At Them With ThemBanes at Sept. 7, 2023, midnight
Redlettermedia, in an old review of Michael Bay's Pain and Gain, contrasted that movie to The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese.
In the Wolf of Wall Street, the RLM guys say, there's a subtext that we're ALL capable of the mistakes the main character makes. There's something in human nature that is prone to being greedy and overreaching. We are looking at someone who went to an extreme, but in a very human way that calls us to think about those qualities in ourselves. In Pain and Gain, the ongoing subtext (and actual text) is "Look at these idiots! Aren't they stupid idiots?"
Both movies are based on true stories - and I should qualify that I've never seen Pain and Gain.
But it does bring to mind the difference between portraying something or someone flawed, and mocking or laughing AT someone.
I remember disagreeing with someone who thought the show "King of the Hill" was mocking certain kinds of Americans. I don't feel that way at all - or at least, I didn't think the show was laughing AT those characters in a nasty way. There was plenty of humanity in King of the Hill, and the differences between types of people was portrayed honestly (maybe exaggerated a lot), but it doesn't feel like the show is RIDICULING those redneck characters.
I know The Simpsons has come under fire at different times for its making fun of various cultures or groups - the writers' defense has always been that the worst offender is always their own character, the 'Ugly American' guy Homer Simpson.
The Simpsons (when I watched it anyway, which is going back quite a few years now), was pretty hardcore with its satire, and told some ugly truths (again, very exaggerated at times) but in a hilarious way. But somehow, it doesn't feel nasty, like some other sitcoms and cartoons can be. Remember Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights Cartoon? I only saw part of it, but it was so nasty. If the main character gets some comeuppance (like his meaner characters usually do in his live action movies) it might redeem it.
Anyway - there can be a fine line between mocking something or someone in a nasty way, and portraying flawed humanity in a truthful, funny way. I admit I don't think about it when I'm doing my own comedic comics. I mean, I don't want to offend or hurt anyone so I'll avoid doing that - if it happens, it's accidental - but I'd imagine I've done some "laughing with" as well as plenty of "laughing at" in my attempts to be humorous in my comics. How about you?
Sometimes the line is hard to see.
Take care out there!
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