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  1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Cultural Sensitivity vs. Cultural Humor

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by Link the Writer, Jul 1, 2015.

    Hello everyone. A recent thread on another forum about cultural humor had inspired me to make this thread.

    Specifically, how do you feel about cultural sensitivity and cultural humor? It's good to laugh at ourselves, and my understanding is that we tend to laugh about each other's cultures among friends. At the same time, I've heard of cultural sensitivity. Even a lighthearted, "Hey Aussie, your mama's a kangaroo?" might come off as exceedingly offensive to some folks. Interestingly enough, those who aren't offended will tell the offended to lighten up and stop being so sensitive about everything.

    I guess what I want to ask are two things:

    - What is the right balance between cultural sensitivity and cultural humor? When and how do you know when some jokes are appropriate and when others aren't? Sometimes, the 'overly-sensitive person' has a legit reason for being sensitive about certain topics.

    - Is it possible for someone to take their culture so seriously that they forget to laugh at it every once in a while? If so, why? Why do they forget to laugh about their culture from time to time?

    OK, I lied. One more thing:

    - Is it true that there's a mentality of cultural humor where it's OK if we make fun of our own culture but no one else can't? If so, why is that? The humor swings both ways: if you get to make fun of them, they get to make fun of you.

    'K, done now. :D Proceed. Also, if you want to lighten up the discussion with stories of your own cultural humor/cultural jokes you've told among friends, feel free to share!
     
  2. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    There are some things that just come down to taste. Something like a holocaust joke is in bad taste, and I can't think of any culture that would make one that I would ever respect, but when people in the rest of the UK call the Welsh, say, 'sheep shaggers' - to stop telling that joke shows how insensitive British people can be, cultural humour with no cultural sensitivity, at least toward the Welsh.

    I guess, though, there is no way to know what is appropriate or insensitive. It's part of Scottish and Geordie culture that you can't fully trust someone until you've called them everything under the sun and they've returned it. To people not from these areas of the North it can seem like actual aggression, but it's not, it's just friendly banter.

    Oh god yes.

    Because it's pointless, and actually really quite jingoistic if you can't try to see things from another culture's point of view. Doesn't say much about your skills as a critical thinker either.

    If you can't get outside of your own world, I feel sorry for you.

    I don't know.

    I suppose in theory you shouldn't get so defensive, but in practice people certainly get very silly over it. In Newcastle it's popular to call the city the worst place on earth, and the Angel of the North has become known as 'The Patron Saint of Scumbags'. But when Southerners say that same thing, Geordies get very defensive - and it's hard (even for me) to work out if it's in jest or not.

    I think it's tribal. Showing our lowly, evolutionary origins.
     
  3. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    It all comes down to judging your audience.
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think there's an element of punching down that needs to be considered. Poking fun at something can be a way of taking power away from it... see gallows humour, etc.

    So if someone from a group with more power pokes fun at a group with less power, it kind of feels like bullying - they're already struggling, and you're going to make fun of them, now?

    And this may relate to why it's okay to make fun of your own group - no power imbalance.
     
  5. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Something that might offend me might not offend you. But if I offended you, what would be the way to react to that?
     
  6. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    Tip: if you want to survive in this world, do not insult Islam, or the USA.
     
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  7. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Or Russia.
     
  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    @AlcoholicWolf - Never piss off the Aussies, for they are dragons and will eat you with ketchup. Om nom nom nom!!!

    Wow, excellent (and fast) replies everyone!

    @Lemex - I agree. Sometimes laughing at your own culture is a way to see things from the other person's POV. A way to see that, yeah, there are things about your culture that make no sense. It's an eye-opener to another way of thinking.

    In regard to people taking it seriously, I think some take it seriously (and personally) because they think all the jokes are directed at them, personally, not the wider country or culture. Admittedly, I'm guilty of this in some ways (the taking things personally) though I like to think I'm getting better at it. :D I'm learning to not take things as seriously anymore.

