This started as a series of tweets, and then quickly grew out of scope, so I took to this, more long-form venue for unsolicited edicts of personal opinion. Hope it doesn’t get lost in a sea of cat gifs (it will).
So, from my work I got tickets to see @kathygriffin at the Long Center last night, and she was lovely and smart and very funny. I wasn’t that terribly familiar with her, but I thought it would be fun, and I was surprised at how fun.
Firstly, I want to say that @kathygriffin is very charming to me, in many ways because of how obviously she seems to care: about queer issues, about her own career (and a congrats for breaking the Guinness world record for comedy specials!), even, in many cases, about the people she makes fun of—she liked to repeat, “I don’t judge, good for you,” and “I will march for your rights!” She’s sex-pos and inclusive, and she’s wonderful for it.
However, there is one thing that I take issue with, and I wish she wasn’t the catalyst for this mini-rant, because there are much worse offenders, but here we are. At one point in the night she made a joke about “LGBTQIA2,” accompanied by a throwaway comment about the “two,” and asking “is there three? I don’t know…let’s just all calm down with the letters.”
Again, to her credit, the line was “I don’t know, but I don’t judge, and I will march for your rights!” Awesome. If only all people ignorant of the issues of marginalized groups had that response. Good for you for having even heard of two-spirit (and if you haven’t: http://www.ndsu.edu/lgbtq/faq/ ). (A side note: it’s especially frustrating exclusion because as a term based in Native American history, it’s one of the few that’s inherently not hegemonically-white).
But here’s my problem. In a world where we’re still having issues even with the first few letters—Lesbian and gay rights are deplorably behind, let’s not even begin on bisexual and transgender…and I would say the majority of people don’t even know about queer, intersex, asexual (and its many shades), etc.—let’s say it. It’s not *really* that good of a joke to make fun of the fact that most people are totally ignorant about a group of oppressed and ignored people.
Frankly, it’s a lazy joke. It’s a throwaway that elicits at best a knowing chuckle and at worst, legitimizes continued ignorance and marginalization.
I’ve always believed that comedy has the power to be an intelligent critique of the absurd, the imbalanced, and the broken in our society. I also believe @kathygriffin, for all her controversy, is an example of that power and I applaud all she’s done. Her immense popularity is a testament to the power of the queer voice and vote in America today, and a capitalist/populist-based indictment on the glacial pace our society is moving towards giving us equal rights, acceptance, knowledge, and representation.
I would just like to see fewer comedians make jokes about the queer alphabet of letters, and realize it represents people fighting for representation, a core tenet of our founding as a country of freedom, if you believe in that sort of thing.
Because seriously, how hard was it to learn the alphabet? My entire generation is deeply familiar with the 150 original Pokemon, or every single phenomenally boring new Kardashian/Jenner friend, family, and for— but they can’t include a few more beautiful ways of being a human being? We live in a time period where we have the greatest privilege and ability to look something up that we don’t know. Give me a break. This is an issue of priority, and what information we value enough as a society, and as individual human beings, to learn.
At any rate, none of us are always right or always perfect, least of all me, and Kathy, you’re great. Let’s just all dispense with the lazy humor, anyway, and get back to pointing out the absurdity of celebrity culture.
(Post-script/side note: This isn’t the forum, but there are valid critiques to be had about what it means to continue adding letters to issues, the rigidity of labeling in our culture, the necessity [or not] of an umbrella term for the delineations of otherness, etc. etc., fun for the whole family [of queer studies graduate students]. Ridiculing their existence for an easy joke is not one of those valid critiques).