I didn’t watch the Academy Awards, but it seems that people are complaining about Host Seth MacFarlane being offensive. According to several online articles, MacFarlane cracked jokes that were racist, sexist, and, well… whatever other “ist” you can think of.
I grew up in New England, which is where Seth MacFarlane is from. People in that area generally have a very caustic, yet self-effacing sense of humor. You have to have thick skin to survive and be willing to make fun of yourself. If you can take a joke like the ones Seth MacFarlane tells in New England, or even throw a similarly offensive joke back at the person, you’ve made a friend.
Generally, if someone in New England feels comfortable enough to poke fun at you, that means that he or she likes you. It’s odd, but in a place where having feelings makes you a target for ridicule, it makes sense.
When I moved to the Kansas about six years ago, I found that I needed to adjust my sense of humor. When I was joking with people, they thought I was being mean, and would be a little taken aback. I wasn’t trying to be mean in the slightest!
Kansan humor also contains teasing, but in a less offensive, more family-friendly way. It certainly contains much less “isms.” I’ve adjusted to that.
However, New Englanders are not racist, sexist, etc. We simply pick out whatever makes you different from others and exploit it for humorous purposes.
For example, one of my best friends, Rob, is half Native American. Our group of friends often refer to him as a “savage” and joke about how his people died because they lacked an immune system. My husband and I once bought Rob a t-shirt that has a Native American Chief on it, which reads, “I Have Reservations.” The Chief is holding up a finger like he is objecting to something. It made us all, including Rob, laugh.
And of course, whenever we make fun of “Rob’s people,” he makes fun of “our people” back. I’m Irish-American, and my ancestors came to the United States during the Great Famine of the mid 1800’s. So Rob will often shoot back, in his booming voice, “AT LEAST MY PEOPLE DIDN’T DIE OVER A POTATO!”
I also regularly get poked fun of for being a woman and a feminist, and am often told to “shut up and know my place.”
This is how we relate to each other, and if it makes you uncomfortable, well, we think you’re pretty lame.
“New Englandies” (as my Kansas-raised husband refers to us) also have a particular talent for calling people out when they’re being jerks. That’s why I didn’t particularly mind Seth MacFarlane’s joke about Chris Brown:
“[Django Unchained] is the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who’s been subjected to unthinkable violence. Or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie.”
Chris Brown deserves to be called out for being an abusive jerk. And, good on him, he took the joke in stride. I wish MacFarlane hadn’t dragged Rihanna into the joke as well, because domestic/dating violence is not at ALL funny, but seriously… what reason does Rihanna have to be back with Chris Brown? Most victims of abuse stay in relationships or return because they HAVE TO… either because they’re frightened for their lives, depend on the abuser financially, or think no one else will love them. With all the protection, money, and adoration Rihanna has, what in the world would draw her back to the man who abused her? Her decision disappoints me, especially since she has so many other options and because so many young women look up to her. However, she claims to have forgiven Brown and says that he is a different person now. I really hope that is the case.
All that aside, I don’t think Seth MacFarlane’s jokes were that offensive, and if you thought they were, perhaps you don’t understand his brand of humor and are being too sensitive. Like I said, most New England people make fun of people they like. And if they make fun of people they don’t like, they’re calling them out for being jerks.
And you know what? Sometimes people deserve to be called out being jerks. And by calling someone out, you’re either going to offend them or give them the opportunity to shrug and say, “Yeah, what I did was stupid,” and laugh along with you.