There’s a fine line between comedy and offensiveness. Ask anyone about a certain offensive comment, and there’ll be a mix of people proclaiming it as a horrible remark or heralding it as a wonderful joke. Where that line lies is a question that comedians have been asking for decades. And, now that society is pushing toward more politically correct attitudes, it is becoming more defined.
Yet comedians are still pushing boundaries in their realm. And that’s completely fine; comedy is supposed to test its limits and find that sweet spot where it can remain funny and not offend. But, currently, comedians who turn to offhand jokes no longer care about catering to the feelings of their audiences, and some are even trying to say that comedy is dying from political correctness.
In comes Nicole Arbour, a so-called YouTube “comedian” who has recently come under fire for her videos. Claiming her videos are “satire,” Arbour has filmed herself shaming girls who claim to be Instagram models, divorced people, obese people and, in one of her most recent videos, people who get offended by her jokes. It was her video aimed at obese people that brought her the most attention, and criticism. In the video, Arbour tells obese people to lose weight. While she specifies she is speaking to only those who are extremely obese, many, including those only a little overweight, such as myself, were deeply put off by her remarks.
Two days after her fat-shaming video, Arbour posted a video in which she criticized people for being offended by her jokes aimed at obese people, claiming that political correctness is killing comedy and comedians need pay no mind. But, why are these mutually exclusive? Surely comedy can push boundaries without alienating a group and targeting it.
That’s the issue here; most comedians don’t try anymore. They go for the racist comments because they know they’ll get reactions. Even beloved Amy Schumer, who is known for being a strong feminist and proponent of body acceptance, has made racist jokes and unapologetically so. What these comedians don’t realize is the impact behind their words rooted in historical context.
When a white person makes a joke about another race, people might be confused about why it’s automatically “racist.” It’s because of our current society that these jokes aren’t acceptable; even if they’re jokes, they’re based in racist stereotypes meant to demean and dehumanize. And, though comedians might claim that it’s their job to push boundaries, there is a line. Nicole Arbour is not fat; she cannot take on that identity and is making fun of fat people as an outsider. When Amy Schumer makes a joke about the shape of Chinese people’s eyes, she is doing it as an outsider. They are no longer jokes; they are insults that use racism to treat people as a joke.
It’s not right, nor funny, when people are marginalized for another’s gain. The line between comedy and offensiveness has not yet been defined. But it needs to be soon.
Cieri is a member of the class of 2017.