Week Thirteen: 2022

Let’s talk about respect and tolerance and being objectionable and offending.

At the Oscars Chris Rock told a joke. Many laughed. Some saw it as a compliment to the person to whom is was directed. She didn’t. Her husband laughed then saw her reaction and his mood changed. He hit Mr Rock.

Yes, the whole Will Smith fandango, he ostensibly reacting to an objectionable reference to his wife’s appalling auto immune disease of alopecia, in the guise of a joke about her being the next GI Jane, a character that shaves her head.

It has thrown up so many discussion points. I even heard one commentator say Smith’s actions were yet another version of toxic masculinity with him presuming to ‘protect’ his wife’s honour/feelings without having discussed it with her.

But here’s the one with which I’ve been toying this week. How far is it appropriate for a comedian to be objectionable and defend his joke on the basis that the recipient needs to grow a thick skin? Is every comedian, or at least someone who holds themselves out as the same, entitled to be as objectionable as they want in the name of humour?

It takes me back to my days in management, and an associated line of debate with my senior colleagues (largely but not exclusively white men) over their behaviour around more junior members of staff, especially junior women. The idea that something they may have said in jest/as a compliment/as banter could be so misconstrued that they were in the wrong often caused them some contrafabulations.

The point I had to get across was that it wasn’t for them, given the power dynamics involved, to determine what was and wasn’t objectionable, but that the recipient was the best, indeed the only judge. Intention, as claimed by Mr Rock in the context of his comment being intended as a compliment, was irrelevant.

I think that stands. We can debate politeness and taste till the cows are on their way back out again but here, had the joke been aimed at Will Smith, it’s offensive nature could well have stood. He’s as rich as a [this analogy has been deleted because it was unintentionally crass; goodness knows where my mind goes sometime] and, with that, comes the need to ‘take it on the chin’. Does the same go for his wife? Probably not.

But even here, we find ourselves in a bind. What of Will Smith’s colour? Could that be the subject of an egregiously offensive joke? Especially one told by someone of a different colour, especially someone who is white? Is that a step too far? Probably. Race does seem to be top trumps when it comes to a line that is uncrossable, as purported humour or otherwise.

Which brings us to respect. Ah, but how we all would like to receive respect. But the more I think about it, the more I agree with those that hold the unquestioning giving of respect is flawed. I have friends who have not and will never have a covid vaccine, who hold that the approach to covid vaccines is fundamentally flawed and those of us who have accepted them are no better than sheep. Of course, I tell them and myself that they are welcome to their views, but do I respect those views? And them for holding them? Fuck no. They’re total tossers. I will, of course, tolerate their intellectual fallings with charity. But of respect they can whistle.

I love the idea of free speech, of the idea that all debates are open and that everything should be capable of being discussed and debated. But I’m too long in the tooth to believe that is possible. There are subjects and opinions and actions that are so offensive that there does have to be some curtailment.

But if that is true the list must be both very short and regularly revised and limited. And those who prompt issues and ideas and categories to be added to any such proscribed list are by their very proselytising inclinations not to be empowered to curtail any such debates.

A bit of a heavy week, as you can see.

This week I upgraded my phone. I’m not a fruit phone person, ever since I gave up my blackberry. I’m an android, and this week received my Samsung Galaxy s22. All very cool and, in truth, I acquired it mostly because it has a pretty chipper camera. I’m never keen on confronting new technology, believing I am but a mispress away from rendering the same totally unusable because I’ve set the language at Serbo-Croat. However this thing was both intuitive and helpful and before I knew it, I’d set it up.

Yippee. But Sod is my guardian angel and, sure enough there he was sniggering behind his hand. The charging cable. This.

As you can see it is of the pushmepullyou kind, with no USB connection. And while, at first glance the dual ends look the same as the charging cable for my current Samsung, they aren’t. You need a different plug. Really? Why? And if that’s so, why not include said plug with box of bits? The phone came 52% charged. By the time I despaired it was at 13% and shrinking quicker that a Slimming world champion. I’m not good in these situations, inclined to phone up some hapless call centre in Bangalore or Belfast or Balham and exercise my range of sarcastic putdowns on the minimum wage intern they put up for evisceration by the likes of me. I resisted. However we will need a new dustbin sometime soon.

On the subject of frustrations, the Textiliste and I undertook a rather pleasant walk with Dog on the last mild day for a while. We arrived at the café in Dulwich Park about 12.30 and in need of some comestibles. ‘What about a bacon roll?’ I suggested. ‘Scrummy,’ came the response. So while she soaked up some sun, I tottered into said café to place our order. ‘Two cappuccinos and two bacon rolls please,’ I requested mine host. Mine host was a young man of little emotion and such as he evinced was of the mildly eeyorish sort. He pointed to a large board behind his head. I squinted. He said, ‘You’re too late.’

As I adjusted to the frankly appalling choice of font, it became apparent that bacon rolls ended at 11.30 as being limited by their very nature as only suitable for breakfast.

I blew out a disappointed breath. He said nothing. No sympathy, no ‘I’ll see what I can do sir’. Eventually I met his eye. Maybe he was shamed by his previous silence because he pointed at the counter in front of me. ‘What about a croissant?’ he suggested. ‘We have plain, chocolate and almond.’

I knew without looking that the Textiliste, had she heard this exchange would have been as stony faced as Jada Smith at the Oscars. I didn’t hit him. It wasn’t his fault. But really, in what world are croissants suitable as lunch fayre and bacon rolls are not?

