Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why it isn't funny

Club 166 has drawn our attention to an offensive skit put on by Saturday Night Live, and now showcased on NBC's website. The fact that people find this funny is very disturbing. This isn't laughing with someone (such as The Birdcage might be to the gay community). This SNL skit is nothing but pure mean. 100% pure mean. If you think something this mean is funny, all I can say is, wait until this kind of meanness is directed at you.

Even though Joey stayed home from school today with his cough, we went ahead and had OT. It's amazing how much work my boys have done in the last few years. Andy's OT saw us there, so she fetched the results from his latest eval and sat down with me to look at it. He's gone from moderate deficits in motor control and sensory integration, to being fully functional in the classroom and displaying normal-range motor skills in our year of OT. We have a number of strategies for dealing with the remaining sensory issues. We are considering having him in a group OT setting over the summer, but for all intents and purposes, he's discharged. How's them apples?

Around the corner came a friend of ours from school. His mom is big in the disability community around here. He's in middle school now. He's come a long way; he asks and answers questions now, even though his speech pattern consists of rises and falls of inflection that give his speech and eerie, sing-song sound, he does speak with good control of language. He flapped his hands happily to see his mom in the waiting room. He had come out to get some water, and the OT aide came with him to guide him over to the sink, where he got his own water, though it took some prompting and a few tries. A sing-song stream of talk on his favorite subject accompanied the process, then stopped abruptly when it was time to return to the session.

I thought of that SNL skit, and realized, with a deep sense of grief and anger, that people who think that skit is funny, probably will think this child is funny. And stupid. And not worth knowing.

And how wrong they are. The child has problems with social behavior and cues, but his ability to read and do math are amazing. Listening to his knowledge on his favorite topics is like listening to a living dissertation. He tells jokes- good ones. He has his own way of doing things, many very inventive ways of getting around his own motor skill difficulties. He's a good, smart, hard-working kid. To think of him as the butt of jokes because of his challenges just makes me see red.

Joey comes out, and I know he will also be facing those people who think mean is funny. He tilts his head, smiling as he jogs in a tight circle while his OT tells me about the session. He shows me the pumpkin he drew, a beautiful orange jack-o-lantern, with "Jack-o-lantern" written in his blocky letters on the back. I have a first grader who can spell "headphones" and "smudge" and "cheeseburger", who can read on a third-grade level, who can add three numbers together- but he is still considered by some people to be a joke. Something to be scorned, laughed at, put down.

Then they tell me to "get over it."

I don't think so.


Club 166 said...

Thanks for going over there and commenting.

I know that this isn't the "Ransom Notes" campaign, and I realize that it might be only making fun of "ugly people" instead of disabled people, but it still bugs me a lot.


kristi said...

Great post...people just don't have a freaking clue. They are missing out. My own FAMILY is missing out on my beautiful son. It makes me ill how selfish and mean people can be!

Joeymom said...

Ugly people? Making her move differently? Talk about something that to the other characters appeared inappropriate or off-topic? Then having her trying to catch the bubbles during the exit? They may have known better than to refer to the character as a retard, but the meaning was plain enough.

abfh said...

Not funny at all, however it was intended.

I have a blog award for you.

Unknown said...

They don't deserve to know someone as good as you and your son.

Stuart said...

*sigh* It's Saturday Night Live, fer chrissakes. They do some hard-hitting political and social satire, and then they do some stuff that's just silly. You may fine it funny, you may not... that's just how comedy is.

Personally, I thought the skit was hilarious and laughed my butt off. This may be a case where you see something and relate it to your own personal situation. I didn't think it was about retarded people at all. Was "The Coneheads" about physically disabled people??

Joeymom said...

Perhaps you ought to watch the skit again. And perhaps go read on disabilities such a Asperger's Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, apraxia, alopecia, phocomelia, etc. I can tell you that the older kids at therapy aren't amused with this skit- and none of the parents are, either. We've already had a child teased with a reference to this skit.

