This film will offend you…but it’s still worth seeing.
by Martin Hafer
The new documentary Can We Take a Joke? will almost certainly offend you as you watch it. There are a lot of obscenities and tons of politically incorrect comments and jokes in poor taste…and some of them are bound to hit your hot buttons. For instance, a few of the comedians they interview I happen to strongly dislike. So why would anyone want to see a film that makes you them mad….and why would I recommend you give the film a try?
The film mostly concerns the recent trend towards political correctness and the rise in individual outrage and how it relates to comedians…folks who are almost certain to incite folks because they often deliberately seek to offend. Much of the film looks back to Lenny Bruce and his many run-ins with the police involving free speech. It then draws a parallel to today…though this free speech is not being suppressed by the government but by ourselves and our universities. When the film is making this argument, lots of very offensive comedians are featured…including the likes of Lisa Lampanelli and Gilbert Gottfried. Again, as I mentioned above, these folks say offensive stuff and you will be challenged to keep watching it…it’s inevitable.
So am I suggesting you watch the film because I want you to be offended or insulted? Certainly not—I want to live in a world where people are civil and treat each other decently. But the documentary brings up a lot of good points despite offending the viewer and think it’s important we listen and think about their message. Here are just a few of the topics brought up in the film:
–Where do we draw the line with what is acceptable and what isn’t? This is especially problematic because everyone has different ‘hot buttons’….so what offends you may not offend your neighbor.
–The First Amendment is not necessarily the same as free speech. How you can have a First Amendment and STILL not be free to speak your mind?
–We seem to be in a ‘gotcha’ culture where anyone can say the wrong thing and become part of the ‘villain of the week’ on social media. This means folks on the left, right and center could accidentally walk into a firestorm of anger and protest.
–Where is this all going to lead? Will the United States become like Europe or Canada where you can get arrested if you say something that is construed as offensive? And, what will the world be like if this is the case?
Can We Take a Joke? is a challenging film and makes you think about yourself as well as your own personal comfort zone—and this is something rare in a documentary. A good documentary challenges you or your beliefs…and this one sure will. Do I always agree with it? No…especially when some of the comedians they interview say that nothing should be taboo when it comes to free speech. That makes me very uncomfortable, as I sure would hate to hear folks making fun of rape or cancer. But despite offending me, it did get my attention and I appreciate that.
My advice is to see this new film…it just debuted on Netflix. And then, feel free to let me know what you think. If you’re offended, I certainly won’t be surprised! But by all means give it a chance.
Ironically, this film has no closed captions. I am hard of hearing and my daughter is deaf….and I guess this omission is actually a bit offensive now that I think about it.