So Grey Carter was talking on his Twitter about the concept of being offended by jokes. Here’s some of his tweets:
Comedians have a nasty habit of characterizing offended people as whiny crybabies, and I don’t think that’s particularly fair.
Being offended is good, it’s great. It shows you give a shit. It’s very cool to pretend to be apathetic these days, but it’s mostly bullshit
I will add that I’m fascinated by WHAT offends people. Everyone has different, often weird, triggers.
E.G: I’ve made jokes that utilize the holocaust, rape and Killzone 3, three of the most horrible things humanity has inflicted upon itself –
– but I am OFFENDED by jokes about the homeless and the mentally ill.
Now, Grey was using the word “triggers” to refer to topics that are offensive to us as individuals, but I (and I suspect others as well) thought of triggers that bring back traumatic memories and feelings.
I have some triggers of my own. And I can assure you that they can be very weird.
If you’re a ‘regular’ reader, you know I attempted suicide earlier this year. I wrote two posts about the attempt, totaling close to 4,000 words. A suicide attempt is perceived by the victim as a near-death experience, even if it doesn’t physically harm her at all (and it didn’t really cause physical harm to me, ’cause I got lucky). As a result, having memories of it brought back can be traumatic.
You’d think I would have the bad feelings come back when I hear mention of suicide, but that’s not actually how it works. I can hear people talk about suicide, I can talk about suicide myself, and I’ll generally be alright, if a bit put down. I can even hear “suicide jokes” — that is, jokes at the expense of depressed/suicidal people — and while I’ll certainly be offended, I won’t really be hurt.
But there was this one picture a friend sent me awhile back. The picture was called “electric rubber duck,” and I don’t want to describe it, so here, just click here. (Trigger warning, of course.)
When I saw that picture the first time, I literally had trouble breathing for a few moments. The feeling of terrified hopelessness rushed into me like a current, and I completely lost my composure. I had to close the image, close my eyes and wait it out until the terror had passed.
At that point I wasn’t “offended.” I was hurt. I was experiencing emotional pain.
Now, do I begrudge people for not recognizing the trigger? Of course not. I forgave my friend for sending me the picture; it probably had slipped his mind that I’d tried to do something similar to myself. The fact that he showed me the picture doesn’t mean he’s a bad person, but the fact that he didn’t show me anything else like it once I let him know the effect it had was a sign of positive character on his part.
I guess my point is that while you shouldn’t be afraid to say anything because somebody might find it hurtful, be mindful when someone lets you know how he feels about it. Understanding your audience is an important rule in comedy. And just remember that sometimes you’re not just offending someone; sometimes you’re hurting him emotionally.
The “sticks and stones may break my bones” mantra is bullshit, and we really should all understand that by now.