Wednesday 13 October 2010

Funny/Not Funny: Tyler Clementi & Why Context Matters

It's probably a rare person who actually enjoys being “defriended” on Facebook, but I don’t feel any shame in explaining how it happened to me recently. Albert somebody-or-other, a self-proclaimed Laughologist and inventor of Laughercize, with the click of a button, excommunicated me from his exalted circle. Fair enough: it’s his party and if I’m not invited, I think I can still manage to live a happy life. But the reason I was banished from the warmth of his virtual embrace bothers me, so much that I feel obligated to share it.

A few days back, under the heading “It is possible to have too much fun,” Albert posted this video

“pole dance no casamento”; the last word means “wedding” in Portuguese; another version I found intimates it dates from November 2009 (I tried to discover if it was a fake or urban legend at Snopes; it isn’t there, so maybe it is real).

The 1 min 31 sec clip shows a wedding reception, held in a large tent, if the beribboned pole in the foreground is anything to go by. The camera pans out over the tables, and we see we are indeed at an outdoor wedding, under a large white tent. A long-haired woman in a red sequinned dress, lots of back showing, dances around somewhat hedonistically, a wineglass in one hand, the large pole in the other. The bride, in the background, doesn’t look too amused (leading me to wonder if the entire deal has been staged, for some reason—like, maybe to garner a million youtube hits). Within seconds, red dress is dancing with a man (likely the groom); bridey looks even less pleased, being upstaged by red dress’s dirty dancing AND having groomy snatched away from her. And then the scarlet woman goes back to the pole, swings around it a time or two more, and...MANAGES TO PULL IT DOWN!

Mayhem ensues, people crawling over the grass, young guests comforting each other. The last image is of bridey, on the ground, being offered a folded handkerchief to staunch the bleeding from her nose.
Albert posted the video and “liked” it himself. I added, “didn't i see this in that sandra bullock movie '28 days'? actually, this is worse: in the movie, there wasn't a bloodied bride...moral: beware a woman in a red dress (i guess).”

But then I get to thinking about the episode, taken as a whole. And I start to realize it really ISN'T funny…

The rest of our exchange plays out like this:

Albert Note the Bride seems to be glaring at dancing woman as if to say "that woman is going to ruin my wedding." She was right!
Me yes, i did notice that...wasn't it because red dress started dancing with the groom?
Me but Albert, i fear anyone laughing at this has an unfortunate lack of empathy. and just such a spectacular lack led last week to the tragic death--by suicide--of Tyler Clementi.
Albert Beverly. You're way off. This is darkly funny.
Tyler is a completely different story. Don't know why you would connect the two.
Me it's funny only if it isn't a real wedding. if it's a real wedding, it isn't funny. why can't you see that?
Albert Still no connection. People laugh naturally at a lot of things. Some of them rough. This is still funny. Bride was not seriously injured…

And this is where Albert and I part ways: I feel the sight of a woman bleeding anywhere—much less at her own wedding, for God’s sake!—is not funny!

Not funny, no how, no way.

Days earlier, Tyler Clementi, the unfortunate 18 year old Rutgers student caught on streaming video having sex with another man (twice!) by his roommate and the roommate’s friend, had committed suicide by jumping off NYC’s George Washington Bridge as a result of this cyberbullying. The Facebook memorial page “In Honor of Tyler Clementi” is available here.

So, good people, I put it to you: is this wedding crashing video funny or not funny?

Funny only if it is a set-up, a fake? To me, conceivably. Funny if it’s the real thing—that is, a wedding at which a drunk or otherwise-overly-enthusiastic person pulls the house down and the bride ends up bloodied?

For the life of me, I just can’t see it.

And let me know if you perceive a connection between the pronouncing of this video funny and the astonishing lack of empathy—not to mention boundaries—demonstrated by Rutger students Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, also both 18 years olds. To me, it's all the same empathy continuum.

If you want to see the modern faces of heartlessness, here they are:


And, while I'm asking the questions and you're furnishing the answers, please tell me: is this the legacy of a decade of the idiocy of shows and movies like “Jackass” and its ilk--Beavis and Butthead, Fubar, Futurama, The Simpsons, Harold and Kumar, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Borat, Uncle Buck, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo, and on and on--a generation that can't tell the difference between a joke and destroying someone's soul?

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