Monday, April 15, 2024

I Guess I Have Joined The Ranks Of Controversial Humor Writers Part II

Hert Niks on Unsplash
Who? What? When? Where? and Why? are the classic questions writers deal with. For me, the most important is why? The eternal why? In this case, why did What We All Want to Say to That One Out-of-Touch Grandfather at the Playground,  a light-hearted consideration of male authority figures out of their element in a kid-centered situation (an example of using incongruity in humor, by the way), incite the heated response I described yesterday

Some thoughts.

The Nastiest Comments

The nastiest comments came from people who were registered with Medium under assumed names and had not published anything there. I have no idea what to make of that. Were they regular Frazzled readers? Were they parents or regular humor readers? Do they use that language with their kids? With their grandfathers?

Romanticizing Grandfathers

I also received comments that were not nasty from nice people who had nice things to say about their own grandfather experiences, which somehow seemed to keep them from finding any humor in what I had written. The whole concept of grandfathers may be very warm and fuzzy for some people, something they want to embrace and can't see anything funny about. The feeling seems to be that we shouldn't be laughing about situations involving a grandfather character. We should enjoy grandfathers in some other way.

Understanding Humor

When I saw the first insult comment, by which I mean the one about me being a bigoted, anti-male feminist who should mind my **** business, I thought, Okay. I don't want readers to see this comment and leave with that being the last thing they think about. So I will use this opportunity to show that I know something about what I am doing and that I have even been recognized for it in the past. After thanking him for calling me an anti-male feminist, I said, "However, "What We All Want To Say..." is not a feminist piece but an example of hyperbole--exaggeration that is not meant to be taken seriously. Hyperbole is often used in humor writing, and I've been known for it throughout my career. "Gauthier demonstrates a real talent here for humorous hyperbole..." BOOKLIST."

More and more of these comments kept coming. In response to one of them, I said, "This isn't a memoir..." But before long I just started saying, "Thank you for your comment." Because if people are so irate they are moved to tell a writer she is an ass, it's pretty unlikely they will appreciate being told they don't understand what they're reading. Perhaps it is also arrogant to try to tell them. And since I've already been accused of being superior, let's not go any further down that road.

Some Kind Of Ageism

As I mentioned in my last post, the subject of ageism came up several times in the comments I received. Which is a laugh, what with me being older than mud, myself. This blog is over twenty years old. Does anyone think I started it when I was twelve? But I believe there is, indeed, some kind of ageism at work here. However, it's not on my part.

One of the more thoughtful, less antagonistic comments I received advised me to punch up, implying that I was punching down in this humor piece. I had to think about that, because, yes, I do not want to ever punch down, meaning direct humor at the powerless. But after a couple of hours, I suddenly thought, Hey, how is humor relating to grandfathers punching down? Why are grandfathers powerless? The grandfather characters I created were not ill or physically unfit. One had been in upper management. One had been in the military. Why was this a powerless group that needed special consideration? 

The only reason I can come up with is the grandfathers' age. Were readers perceiving grandfathers as weak and inappropriate topics for humor merely because they were...old-er...old-ish...old?

Which I believe is ageist. I'm not ageist! You're ageist!

It never occurred to me that fit, healthy men my age would be perceived as lesser because of how old they were and thus require special consideration when writing about them. When I realized two days ago that this might be what was happening, I was livid. How freaking patronizing! Yesterday morning I was depressed about men having to accept this unnecessary protection from strangers who think they've grown weak and inferior with time. 

But the depression only lasted for about forty minutes. I don't stay down on the mat long. 

Maybe This Thing You Wrote Just Wasn't Funny, Gail

All writers need to accept the possibility that something they wrote wasn't good, after all. I can live with that and have for many years. I have lived with thoughtful critiques of things like my pacing and how I develop conflict. Now I will live with obscenities from people who feel a need to use them and name call when they don't get the laugh they were expecting from something I wrote.

I will not claim that I was not shaken by this experience. I ate half a bag of vegan chocolate chips over a twenty-four hour period. Vegan! But like the grandfathers in What We All Want to Say to That One Out-of-Touch Grandfather at the Playground, I am neither powerless nor lesser. In fact, I may have just come up with an idea for a humor piece relating to what happened these last few days.

Thanks, commentors!

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