Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

The Myth of Political Correctness

Political Correctness is the bugaboo of many an idiot.  It’s a term that’s been thrown around by idiots for a long time in order to raise the creeping concern that somewhere, crafty sneaky liberals were going to make you listen to their opinions!  After which, of course, you would be helpless to begin taking bonghits out of a VW van in between patchouli baths and tie-dye parties.

The people who raise the specter of political correctness are comedians.  Most recently, it includes comedians Jerry Seinfeld and John Cleese, both of whom I consider to be comedy legends, but both of whom have in these exchanges betrayed themselves as either morons of the highest order, or craven cowards.  Dearie me!  I told a joke that I knew was offensive to people, and some people were offended!  Can someone loan me some pearls?  For I must clutch them!

Meanwhile, Deadpool opened to a $132M opening weekend.  It was vulgar.  It was offensive.  It was a superhero movie with a pegging scene. It was also a wonderful, wonderful movie.  And I’m glad it was made.  And I’m also glad they made it with the R rating and ignored idiots like this schmuck.  The results were so good that they’re now talking about giving us a Wolverine that actually uses his claws. Which is awesome.

We’re just a few years away from no one being able to say ‘shit’ on television.  It was considered a big fucking deal when Newhart showed a married couple in bed.  Lenny Bruce was arrested for doing comedy 50 years ago – and now Seinfeld won’t play campuses because he might hear a couple boos.  Psycho was almost censored because it showed a flushing toilet.  Now we have the Saw franchise. NWA was arrested when they played ‘Fuck the Police’ in Detroit.   Today, law enforcement wouldn’t bat an eye at that concert.  Back in the day, Elvis Presley got in trouble for pelvic thrusting.  MTV is pretty much filled with the thrusting of pelvises – and so much more – well, in those rare instances they still show music videos.

Today, countless comedians dare to tackle ‘politically correct’ topics, such as Louis CK discussing why some words are considered bad.  Or Sarah Silverman, who makes rape jokes a core part of her act.  I’m sure that some people are offended by their acts.  Or Amy Schumer’s whole slut schtick.  Or, um, a lot of the Chapelle Show or Chris Rock’s standup act.    The trick is to not care.

I grew up listening to and loving Sam Kinison, Bill Hicks and Denis Leary. My friends also listened to Andrew Dice Clay – I didn’t care for him, but man did he sell a lot of CDs in my dorm. At no point did these guys think ‘no one should be offended by my humor’. Hell, they REVELLED in pushing those boundaries. If no one was offended, they would have thought they were doing it wrong.

Cut to the real world, modern day.  GTA V is the top video game ever made, not just in sales but in critical approval.  South Park and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia still command solid audiences for saying ‘fuck you’ to anyone offended by what they have to say.  The Game of Thrones gives no shits that a segment of their population wishes it was a little less of a rape-a-thon.  And Deadpool.  Fucking glorious Deadpool. Clearly, content creators who don’t want to toe the line of political correctness are doing whatever the fuck they want to do as artists, and are reaping huge benefits from it if they do it well.

But people are going to get the vapors because they posted something they knew was offensive to some on a message board, and some people were offended?  The truth is not that political correctness is problem – it’s not.  The truth is that these people are just as thin-skinned as the SJW demons they have imagined in their heads.


  1. I do box office analysis and one of the things that you notice is comedies rarely translate well into other languages and especially other cultures. An explosion will be appreciated by all cultures almost the same, but some jokes are impossible to translate. Even when countries speak the same language, their humor won’t work. (There are films that are just “too British” to find a mainstream audience here.)

    Here’s the thing that some of these comedians don’t understand. Cultures change and was considered funny changes with it. . What was funny when they were at their peak is no longer funny, because the culture has moved on and they are stuck in the past. Attacking PC culture is just easier than admitting you’ve grown old.

    I’d post a link to Grampa Simpson from “Homerpalooza”, but that might reveal how out of “it” I am.

    • Eh, the “political correctness” bit on college campuses is a bit different. Some have bans on stuff that might make people feel uncomfortable or “unsafe.” If you don’t have enough good material in that category, why would you ever go to a college campus for a stand up performance?

      • the problem is “uncomfortable.” and people think it’s essentially morally wrong for them to demand the act change for essentially political reasons.

        • Damion Schubert

          February 19, 2016 at 7:19 am

          You can perform uncomfortable stuff in most cases. You’re just going to get booed, unless you manage to use that uncomfortable material in a smart way, preferably one that punches up instead of down.

          People who would deny the audience the right to be offended are, subtly, trying to stymie the free speech of that audience.

  2. Yeah

    > But people are going to get the vapors because they posted something they knew was offensive to some on a message board, and some people were offended?

    That’s exactly what people are upset about. Not the no platforming, not the firings, not the public shamings, it’s message boards.

    What a huge piece of shit you have stuck in your head. Stop fucking the goat.

