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Quiz Society SRCC

Comedy and Cancel Culture

Intolerance is a debate, not some abject concept that cannot have two sides. While we continue to brandish “free speech” in a considerably woke third world nation, we have to understand how the evolution of the world has endangered the crisis of freedom of speech from the global liberal left. Merriam-Webster states that to "cancel", in this context, means "to stop giving support to a person".

The pop-culture dictionary, defines cancel culture as "withdrawing support for (i.e. 'canceling') public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive”. While every person, irrespective of their race, cultural background, regional history and religion deserves equal space in all communities in the world, it is time that the world recognizes that cancelling every opinion that you do not agree with, is not the way to solve issues that have far reaching repercussions. As a society, it is obvious that we have become less tolerant and forgiving to people. The urge to call out, criticize and lash out at any concept that we do not agree (or even comprehend in many cases) is concerning and says a lot about the world we are going to see in coming years. The most far reaching effect of this issue has been on comedy and humor. Often we come across content pieces on how “The Office” wouldn’t have been successful in the modern age. If one considers this thought, we must look into why The Office would fail to gather support now? Is it because our sense of humor has evolved in the past 13 years? Or is it because it is “more Gen-Z” to criticize foundational stereotypes over the internet?

This is immediately considered concerning but let us bring the idea of “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro” in the picture. “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron” is one of the most influential political satires ever made in India. Every notion in the movie about our economy, political system and corruption is exactly the same in 2021 as it was in the 1980s. However, no one would jump out of their chairs to cancel Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron because it targets a systematic problem (exactly what conventional humor does). Our problem is that we are intolerant towards easier targets and choose to ignore the conventional problems that have been strangulating our society. Using humor to bring out problems in society is an art. The fundamental cornerstone of art is that it reflects on something that needs the attention of the world in a way that pinches or hurts the establishment. When the political establishment is attacked (and I agree, they must be made accountable) but we conveniently change our stance when it comes to us and our issues. Some sociologists say that it is not that new and cancelling has been associated with ‘ostracizing people who don’t belong’ which can be seen in how the Beatles were ostracized over their religious remarks.

If you’re a comedian, you are outspoken. That’s the job. No one wants to be a secret, quiet, anonymous comedian. This furore over “cancel culture killing comedy” is entirely a media invention. In real life people have real problems: no one is getting “cancelled” for the jokes they tell their friends but when such a casual attitude is called out in public, by a professional comedian, the entire concept of free speech comes into question. And the biggest threat to professional comedy in the world right now is venues closing down, tours being postponed and comedians being thrashed, simply because they chose to speak against one of the sides of the political spectrum.

The global movement of Cancel Culture and the more Delhi focused movement of #ReopenDU have only one thing in common which is using the “some people” ideology to enforce an opinion that the majority doesn’t agree with. What people are actually missing out is that by reducing cancel culture to background noises in conservative debates leads to a ripple effect, where those actually marginalized have lost their right to speak in safe spaces and have been substituted by people who have clout in their head rather than integrity for the marginalized.

Through this piece, what I am trying to bring forward is that while cancelling is easy, having difficult conversations that will actually solve some core problems is tough and our generation has chosen the easier path to that problem. Social media has democratised shaming (we can all shame anyone we like), simultaneously expanding its reach, stripping away any mitigating or humanising context, and leaving a permanent paper trail of what might have been a momentary indiscretion. We need to realize that cancel culture often denies the cancelled individual the most basic of human opportunities: to apologise and to be absolved and its extreme toxicity is taking away the most basic humanity that is left in us, as a society.

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