    @BayView - Concur. To make something a joke, it takes whatever power it may have had away. I'm reminded of jokes about cancer (the illness itself). By making that feared illness a joke, it takes away some of the power it holds over people.

    I do agree, it also depends on who, or what, you're making fun of. There's a difference between making fun of cancer and making fun of cancer victims. The former is making fun of the illness and taking away whatever power it has over us. The latter just makes you look like an asshole kicking someone who's already down and can't get back up. Another thing to consider is the difference between friendly banter (like what AlcoholicWolf and Lemex are doing right now as I type) and pure, mean-spirited drivel aimed to hurt someone from another culture.
     
  9. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    Oh I don't know, I date one. They don't seem so bad. I'm fairly open with my hatred of Russia with him.
     
  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's also the context for the individual. If someone has just put up with hours of pure, mean-spirited drivel meant to hurt them, and then someone else makes a good-natured joke, the person may not be in a place to take the good-natured joke the way it was intended.

    If people could stop being mean-spirited assholes, there would probably be a lot more room for good-natured jokes.
     
  11. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I know you like Newcy Brown ale (sign of a true man, that) which makes me really wish I could get you over here and see what Newcastle and Geordie culture is really like. You might find it bewildering, and at times maybe even offensive. at first It's very ... territorial, I guess would be the word(?). But that's just the lay of the land. It thrives on bad taste, and in-your-face-ness.

    Like - you'll often hear in Starbucks when someone has ordered coffee but hasn't claimed it right away, someone will shout their name, and if there is no response then it's very common for some random customer to shout out 'Right, who is the twat who ordered this drink?' or something like that. It's not meant to be bullying in any way, it's just the way people speak.

    You'll hear it in Scotland too, swearing seems to fit perfectly the rhythem and patterns of the Scottish dialect.
     
  12. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Exactly. I've shared with you all my sad tale of being cyberbullied in a history forum by a dude who spewed nothing but mean-spirited bullshit at me because I was American. Guess that made me super-sensitive to any joke about America, even the good-natured rib-jabbin' ones. :/ But no worries, I'm past all that now. Least I hope so. :bigeek: *dramatic Western guitar string*

    I don't think the mean-spirited assholes will ever stop being mean-spirited assholes. They get their orgasms by putting other people down and kicking them repeatedly in the guts. It's really up to the rest of society to learn to differ a mean-spirited joke versus a good-natured one and tell the former to STFU.

    Now I need to get ready for the Fourth. Recommendations? :p :D ;)

    Very interesting cultures, those. :) Makes me want to go over there to check them out. They seem to be very open about what they think, no-holds-barred. :D I might just fit in there, because I mentally replied to the question, "Wasn't me, man! It was someone else!"

    It would take me a while to get used to the territorial/in-your-face aspect of it, though. :p I'm more of a 'you stay over there, like way over there and leave me alone.' :D Of course if I'm your friend, I don't mind if you're quite in-your-face about things. Mind, that's just my own personality. Most Southerners here are all chit-chatting about everything and anything. Though just don't get the topic on politics. Or religion. We're pretty sensitive about those two things down here.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2015
  13. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Well, that's good news. :)
     
  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I honestly don't mind Russians. I remember once comparing them to the Saiyans from Dragonball Z.
     
  15. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    That is a very good way to put it, actually! Another example, you'll often see coasters and shirts saying 'No body is perfect, but being a Geordie is pretty damn close!' so yeah there is a lot of pride in the local area - but it's often expressed ironically, maybe making it seem worse than it actually is.

    It's easy to see where offence might come from, but a little cultural understanding goes a long way.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2015
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  16. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I think it really depends on the people you're sharing the joke with. I've read about cultural sensitivity in books that say culture X is known for making fun of themselves, but you yourself should not join in. Then I've had friends that don't mind because the joke was clearly intended for humour, and they themselves were making jokes, but at the same time, it is a risky thing. Recently, I've lost a good deal of respect for Jon Stewart because of his excessive and what I thought to be cruel portrayal of Southern culture. I'm not even American and I occasionally make fun of the South in a Jeff Foxworthy way, but I thought it was actually counter-productive of him, seeing as he's supposed to be truth-to-power patriot as opposed to a when-you-catch-up-you-can-be-respected liberal.