    • Damion Schubert

      February 18, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      I laugh at these pitiful mewlings you call a response.

      Free speech does not grant you a platform. Private companies are more than well within their rights to decline to publish or appear to endorse speech for any reason, particularly speech they find to be hateful, abusive, or likely to drive away other members of their community.

      I’ve yet to see a ‘P.C’ related firing that wasn’t pretty much justified on its face, such as throwing around racial epithets with your employer’s name in your twitter handle. However, I’ve seen plenty of gamergators and similar reactionaries try to get journalists and game developers fired for their opinions.

      Gamergators and similar reactionaries complaining about ‘public shaming’ when they led the slut shaming lynch mob behind Eron Gjoni is pretty much par for the course in terms of hypocrisy. Most of what people call ‘public shaming’ is just commentary. I’ve seen Tauriq Moosa’s article about Witcher 3 called public shaming – he also called it one of the best video games he’s ever played. Describing social criticism as public shaming is just being a pathetically thin-skinned bully.

      In short, I do hope you respond more with more details and delightful opinions, because I do appreciate humor in my life.

  3. I think (super controversial comedian (but not really)) Anthony Jeselnik nailed it here: http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/10/interview-anthony-jeselnik-on-thoughts-and-prayers.html

    Paste: With that, how do you feel about all these conversations going on with people debating political correctness in comedy and with people like Jerry Seinfeld saying they won’t perform at colleges because of the politically correct atmosphere there? Are you seeing that as well?

    Jeselnik: I see it and I welcome the challenge. Anyone who complains about PC culture is lazy and I think that it’s my goal to kind of get through that obstacle course. I like doing colleges because it’s a challenge. How can I get these kids, who are so PC, to laugh at these things? I want it to be like that. I don’t want a bunch of gross old men in the back smoking cigars saying they need more racist stuff. That sucks. So I think anyone who’s complaining about PC doesn’t want to work that hard on the jokes.

  4. Except Chapelle, Schumer and Rock have also made similar comments to Seinfeld and Cleese. Hell, even Tina Fey refuses to now discuss her comedy on these terms anymore. Mere days before you wrote this, Stephen Fry was driven off Twitter over what you’d term Political Correctness, though I’m personally not all that fond of the term.

    Dressing it up as the old ‘Oh, you just don’t want to be called a bigot’ or the equally lazy ‘you just don’t want to admit you’ve grown irrelevant’ ignores the cultural shift where the parts of the left has discovered what the right learnt during the 90’s and the fox years. There’s simply more power in being loudly offended than being loudly offensive. And since comedy and satire is built around the latter, even in it’s mildest form, there just fundamentally isn’t as much space for it as there used to be except for the loud proclamation of bad things being bad. You’ve ended up with the absolutely odious ‘Good Comedy Punches Up’ being parroted by people who are really damn sure they should be the one to decide where up is. It’s not even that people are being offended. They can be offended, it’s their right. It’s that they’re wanting some public bleeding from whoever they’re offended by.

    What you’re effectively offering here is a ‘Because the president is black, racism is over argument.’ my concern isn’t for the South Parks you have now. It’s that you won’t be getting any South Parks or Game of Thrones or whatever in the future.

  5. On the contrary That’s Not Funny (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phXwtz12_Ew) details rather thoroughly the damage that ‘Political Correctness’ has done in the past, and can do in the future.

  6. parts of the left has discovered what the right learnt during the 90’s and the fox years. There’s simply more power in being loudly offended than being loudly offensive.

    How much power did the right get from that, though? What specific public policy changes were made because they were loudly offended?

    The way I remember it, a lot of people learned that you can make a lot of money selling stuff to young people with a marketing strategy of “This product is really edgy and offensive and your parents will hate it!”

    Now, you can also use the reverse of that strategy: “This product is really bigoted and reactionary and your children and grandchildren will hate it!” Talk radio and Fox News have made a lot of money from that. But it’s not completely symmetrical. Young people think, “Wow, people want to sell stuff to me, personally! They actually value my opinion! This is so cool!” And old people think, “People aren’t trying to sell me stuff much anymore. They know that I’m part of a shrinking demographic, and that I’d rather stick with established products than experiment with new ones. They don’t care about my opinion as much as they used to. This sucks.”

    I dunno. It’s hard for me to see complaints about Offensiveness/PC as anything other than: “When I was young, me and my peers were clever and witty and we respected our elders (when they deserved it). But kids today are just vulgar morons and they don’t have any respect for *anybody*. I fear for the future of our species.” That’s certainly one way of looking at things, and it’s probably been a popular view for at least ten thousand years.

    It’s that they’re wanting some public bleeding from whoever they’re offended by.

    I’m not sure what “public bleeding” means in this context. Is it something like “low sales for a commercial product”? Or “loss of a job as a corporate spokesman due to poor performance”?

