News Ian O'Doherty

Tuesday 23 September 2014

So, just how far is too far?

Published 29/04/2014 | 02:30

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Joan Rivers

As you may have seen, Joan Rivers has once again landed herself in the mire with a gag about those young women in Cleveland who were abducted and held as sex slaves for more than a decade.

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We all know the horrific details of these young women from disadvantaged backgrounds who seemed to disappear off the radar – too old to appear as missing persons on milk cartons and too young to have started their own family, who might have missed them.

In this case, she disgustingly joked that her own living conditions were so cramped that "those women in the basement in Cleveland had more room".

Cue insta-rage as the victims' lawyers demanded she apologise and the 80-year-old found herself in the comfortably familiar situation of being described as the woman with the vilest mouth in Hollywood.

And, true to her style, she has now shot down the idea of an apology and further compounded the insult by replying to the lawyers that she's a comedian and entitled to tell whatever jokes she saw fit.

Then, as an added kick in the teeth, she pointed out that she obviously wasn't mocking the women and anybody who was confused on the issue needed to cop on.

Was Rivers picking on a cheap and easy target who couldn't fight back?

Should she apologise to people who missed the butt of her joke?

That's the interesting and rather worrying development we're seeing in our popular culture, where comedians are censored, or forced to apologise on pain of public retribution, for making a joke that someone didn't like.

Of course, it shouldn't have to be pointed out that I was being rather sarcastic when I said her joke was 'disgusting' – it wasn't, as it happens.

It was a joke about her own living conditions and how cramped they were. Did she expect us to think that she was, literally, living in a dungeon in some degenerate predator's basement?

But in a hair-trigger, febrile culture where everyone now carries around their own fainting chair so they can comfortably swoon whenever they see or hear something they don't like, some people are determined to feel the delicious thrill of moral grandiosity that comes from being offended.

In fact, the reason excitable types are so gung-ho about expressing just how badly they have been offended is because it's their way of telling the world that they are more morally evolved than us grunting troglodytes who can still find humour in the dark side of life.

It's not just humour, of course, although good comedians will always enrage people.

We're seeing a similar trope play out over the current season of Game Of Thrones and that rape scene.

As soon as last week's episode aired, Twitter was aflame with condemnation from people who expressed their amazement that an incestuous, homicidal couple who torture and kill for fun could engage in what has been described as 'a new low' for the programme.

Someone from a group called Cork Feminista was quick to purse her lips and point out that "the scene lasts approximately one minute, 30 seconds ... within that time frame Cersei asks Jaime to stop '11' times. Even though Jaime is repeatedly asked to stop, he ignores the request and continues to rape her".

I don't know about you, but I didn't bother to time the scene and I certainly have better things to be doing than counting the number of times Cersei protested. But it did remind me of those American religious types who go on crusades against pornography and nudity in movies and painstakingly pore over offending moments so they can alert their flock to just when the scene takes place.

But, unlike those who take offence at Joan Rivers and a gag, there is one question that all those who complained about GoT seem to have forgotten – has there ever been a rape scene which wasn't disturbing and upsetting?

After all, isn't that the point?

Maybe I'm getting sensitive in my old age, but it's hard to imagine a rape scene being done tastefully.

THE PUNISHMENT WASN'T ENOUGH!

I've always thought that Celine Dion only exists for one reason – to immediately separate those of us who love music from those of us who love Celine Dion.

After all, just think of the endless hours, the dates and dinners you might waste on someone before they crack and confess that they like the Canadian warbler? That's a deal breaker, if ever there was one.

Now a former window cleaner from Kent, Gareth Davis, has had all his sound equipment – from stereo to iPod to TV – removed by the local council because of persistent complaints that he "repeatedly played Celine Dion too loudly".

Who the hell do the jobsworths on that council think they are, to decide when something is too loud?

It's actually very clear – playing Celine Dion should be immediate grounds for the confiscation of all your gear, regardless of the volume.

Now that's a form of zero tolerance we could all respect.

Things that don't go bump in the night

Noted intellect Vogue Williams has obviously decided that pretending to be a DJ just ain't enough and is planning to explore the afterlife in a programme called, with admirable efficiency, Vogue Does The Afterlife.

Well, while she's nosing around with the long deceased, maybe she can find Brian McFadden's career.

Just a thought.

Irish Independent

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