An advantage of attending a Liberal Arts College gives you the opportunity and push to explore many different viewpoints that may be far from your own. Being a biracial liberal, when asked to attend the “Can we take a Joke” event hosted by the College Republicans and Haywire to write an article about it, I took this as a chance to take on different opinions and embraced the opportunity.
When stepping into the Olin auditorium, there were no more than 15 people with most of them either Haywire members or College Republican members. Due to this, I was hesitant.
The video shown was eye opening. The video featured several popular comedians who expressed their concerns and opinions of how people have become so offended by comedy, especially on college campuses.
Censorship has always been prevalent, like in the case of comedy legend Lenny Bruce, who was often booted off stage and arrested for what he said. Other comedians such as Gilbert Gottfried, Pen Jilllette, Karith Foster have been inspired by Lenny’s unwillingness to sacrifice his comedy for the close-minded people who could not take a joke, such as what happens on college campuses which eliminates constructive growth.
These comedians verbalized the implications of censorship, especially on college campuses, providing food for thought: if you don’t ever have anything to challenge your core beliefs and if nothing ever makes you mad, how will you ever grow?
This is very important to understand and has helped me reshape my preconceived ideas of what should and should not be censored. For example, going all the way back to the beginning of the year when the College Republicans wrote in chalk, it offended many people on campus, including myself.
However, if those chalking’s didn’t happen, I would not have sought out protests that made me feel like I was making a difference. I would not have written for the Observer. I would not have done a lot of things that have helped me grow as a person if it weren’t for something that challenged me, or made me uncomfortable.
With censorship comes the stifling of growth. If you’re always shielded by everything that might offend you then you’re cutting off a source of personal growth. Change in the world comes from the most heated arguments and debates.
This movie brought up oral sex, for example. If you track the history of it, you will learn that it was not until comedians and risk taking individuals started talking about it that it became less taboo and more acceptable in society. When I heard this in the video, it made me think how weird it is to know that it used to be so ostracized in society.
In today’s world, it is a normal step in almost everyone’s sexual journey. There’s a point where censorship turns into the training of liars, meaning people are being taught to lie and cover up opinions due to offending others, and it’s important to realize that it’s impossible to not offend at least one out of millions of people. Comedians shouldn’t be expected to be “mind readers” and carefully tip toe around certain things.
Free thought is important to the advancement of growth, and often the most heated arguments due to “offensive” commentary lead to the best results.
As for the second portion of this event which was the panel discussion, I had a very different opinion than I did to the movie. I felt that the discussion that partook was unhelpful when it comes to being openminded and I think this was for a couple reasons.
One, the adult moderator of this event cut off discussion too quickly. This professor would shift to a different topic after about 30 seconds, even though many attendees visibly wanted to say something, which did not lead to constructive conversation. Secondly, I feel that the college Republicans feel that their right-wing beliefs are often condemned for their opinions and with this movie, they were justifying their sometimes-radical actions here on campus.
To me, this movie explicitly gave the notion that yes free speech is important but they have different contexts given different situations. In any comedy sketches no matter the location, audiences should not attend if they cannot take a joke, you must have a certain open-mindedness when it comes to comedy.
On the other side, this movie was not condoning being able to say anything and everything no matter the environment, which is what I think the College Republicans were trying to support. The motive behind the showing of this movie was not what it should have been.
Yes, when viewing comedy, a high level of being able to take a joke has to take place, but the college Republicans are not comedians. They have to be aware that some of their right-wing beliefs can be racist and not appropriate for every situation. After leaving this event, I was both pleased and exhausted by the college Republicans.
I was thankful for the thought-provoking movie, but I was not fond of the commentary that came afterwards. I value the experience that came from this and the opportunity to hear different perspectives, which is the whole point of attending a liberal arts institution which is something I deeply value.