    • Well, that’s part of it. . An ability to set the bounds of the conversation. Framing it in terms of public policy doesn’t really work because we aren’t talking in terms of those stakes. We’re speaking in terms of cultural power. And being offended, as evidenced by the thinkpiece industry, is a lot easier to sell and a lot more invigorating. Dealing with it in terms of cultural irrelevancy is a bit of a cop out because it ignores the nature of the shift where the nature of the offense has become perfomative. It’s not so much the booing. It’s that you’ve got people looking to boo the loudest and show their command of doctrine by being the best at spotting things to boo at. Framing it as the same old complaints about everything turning PC let’s us gloss over the nature of it.

      By public bleeding, on the other hand, I mean they want people to publically grovel for forgiveness and admit their terrible misdeeds. Of course, the grovelling is never quite good enough if they do get forced into it.

  7. “Bill Hicks and Denis Leary” but you repeat yourself.
    I always felt Clay was lazy in his act, but he worked for a lot of people.

    One of the things that’s odd about the complainers is that they’re all very successful. It’s almost like they feel like they should be able to do what they want because they’ve already put in the time.

    It’s odd because Louis CK is horribly offensive. Word is he’s a pretty awful person as well. He still won a Grammy this year. Just because some comedians can’t find a way to make their brand of offense funny enough to get a pass, they want to complain about the PC monster destroying comedy. Comedy is alive and well, it’s just a little hard than it used to be. Comedians complained that Pryor and Bruce we’re “ruining comedy” when they were pushing boundaries. It’s just change.

    • Here’s the thing though. If multiple acclaimed comics who have previously dealt with fraught subjects and genuine public opprobrium in the past with a distinct focus on social issues (And Jerry Seinfeld) have said that this stuff is a bit much to deal with then maybe we could consider the idea that maybe this perhaps isn’t a healthy environment for comedy?

      I mean what you’re saying is partially true but the idea that it’s not a messed up situation is the part we should be maybe a little less kind to.

      • Given that I’m laughing harder than ever, no, I don’t put much stock in the idea that our world is comedic poison.

      • Damion Schubert

        February 19, 2016 at 7:25 am

        As mentioned in my previous post, plenty of comedians have found ways to stay edgy and be funny.

        Part of the problem is that times change, tastes change. Which means that jokes that were funny or inoffensive 20 years ago aren’t funny now. They now have to show disclaimers before some of the earliest Looney Toons cartoons because some of them were blatantly racist and anti-Semitic. Telling jokes about Transgendered people used to be commonplace and shrugged at – it wasn’t until recently that society recognized that this actually wasn’t cool at all, and started having a big boy discussion about it. By contrast, telling Holocoast jokes and 9/11 jokes gets easier as time distances ourselves from those events.

        However, if you are a lazy comic who doesn’t keep your repertoire up to date with the changing times, you’re going to find that jokes you told 20 years ago are out-of-date. A lot of stuff that was normal 20 years ago will be seen as beyond the pale now, and a lot of stuff that was edgy back then may be mainstream or even quaint now (see almost any gay comic from the 80s to see what I mean).

        But you can keep telling those jokes if you want to! But if you’re a lazy comic who doesn’t keep track of what your audience wants, don’t be shocked that they start booing you.

        • And as I said above, many of your aforementioned examples are people who have actually said that this was a problem. The issue there is the assumption this the effect of the mechanism of gradual social change rather than a weird aberration of a particularly loud subculture with a disproportionately loud voice. It’s a bit intellectually dishonest to assume that a reactionary force of the right exsists and is a problem without even taking into account a reactionary force from the ‘left’ can have a similar effect. If there’s a social capital to gain from being the best at being offended, then you’re going to see a lot of people being offended.

  8. I’m sorry, but a minor self-important would-be journo criticising John Cleese, who’s got close to 50 years in the comedy business, by spouting unqualified and self-important horse manure, is just a bridge too far…

  9. I remember when I was growing up when it was the conservatives who championed being “politically correct”, which basically entailed following a Brady Bunch style of living, Martha Stewart the ideal. If you didn’t attend church every week, you were being politically incorrect. Progressives had no problem using their freedom of speech to “shock” the behind-the-times, no-dancing-in-Bomont crowd. Bart Simpson was considered too politically incorrect for many parents.

    But today things have turned on their head. Now it’s conservatives who rail against the too “PC” progressives. The main difference is todays conservatives are a lot more angry than they used to be, and a lot more opinionated on their racist and bigoted opinions. Being called out for their remarks, they cry “PC”. In effect, they are just too thin skinned and can’t stand being judged for their backwards opinions, so they claim “PC” when it was progressives who were really against being PC in the first place. PC now is just a deflection used by conservatives to justify being assholes.

  10. What can we learn from an audience that boos someone they paid money to see? What can we learn from a comedian who would rather not appear at a college where he knows he is going to get boo’d? What can we learn from this blog post? What enlightenment am I missing here?

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