By Noah Merenbloom
Welcome to my second reflection! I found our most recent batch of literature and film analysis particularly interesting. The parallels I saw between Dave Chappelle’s stand up specials, the guest lecturer on comedy ethics, and the current political and mass media culture made me question what is appropriate speech and if there is harm in being “too sensitive” or “overly PC.”
Dave Chappelle was the initial figure to open my eyes to this subject. I generally think of myself as someone who is easy going and rarely, if ever, offended by anything. However, upon watching the Chappelle specials on Netflix, I realized that, as a byproduct of my environment, I too had become an uptight, sensitive liberal. Dave spoke about how some things are just funny, even if the speech is not politically correct. Professor Robinson, who spoke on the ethics of comedy, also made me question if I was living an overly sensitive life. She, without hesitation, dropped curse words and did not stutter when reciting the great line, “Kick her in the pussy!”
When I compared Dave and Professor Robinson to what I was molded to believe, I was surprised to feel a tension in myself. It seems that the general message of the mainstream, liberal media that I am exposed to is to refrain entirely from politically incorrect speech at the risk of being labeled a bigot. Donald Trump often speaks without a filter. Certain moments of his speech could easily be labeled as inappropriate or politically incorrect and he is in fact, often called a bigot. Trump responds to these claims by saying that the American left and the mass media it too PC or overly sensitive.
So, how is it that Dave Chappelle and the Professor Robinson, who are both clear supporters of sweeping equality, tolerance, and generally align themselves with the political left, have the same views on speech as Donald J Trump? This troubled me until I realized that this is what makes Dave Chappelle such a genius comedian. The title of the first part of the special says it all: Equanimity. Dave has already mastered it. He manages to roast Donald Trump using the same language that those against Trump hate. The result is a show that is funny, thought-provoking, and can be enjoyed by anyone.
Now I must find a way to navigate the thin line between reckless and purposeful speech. By erasing the words that offend us, we may be missing some of the greater picture. This does not mean it is alright to be rude to people but I now feel that words are, to an extent, just words. If I balance my words with actions that uphold the values I believe in, then I too can live a life of equanimity and maybe even become a famous comedian.