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'Seinfeld'? 'Friends'? What Is Funny and What Is Offensive? Is Social Satire Truly Funny?

Brett Nichols

Posted on May 30, 2020 21:06

3 users

A response to Millennials and Generation Zs' reaction to Larry David's and Jerry Seinfeld's award-winning sitcom of the 90s. While many shows of the 90s and early 2000s draw on discrimination, these emphases on bigotry are attempts at lampooning the social structure at large. The question is, are these forms of social satire funny or offensive?

 

A phrase I constantly hear from my friends when watching TV shows from the late 90s to early 2000s is, "Man, that joke could definitely not be made today!"

Whether it’s from a bunch of goofy frat-type guys hashing out some heavy misogynistic comments towards their female co-stars (like the show "Friends," for instance), or the usage of blatantly racist stereotypes against the (insert ethnicity here) person next door, some young Millennials, and Gen Zs (exampled by the youths on the REACT channel on "Seinfeld") find these jokes as immature and just plain dumb. Though perhaps, to their surprise, the audience who found the shows humorous in their initial airing would concur that the jokes are indeed juvenile. And that they reveal that the protagonists telling them are imbeciles and overall foul people.

However, what these two generations may not understand, at least from their portrayal on internet media (represented from the 156k dislikes on the reaction video above in comparison to the 14k likes), that this was a major point of these shows' success in the first place. To the credit of audiences, however, the point was not for a laugh at the expense of the people group being discriminated against, but the people who discriminate. In fact, the discriminated group is far more typically established as the most intelligent and cable characters within the narrative, in contrast to the protagonists' utter stupidity.

Audiences would never desire to emulate or have any association with the offensive characters in real life. The whole point of the protagonist's existence is to be a human trainwreck to laugh at, not a model to mimic.

This type of comedy uses a form of social satire. Its goal, while highlighting the negative stigmas in society, is to actually reveal how ridiculous certain societal issues are, like racism, sexism, and even gender roles. You could say that the protagonists of the show teach its viewers "how not to be a decent human being."

Interestingly enough, in the 90s the show "Seinfeld" actually won the GLAAD Media Award for its declaration of there being nothing wrong with being homosexual, despite its usually crass satire.

Should people in the 21st century take this content as offensive? I honestly can't say. Since a lot of the content within earlier sitcoms teeter on satirizing sexual, gender and racial social issues which are understandably raw subjects in modern society today, some viewers may very well cringe and at the sight of such content right now. While I do think that these sitcoms are not meant to discriminate but to distinctly educate on the buffoonery of bigotry, it is clear there are voices that believe these shows predominantly promote intolerance to the public.

In light of all of what's going on, I do think that social satire in tv reveals one thing, comedy is assuredly subjective. 

What are your thoughts on social satire on television? Is it funny or offensive? I would love to hear your opinions down below!

Brett Nichols

Posted on May 30, 2020 21:06

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Source: Deadline

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