Prose Wednesday bonus edition: How comedy works


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Seanbaby’s latest column is up, and as is his custom, hilarious. He remixes Silver Age romance comics to lay bare their sexist attitudes.

The comments seem pretty divided between “That was hilarious” and “I’m so offended!” There’s also one fellow I pray is joking who thinks it’s an accurate statement of women’s place in the world.

Thing is, the punchline’s not in the insult, it’s in the tears, and those are the original art. Yes, it is offensive. That’s exactly why it’s funny. You can either scream at a horrifying concept or laugh at it. One will give it power over your thoughts, the other strips it of any threat.

Permit me to explain how comedy works to the people who are offended:

Step 1: Comic company prints a sexist story about weeping, helpless women for whom prettiness and a man’s approval are the only validations.

Step 2: Modern sensibilities recognize sexism is wrong and are horrified by its blatant socialization of pubescent girls.

Step 3: Seanbaby strips out the dialogue but amplifies the message to illustrate exactly what’s wrong with sexist attitudes The protagonist becomes so helpless a caricature she can’t function even at a basic level, while her tormentors develop such outright cruelty that they, too, are socially dysfunctional.

Step 4: Everyone is offended. Do you know why? Because he’s making fun of an offensive idea. He titled the article “If Classic Comic Books Were Written for Women (By Men).” Heck, you could even argue he gave you a codex with Tina Truth.

If we can recognize the disparities in rational thought at an outrageous level, we develop perception on more subtle ones. Why do you think there’s so little good conservative humor these days? Because to buy into neo-conservatism you have accept a whole bunch of contradictory, conflicting ideas. And that’s why the one really good conservative satire in the last several decades was King of the Hill, a show about an Eisenhower conservative dealing with hippies and other forms of liberal malarkey.*

The whole point of this article is to mock the idea that these flighty, weepy women were role models for success in life and love. It’s not a call to misogyny, it’s an innoculation against that kind of thinking. If you can’t see what’s wrong with sexism, you’re a troglodyte. If you can’t see what’s funny about Seanbaby’s presentation of why it’s wrong, sorry your funny bone’s broken.

But if you’re wailing about social perceptions and other peoples’ opinions, you are missing the target, and worse, acting like the paper-skinned heroines of these remixed comics. Don’t worry about the people who are laughing at it. Worry about the people who inspired it. They’re still in the world.


*This isn’t a Left vs. Right issue. The ideology is irrelevant, it’s an independent attitude that the ideology can never fail. It’s about swallowing whatever you’re told rather than keeping your eyes open. Eric Hoffman has some interesting thoughts in “The True Believer” about how the difference between a revolutionary and a repressive is basically which party gets to them first. St. Paul persecuted Christians before he recruited them, after all.

Politics make strange bedfellows