Thursday, 25 July 2013

Same "old" joke.


'Old ladies' are a staple of comedy from mother in law gags to Catherine Tate’s sweary nan they are an intrinsic part of the comedy tool bag.

There is a vein of humour to be mined and there is as ever the no rules theory but what passes for humour is very much in the eye of the beholder and when it crosses a line, then that is at least open to challenge.

That’s why reading the Tweets of 50shadesofGran made me wince then fume and then cry because as their bio proudly states they offer

“Retirement home erotica for the “specialist enthusiast”. 

I see.

Oddly I'd seen their account through Ricky Gervais's Twitter timeline. His show "Derek" takes place in a retirement home. Although he doesn't appear to have retweeted them it's about as far removed from his Kindness is Magic idea as it's possible to get. In his show the elderly are dignified and their stories are told with gentleness and fondness.

I like the concept of kindness is magic. Having cared for my mum during her decline into Alzheimer's I've fumed at the increasing coldness towards the elderly in the UK.Often referred to as "bed blockers" by our government and neglected and ignored by too many, I like to think that kindness really is something that can be propagated.

That's why I find 50shadesofGran so disappointing because it's everything that kindness isn't. It's just a good long laugh at one joke.

50shadesofGran is not without it's other celebrity supporters.  It’s mainly innuendo with the occasional  photo of a toothless  elderly man and the tagline “fit as Fuck” thrown in for added "laughs". The joke supposedly is “he’s old, he’s toothless, he’s unattractive” so let's laugh a bit more and add “fit as fuck” because he obviously isn’t by that Twitter feeds reckoning.

The thing is, what ultimately is the point, other than to mock and make repeatedly the tired old joke that old people interested in sex is ridiculous.

Worse and somewhat darker is that it seemingly fits with the worst aspects of sexual abuse of elderly people which is something people just don’t want to think about much less recognize.

One of their fan Rt’s makes a joke about an old woman’s breasts hitting the floor. “Hilarious”? truly? Who doesn’t find the idea of old breasts "hilarious"? Probably quite a lot of old women, but who cares about them, because this is about humour which is a law unto itself.

Everyday sexism still applies to elderly women in fact it’s more important because sexual abuse of elderly women often receives no sentence, especially in the case of dementia because of lack of 'credibility' of the witness due to their mental incapacity through illness.

But that’s too serious of me. Let’s keep it light and funny because humanizing  the target of these jokes is picking apart the joke and the joke is allegedly funny not to be stamped on by "PC gone mad" people like me.

The thing is it all contributes to a culture where dehumanizing is on the rise. Whether on the grounds of disability, or sexuality, race or ethnicity, ageism, although popular, is just as worrying. (You can't laugh at anyone these days eh?) 

I challenged the account and naturally had my objections discounted. Nobody likes to have their jokes challenged whether about rape or racism or sexism or homophobia but its important to me. Jokes like this all come from the same fertile breeding ground essentially. Point, laugh move on.

Because if your humour  it’s predicated on the ‘hilarious’ notion of elderly people being a justifiable target then it negates the notions of them having  rights equal to the rest of us.

The innuendo aspect was also troubling in the aspect of elderly people because its 'hilarity of mistake', isn’t that funny when framed within sexual abuse. It's for the very reason of confusion that many women with dementia become targets to sexual predators. It is exactly the same thing as child abuse and I would challenge a “parody” of that too.

The claim leveled at my challenge was that I simply didn’t get the joke. I got the joke it just isn’t very funny to me.  It’s a simplistic notion which will be laughed at loudest by those who devalue and  dehumanize people, any people and when we allow this for some, but not others we enable a pattern of discrimination which ends with abuse.

The particularly worrying aspect was the mentioning of Dr’s. That’s often how sexual predators get the trust of elderly women. They pretend they are Dr's. Vulnerability on the grounds of dementia is heartbreaking.

Parody should always be about taking down the powerful not ridiculing the vulnerable.

Shouldn't we punch up with comedy not down? Against oppressor or rapists or those in power decimating the lives and life chances of others?  There are people more than happy to actually punch  elderly men and women every day for real.

Not everyone who reads the timeline will agree, many people will find it funny. Which is as it should be this isn't a call for a ban. It's just a call for a pause to reflect on why mocking humour is so necessary to so many.

Some people find laughing at the target of rape jokes and paedophilia funny too. Others like racist, or misogynistic jokes others laugh a lot at homophobic and transgender jokes.

I don’t understand any humour which targets people for things they can’t help.

Being old is one of them.  If the best you can offer is tired,  “toothless blo-job gags” please don’t expect anyone to think you truly care about the declining fate of the elderly in this country.  Please be funny we need as much humour as possible but deeming challenge as humourlessness is predictable and boring.

Interestingly the owner of the page was pretty offended by my swearing which is ironic. Whilst robustly defending both their own right to anonymity and their assertion that I'm the one with the problem.

Laughing at people is the fastest way to demonstrate contempt. There is much written too about rape culture and I feel that humour like this, must recognise it’s part.

When were all busy laughing loudly at “old People having sex” then we really aren’t noticing how far we’re staring to slide in terms of acceptance in my opinion. Jokes are one way to distance ourselves from the harsh realities of life and consciously or unconsciously on the part of the timeline writer jokes like those form part of a bully’s toolkit.

Let’s not give them any more ammunition. Yeah ,yeah it’s just a joke, I know that, as I say who doesn’t like a laugh eh? Not a call for a ban, just a request as ever to consider that in the “it’s only a joke love” world of ours, it’s more often than not those with all life’s advantages framing the rules.

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