I’ve often wondered how much the “anything for a laugh” mentality that pervades a lot of modern comedy has in common with the “anything for a dollar” philosophy of late stage creep show capitalism. Let’s face it, the edgy thing in comedy ever since I can remember has been pushing as many buttons as indiscriminately as possible but I’m not sure just because something gets laughs means joking about it is a good idea necessarily. It should be fairly obvious at this point that this sort of artistic license has been turned against what a lot of the artists intended quite spectacularly. That’s jut bad sorcery.
I personally find my thoughts contorting into some fairly dark places in search of laughs after watching a lot of shows I enjoy. Your actions have consequences, and they’re not always even remotely what you intended. I’d say the only truly edgy thing at this point would be to comedically question the overarching philosophy of perceptual materialism and hey, this guy actually mentions that in this article. (from Advanced Dank Unicorn):
“What we learned when six women revealed that they had been sexually assaulted by Louis CK, besides that he is a creep and comedy is broken, is that humor itself requires an overhaul.
In the 1980s the threat of censorship loomed heavily over the entertainment industry. Between the policies of Reagan and the busy body mommy lobby comprised of women like Tipper Gore, actual threats to artistic freedoms became a rallying cry of artists to push back. And it was in this era that the comedic aesthetic that has existed to this day was cemented as the most virtuous way to artistic integrity.
The perceived threat against artistic freedoms during that time were traditionalism, puritanism, Christianity and misguided bleeding hearts who were almost indistinguishable from the puritans. So artists fought back by rejecting all of those sensibilities with shock and hyperbole; working from the examples of earlier pioneers such as Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin.
Through the art of comedy, this influence radically changed the sense of humor of its audience, and it spread out from there into culture in general. Being edgy, confrontational, in-your-face, over-the-top and wrong-on-every-level became the new humor norm.
There were always people sensitive to this type of humor, but they are the exception that provides context to the overall pattern.
As a result of normalization, people who employed this kind of humor at an exceptional level became top candidates for success. And with that sort of success comes the kind of vanity and hubris which often gives rise to predatory behavior.
Which brings us to now, when the greatest threat to artistic freedom seems to be the artists themselves; in addition to being a threat to those around them. And their aesthetic has infected our entire culture.
This is where we are at. While far right radicals pay lip service to artistic freedom and freedom of speech, they merely mean to abuse them to create the conditions in which those ideas would be threatened even greater than ever before. The threat is no longer conservative puritans, but conservative radicals.
Sexual predators and other types of abusive individuals are really no different than conservative radicals. The only difference is of scale. Where the politically ambitious aim to impose themselves on the entire populace for unscrupulous purposes, sexual predators impose themselves for unscrupulous purposes on individual victims.
So if art is to be progressive, rather than repressive or regressive, then it should always seek to challenge the conservative dogmas. The Reagan era shock comic is no longer a threat to conservative ideologies. In fact the most radical conservative pundits, like Alex Jones, employ its style. Every alt-right forum on the internet is dripping with the sweat and spit of rage-filled edgelords whose comic preferences are virtually indistinguishable from the comedic shift of the 1980s.
Rape jokes no longer challenge conservative ideas about decency. Now they empower rapists by dulling our responses to rape.
This is an important point for both sides to remember, that tasteless jokes did once hold a positive social function for progress. Just because they no longer do does not mean we must be in complete denial that they ever did. To do so is to weaken the bridge of reason and understanding that gets us from the old to new.
Not to brag, but I saw this coming years ago. My first real sense of it was the ‘rage face’ & ‘troll face’ tropes. It occurred to me then that edginess had been reduced to a commodity. It had become a mere symbol of status and identity. The devil-may-care anger, outrage and shock which had once been rebelling at specific cultural norms was now just apathetic, compulsive contrarianism reacting to whatever you got.
Internet culture in general has been predicated around this shock aesthetic. Memes and other tropes rely heavily on these tactics. And the people creating them and sharing them genuinely believe that they are being cutting edge and pushing back against political correctness, or cultural Marxism, or whatever abstraction allows them to take pride in their highly conformed comedic attempts, and gives them a sense of power and identity.”