Monday, May 12, 2014

Let's Get Offended! [May 12]

The impetus for this screed began some years ago. I was watching Norm Macdonald host "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live. A graphic popped up showing a newspaper headline:


In his characteristic Saharan drawl, the comic stated, "First time ever that 'Liza Minelli' and 'hip' have appeared in the same sentence." I howled.

The audience didn't. Instead, they delivered a big "Ooooooooooh," as in, "you really shouldn't say that about Liza with a 'Z'." Tommyrot.

I began to wonder, "Whatever happened to satire?"

I'll clue you in, folks. True satire has become all but illegal in our country. Lighting up a panatela in an elevator is less of a crime. Why? Because people get offended.

Who's offended? Well, nearly everyone, it seems.

TV shows now preface their naughty bits: "The following program contains language and bosoms that some people might find offensive." Let's show Chili's commercials with plastic food, lame Conan bits and whatever else. This is perfectly fine. But run a war movie where soldiers use guns on each other? That's offensive.

Getting back to satire, people often say, "SNL isn't as funny as it used to be." First off, it is a dictum that virtually everyone thinks SNL was at its funniest during the years they actually watched. Imagine if the show revived Belushi's brilliant Samurai sketches? An Asian uprising. Lawsuits. Protest groups. And most importantly, People with Special Interests Acting Indignant. Comedy like this is offensive.

Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood? Fuhgeddaboutit.

Think there's a chance that special-interest groups morph into People Who Try to Fix What Bothers Them? About as much chance as dollar hot-dog night at Yankee Stadium.

When some idiot cuts you off in a parking lot, you're not offended, you're annoyed. Or worse, but now the two words have become synonyms. No, the problem's even sadder. Today, anything a person doesn't like has become offensive. Brussels sprouts. Hoda Kotb. SUVs.

One time, a "fan" came up to me and said, "Admit it, Ace, the only reason you became a drummer was to be onstage and show off for the audience."

I was almost offended. Instead, I came back with a conversation-freezer: "You're full of shit."

This brings us to ...


We can't even indulge in a good, spirited give-and-take anymore. Because, sooner or later, someone gets offended. Then the whole megillah deteriorates into ad hominem attacks, thus dashing any hopes of a cogent conversation.

This doesn't mean people don't want to light the fire. They just run away when the flames get too close to them. Me-can-dish-it-out-but-not-takee.

"Ace do you like the Grateful Dead?"

"Well, I don't know them personally. I'm just not a fan of their music." Now, of course, this offends the initial speaker, because when someone doesn't care for one of your "likes," this is immediately offensive.

"What don't you like about their music, Ace?"

You asked for it."Other than they play mindless atonal jams that last forever, can't sing, and promote a culture that has infected scads of people, turning them in tie-dyed, drug-addled, patchouli-befouled zombies, nothing."

Then comes the name calling.

Another confrontation, this time with a reader of my erstwhile newspaper column.

"Ace I read your 'Wish List' column."

"Thank you for reading."

"Well you said you wish that schools wouldn't need metal detectors anymore."


"Well, I'm a card-carrying member of the NRA, and I was offended by what you wrote. I am going to talk to our lawyers about suing you."

A sad result of all this ...


A bunch of us were discussing the film Fargo, which I thoroughly enjoyed (you should try the FX series with a stellar Billy Bob Thorton, too). We were commenting on various scenes, the bleakness of the setting and Steve Buscemi quotes ("The Celebrity Room? Depends on the artist. Jose Feliciano, ya got no complaints.").

A woman nearby chimed in, "Well, I'm sorry, but I didn't like that movie. I didn't get it." I thought: How can you watch an entire film and not "get it"?

Instead I said, "Why be sorry for your opinion?" She had no response.

Perhaps this was mean of me, but isn't part of the vibrant repartee being able to state your opinion and then support it? Oh, I see, that might offend someone.

I'm sorry, but I'm going to keep trotting out opinions, no matter how many people I offend. The intent is to spark other opinions, get people talking, and, perhaps, even acting.

In closing, if I have offended anyone, you have my insincere, paper-thin apologies.

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