In the lead up to Here Come the Habibs, the first Australian sitcom Channel Nine has made in the 21st Century, it’s been hard to know what’s worse – the articles stirring up outrage:
Because most people don’t realise I am of Lebanese descent, I have sat around many tables where friends of friends have launched into racist diatribes about Lebanese people based on perpetuated myths (all gangsters/thugs/uneducated etc). I’ve even sat across from an off-duty police officer who declared “I f—ing hate the Lebanese”. I’ve seen a 15-year-old Lebanese Muslim girl cry as she described having the hijab torn off her head on the school bus. I could go on.
I don’t know what’s funny about any of that – do you?
Or the articles telling us not to be outraged:
In today’s social media and blog-spotted publicity landscape, where outrage can be a kind of collective catnip, all it takes is one incensed opinion from a person with a website or a social account and voilà – the ball gathers momentum and a new production is suddenly slapped with the “controversial” bumper sticker.
Both these articles miss the mark for specific reasons. The first, because it spends most of its time talking about things that aren’t part of the show because the writer hasn’t even seen the show (and they want to extend that privilege to everyone); the second, because it somewhat smugly sets out to tell the reader how they should feel about something that they haven’t yet experienced – it’s not a review of a comedy series, it’s someone flattering their readers by telling them they’re too smart to be sucked into the outrage machine… you know, the one that’s the only reason why they’re reading this article in the first place.
(More importantly, that bit about “today’s social media and blog-spotted publicity landscape” is a load of crap; Australian comedy has been an outrage magnet since time began. Our older readers might even remember the outrage over a “Jesus 2 – He’s Back and He’s Pissed” sketch on 1988’s The Gerry Connolly Show; younger folk will have to just make do with The Micallef P(r)ogram(me)‘s Weary Dunlop sketch, or News Ltd’s war on Summer Heights High, or any mainstream mention of The Chaser, or blah blah blah…)
The real problem with all the media’s endless war on “controversial” comedy (and the flip side of the coin, the articles that sagely defend a comedy’s right to exist) is that they purposefully miss the point: comedies are meant to be funny. If you’re talking about a comedy without talking about whether it’s funny, you’re wasting our time.
Strangely, drama series don’t get put through this kind of crap because our media seems to understand that a drama dealing with, say, murder, is probably going to not be telling viewers it’s fine to kill people. Even though a lot of dramas basically do end up saying that violence solves problems because they’re just a bit shit.
In this country any comedy dealing with an even mildly controversial subject has a shitstorm thrown at it sight unseen because according to our media it’s seemingly impossible to deal with literally anything in a comedy without “making fun” of it. Even when blind Freddy can tell from a 90 second promo that the jokes – such as they are – are mostly going to come at the expense of snooty rich white folk.
If that’s the only kind of discourse we have around comedy, it’s no wonder so much of ours is shit.