. Satire and parody always leave a memorable message.

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  21. I agree that there is a fine line between what comedy can be seen as offensive versus something that is a parody. There are certain situations where it is unacceptable to joke about a particular topic for example if that “joke” has the intention to demean, shame or belittle someone/something for superiority gain, it isn’t a joke anymore. If a joke isn’t meant to be taken in its literal sense and it is acting as comedic relief to a topic which may be touchy or controversial, I believe disclaimers are necessary but even in this case offense may still be taken. Context and intention definitely play larges role in evaluating offensive and controversial comedy.

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