Dog, let me tell you, was not impressed…

And finally, for those in the UK, I want to share a link to an organisation that campaigns to change the law in England and Wales to allow assisted dying in certain circumstances. Currently assisting is a crime and those who have a settled intention need to travel abroad, usually to Switzerland or the Netherlands. Scotland is progressing its own change as is Jersey in the Channel Islands. But not in England and Wales despite 80 percent or thereabouts consistent support in opinion polls. Ah me. I’m a member of My Death-My Decision, one of several organisations and I attach a link to join if you feel as I do. https://www.mydeath-mydecision.org.uk/

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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35 Responses to Week Thirteen: 2022

  1. Ritu says:

    I’m torn with the whole Will/Chris thing. It is a matter that can be debated for aeons!
    But, what want to know, is, did you get your plug???

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I sent off for one only to realise that the spare cable I bought last year for my old s10 worked on the new one; it was only the original cable that doesn’t. Grr… And I swing between wanting to let people say what they’re thinking to wishing everyone would just be a little more polite…


  2. Norah says:

    Nice phone. Hub is looking at them at the moment too. I went for a Z fold instead – replaces my old phone and my iPad. I’m happy. It didn’t have the charger either. I had to buy it as well. I’m a bit miffed though as I only upgraded because my old phone (2 years old!!) wouldn’t connect to the network. Before purchasing, I asked numerous times how much I’d be paying for the new phone. It was quite a bit more but I was happy to pay to replace two devices with one. Then I got my bill and they’re charging me to pay out my previous non-working phone! How rude is that! I haven’t phoned them yet, but I will. Grrr!
    No bacon rolls for lunch! What happened to all-day breakfasts?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I must admit to keeping my mouth firmly shut regarding the Oscars ceremony. I never watch them. I fail to see why it is deemed necessary to have a “comedian” to insult each and every person “of importance” in the room. Whilst it is important to have cultural activities and events to help make life better, the “stars” should be satisfied with their large pay packets without the need for being feted in expensive, hyped up, awards ceremonies. Let’s cut the crap!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wot, no bacon rolls!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. petespringerauthor says:

    I’m surprised there have not been more violent incidents when comedians tell jokes because many are offensive (the jokes, not the people) in their nature. While I like to laugh as much as anyone, I don’t like jokes that attack people. I’ve seen stand-up comedians who manage to be funny without slinging personal zingers. I think the line gets crossed when they make fun of someone personally instead of something more general, like human nature.


    • TanGental says:

      It bugs me when they think it’s funny to pick on someone in the audience. I’m there to be entertained not part of the entertainment…


  6. noelleg44 says:

    The debate over the slap heard ’round the world was intense in the US. Chris Rock claimed he didn’t know she had alopecia, and Will Smith did a three-day apology tour. I don’t think anyone can condemn violence, especially over a joke, mean or not. Unfortunately this sort of response is all too common. Civility is going down!
    Sorry about those bacon rolls – we’ve done the same thing – arriving someplace for a late snack and really wanting something only on the breakfastmenu. Bacon is good all day long!


  7. I loved the response. “You’re too late.” with a finger pointing to the board. I’m sorry you weren’t allowed to hit him/he/they with a custard pie. Bad manners deserve a custard pie

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I think idiotic Jimmy Carr got carried away with his thoughtless unfunniness recently, didn’t he, and managed to be totally appalling with ref to the Holocaust. They get so carried away with themselves they lose perspective.
    I totally agree – since when was bacon not allowed at lunchtime?! Much more appropriate than chocolate croissants, delish though they are.
    Did you mean to describe Will thus “He’s as rich as an over-chocolated brownie …”? eek

    Liked by 1 person

  9. willowdot21 says:

    Thanks for the link Geoff .
    Phones I am android too, I have done samsong but right now I am on my Fourth Motorola and I love them!
    As for Will Smith and Mrs… Chris Rock…. All I can say is thank God it was not Readings very own Ricky Gervais who was doing the honours🥺!!
    As for not getting a bacon roll well bollocks…. I am with dog!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. JT Twissel says:

    In certain states in the US assisted death is legal. I have mixed feelings about it so hopefully I’ll just drop dead. Those Hollywood A listers are too full of themselves. I don’t care if they all slap each other silly but on TV where children can see …. Smith should be ashamed of himself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      It is a personal position naturally and each to their own. Like you, I hope I go in my sleep after a rather good meal. And yes, Hollywood is the home of a lot of dross…


  11. Elizabeth says:

    I am left wondering what in the world is a bacon roll. Is it bacon rolled up? Is it bacon wrapped around a roll?(Our dog eats something like that. A chew stick wrapped in dried bacon.) It sounds more like lunch to me than breakfast. Of course I did eat fish for breakfast in Scotland but have never seen it on anything but a lunch menu here. As for Will Smith–I have no clue.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think “power dynamics” is your key phrase here. Humour and satire should punch up not down (if it has to punch at all).

    Liked by 2 people

  13. V.M.Sang says:

    You’ve brought up a whole lot of conundrums, Geoff. Yes, comedians should be able to push the limits, but how far? To infinity? Does it matter if some people’s feelings are hurt or offended? Comedians have always pushed the boundaries, many trying to point out problems, thus helping to solve them. And should I tell my friend that a new dress she is so pleased with doesn’t suit her, and risk upsetting her, or tell her she looks nice and have her go out looking a mess?
    And nowadays there are so many no-nos it’s a minefield.
    Do you remember the Englishman, the Irishman and the Scotsman jokes? Stereotypes all. Not allowed now.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The only funny comedians is those who laugh at themselves. Any other butt is cruel. The worst thing you can do to me is abuse my wife or invade her personal space. A slap would not be my chosen response but I would give you verbal what for.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jennie says:

    That’s a beautiful photo of your yard. I laughed my head off at the joke, “Did you her what Putin said about your wife?”

    Liked by 1 person

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