These kids work hard, and "humor" like this belittles them. Perhaps we ought to just put on new skits and blackface and laugh? People used to think it was really hilarious.

Stuart said...

I get it, you didn't find it funny. I did watch it again, and honestly I laughed out loud again. I almost feel bad about finding it funny, knowing that you found it offensive.

But... I don't know how to put this into words. This skit was NOT about people with Asperger's, Tourette's, etc. I understand where you're coming from. You're really sensitive to these things. But the fact that the fictitious woman in this comedy skit shares characteristics with people who have these disorders, does not mean that she has these disorders herself, or that the intention of the skit is to make fun of people with these disorders.

The skit is like, there are four sisters, and three of them are "normal" and one of them is a weirdo. Now, you can say, "Some people might say my kid is a weirdo too, would you want people making fun of him," and the answer is no. But again, that's not what this skit is about. I hear where you're coming from though.

(jeez, those little doll arms were hilarious. and when the sisters sang, "with my husband... with my fiance..." and she sang, "with my by myself", I almost peed myself.) :-)

Joeymom said...

It was about poking fun at people who are "weird." "Different." "Ugly." "Inappropriate." People who do not meet expectations for society, in a frame of poking fun at "sister groups." Three of the sisters are "normal." The other one is... "not normal." Guess what? Most of my friends have kids who fall into the "not normal." We don't find laughing AT them funny at all.

This is saying "well, this character shares characteristics we find in negative stereotypes of [group of your choice], but they never directly say the person is [group of your choice], so it isn't really making fun of them."

Um.... that makes no sense. Try this: a character in a painting is wearing a toga, sports a halo, stands in a sunbeam and has his arms outstretched. Then you saying, "well, this is my Uncle Charlie- no reference to Jesus at all!"

Stuart said...

Well, no... If you want to use examples, it's more like saying that any character in a painting who stands with his or her arms outstretched is a Christ figure. To a devout Christian, perhaps seeing anyone standing with their arms outstretched DOES call to mind Jesus-- but that's because that's where their minds are, not because that's the intent of the painting. Jesus doesn't hold a monopoly on the arms-outstretched pose. Similarly, your life is centered around your kids and the challenges faced by those with autism and other disorders. So when you see something like the SNL skit, you see it as representative of autism, Asperger's, etc. I think that's you bringing your personal experience to the situation. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Your bigger issue, about comedy based around those who are "weird" or different... well, sometimes people who are different ARE funny. That doesn't mean that everyone who is different is funny, or that we should laugh at or disparage everyone who's different. But sometimes things are just funny, and it's not intended to make fun of anyone. If you didn't find the SNL skit funny, that's just the nature of comedy, people find different things funny.

Joeymom said...

Yes, the Christ figure is a cultural figure.

Most people in the culture- even if they are not Christian- recognize the iconography.

But I've already made further comment about this issue in another post to clarify my position and outlook. I'm not black, but I know an inappropriate Topsy joke when I see one. I'm not gay, but I know when someone is poking fun at gay people inappropriately. I'm not Jewish, but I don't condone Jew-jokes. I do my best to be aware, or make myself aware when something is pointed out to me as potentially disrespectful or offensive to my friends.

Stuart said...

Of course Christ is a cultural figure. But that doesn't mean that every time someone has their arms outstretched, that it's a reference to Jesus. To a devout Christian, whose life revolves around thinking about Jesus, of course many things will seem to be referring to Jesus, even when they're not. I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

(I don't even know what a Topsy is.)

Joeymom said...

But there was more to that image that "arms outstretched." Go look at the description again.
Go look at Goya's Third of May, 1808- and the Spanish martyr being compared to a Christ figure in visual vocabulary.

You have to look at ALL of the clues. And there were LOTS of clues in the SNL skit to make it clear what they were laughing at. It sent a clear message to us.

But then, we weren't the intended audience, were we? It was meant for people ignorant enough of the challenges people face to laugh at someone with challenges- instead of with them.