    Probably not the answer you want and already know, but using your better judgment and erring on the side of caution is the way to go.
     
  17. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I know it when I see it. ;)
     
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  18. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I'm not super clear-headed right now and can't put together a long comment, but this stuck out to me as something to mention.

    I think often when a particular groups gets a lot of repetitive negative comments made about it, even if many of them are meant to be joking, they start losing the ability to see any humor in it. I've mentioned before that I live in the SE US, and part of my family are 'mountain folk', and the combination of these two things results in a lot of jokes about inbreeding and general stupidity. Certain members of my family get highly defensive about stuff like that because they've been hearing it all their lives. It's not so much taking our 'culture' seriously as it is just finding the jokes made about it insulting and unfunny, I guess? When the joke stops being based in originality and/or absurdity or truth, but remains the picture the world at large has of you, it probably stops being funny.

    I don't know. I'm not actually a real big fan of how my 'culture' actually is so I absolutely poke fun at it. But I'm mindful of doing it around people who plainly have southern pride or what have you, because my intention isn't to insult anyone, just make myself feel better by ridiculing the place I live, yknow? Personally I don't really make fun of other cultures without basing it off something a friend from that culture found funny, but I have been accused of being ~too PC~ so there's that :p
     
  19. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this is probably a really important part of it. Good humour reveals truth; ugly humour obscures it. A good satirist can show us a fresher, better way of understanding something, even if we don't really want to see it. But ugly humour keeps us from seeing the truth because it distracts us with stereotypes or insults that are there just to make things funny, instead of to make them true.

    I don't have good examples for this, but I feel like it's true anyway!
     
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  20. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Grand Theft Auto might be a good example of satire done poorly as they rely completely on stereotypes and cliches for their jokes.

    I like satire when it shows me a new angle on something I've never seen before; however if it's just the same old jokes told for the tenth billionth time, and in a very insulting way, then that's not really good satire. That's throwing dog crap into someone's face and expecting them to laugh at it.
     
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  21. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am posting from a group therapy theory course in my psych program, which is rude because a classmate is presenting...

    The audience consideration thing is key to me. Assumptions around group norms come through when folks say things they can't possibly imagine would harm someone. These same folks have sensitivities and may be just as reactive, in their own way, as those they offend. It's always interesting to see this happen. It's often pretty wounded, insecure people who boast how thick skinned they are and preach the good word of how language doesn't matter, and those who take offense are really harming themselves.

    I've made lots of mistakes and will continue too, but I try to take seriously claims people make abour their feelings. To ms, feelings matter. I want to be on good terms with people and visa versa. Kindness seems cool and I try to practice it.

    With certain friends I say things I'd never say in front of others. That's fun. But there's deep trust with those friends.
     
  22. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think any aspect of the human experience is subject to treatment with humor. Depending on the subject matter, it may be tricky to do it effectively. The fact that some may be offended by the humor doesn't negate it's value or serve as a good reason to refrain from it.
     
  23. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    There is a really good debate about this going on over at OnlineLit.com around Shakespeare's comedies, and if the humour can still be funny in it (like say for example in Merchant of Venice) even if it is by modern standards anti-Semitic. It has lead to humour in contemporary society that is very un-PC like wife-beating jokes in Family Guy, and it's place. It's worth checking out, I wouldn't want to misrepresent the different people's views there, but it's gave me a lot to think about on this subject.
     
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  24. edamame
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    Those are all hard questions and I can't say what the right balance is, but I think its important to acknowledge when you offend someone. If you're going to make fun of your own culture, you are a part of that culture and have a unique understanding of it. You are not for example working off of prejudices or exploiting a minority.

    At one time, blackface was considered comedy...
     
  25. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly. For a very specific audience.
     
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