In thinking about our discussion today, and with some help from a few text messages, I started thinking about social constructs in relation to comedy. We not only conform to our gender roles and our cultural norms, but also make ruthless fun of them. We kind of deconstruct those cultural norms by making fun of them. I think the funniest examples are the “Shit _____ say” videos. I am 100% guilty of saying “wait, what?” which is in the “Shit sorority girls say” video. The funny thing is, I was completely unconscious of this until I saw that video! I now notice when I say it every time, and I wonder if I say it more because I know it is stereotypical of me or if I’m just saying it like I was normally before that video. Those videos are meant only for comedic purposes, but they are pointing out all the social constructs and limitations we conform to in our own cultures. Is this forcing us to try to break them though? I think not. We then mimic these videos to make fun of ourselves. I pull out a “wait, what?” or a “so shambly” (<- side note I have never heard this outside that video!) to make people laugh or to make fun of myself being stereotypical.
I also find this phenomenon in memes. All the memes with the original Willy Wonka looking “sassy” are to make fun of something people in a certain culture do. They also point out certain social events and norms to make them funny.
There are also those memes with the six pictures with the captions that say “what society thinks I do, what I actually do” etcetera. That act as a comedic “you really think you know me” sort of thing, which made me think of Butler’s argument of colonizing a person’s experience. I thought these images played into exactly what she was arguing against. It plays into the social assumption of a type of person and attempts to have others understand it. Butler’s argument is that you cannot sympathize because it still makes assumptions as if you were that person, but you cannot be that person so there are still assumptions.
These still work on presumptions, which Butler says should be no part of trying to understand another person’s experience. It is introspective and non-presumptive.
So, are these deconstructing or reinforcing societal and cultural constraints? I say both. They deconstruct by showing us all the stupid and stereotypical things we do and say, but they also reinforce by doing it in a comical way because we then mimic it. It just turns into a vicious cycle. Food for thought.
– Sara Asher