It's that time of year again. My Facebook feed is alive with news of the Hugo Awards, and the antics of the Sad and Rabid Puppies which are, unsurprisingly, the same antics they pulled last year. Skimming articles here and there, I keep seeing the term "SJW" repeated again and again and again.
The Social Justice Warrior, the bane of the Puppies, and defilers of that good ol' Science Fiction yer grandpappy used to spin yarns about 'round the campfire... or some such bullshit.
But I'm not here to talk about the Hugos again (not yet anyway). I'm here to talk about the perhaps even bigger (perceived) threat SJWs hold over the world of Comedy writers like myself.
Comedy, by its very nature, tends to have some kind of edge to it. These edges are believed to be fiercely guarded by SJWs, who will drag you down and destroy you if you attempt to cross the ever-shrinking boundaries, so it is thought.
If you can't already tell by my tone, I'm not feeling as terribly threatened as some. In my personal writing experience, and in my observations of what I see going on in the world of Comedy, today's so-called "PC culture" isn't having all that terrible an effect, and may even be beneficial in some ways.
Here are some points to consider...
1. If anything, more people are pushing the boundaries further than in the past.
I saw a post on Facebook the other day of a still from Blazing Saddles, and a comment saying that it couldn't be made today because of the controversial humor involving race, sexuality, other assorted bigotries, etc... I did a little poking around on Google, and this seems to be a widespread sentiment.
What rocks are these people hiding under? Not only does modern boundary-crossing comedy exist. It's fucking thriving. Stand-up comics like Sarah Silverman and Anthony Jeselnik aren't exactly walking on eggshells. The television show Archer, currently in its seventh glorious season, constantly pushes the boundaries of good taste, and the Wikipedia page I linked to it doesn't even have an entry on controversies. Robert Downey Jr. got nominated for a goddamn Academy Award for wearing blackface in the 2008 film Tropic Thunder. Sure, that's eight years old, but hardly a different era.
2. There's a fine line between being "edgy" and just being an asshole.
If you've ever been in a high school or college creative writing class with a student who's just become aware that certain words or themes that they were previously conditioned to avoid were now fair game, then you might be familiar with the experience of watching everyone else in the class slowly sink deeper into their seats, avoiding eye contact, while that kid read aloud his latest literary creation, The Adventures of Cunty McFuckfaggot.
I never wrote anything quite that bad, but I don't envy my Creative Writing professor the task of having to give me constructive feedback on some of the shit I did turn in, aiming to impress him with my edgy writing.
To all of you youngsters reading this, I advise you to get this phase of your writing out of your system right now. Even if it means writing The Adventures of Cunty McFuckfaggot, at least you'll hopefully grow out of this while subjecting a minimal amount of people to your horrible horrible work.
It can sometimes be difficult for an artist to tell which side of the line he or she walks on. Is it possible your legions of critics can simply be dismissed as SJWs? Sure.
Then again, you might just be an asshole.
3. Comedy is a constantly evolving beast.
The term "slapstick" is commonly used derogatorily to refer to cheap physical humor. But consider that the reason it's a term at all is because, at one point in our history, hitting a guy with a goddamn stick was considered the height of comedy.
These days, audiences demand more, even from their lowbrow physical humor. A good ol' stick-whackin' just doesn't cut it anymore.
Likewise, the rest of the comedy spectrum continuously adapts to societal changes in expectations and values. The "colorful" jokes your drunk uncle tells from the rocking chair on his porch may generate a lot of yuks around the trailer park, but there's a larger world outside that tin time capsule, most of which is living in a different time.
You might consider this wider audience before you take your uncle's shtick on the road.
Comedy is subjective, and its value is measured by the audience. If the audience you're targeting isn't laughing, you can whine about SJWs, or you can face reality and adapt to a changing world.
4. Yeah, some people are going to get pissed no matter what. Fuck 'em.
Maybe they don't get it. Maybe they don't share your sense of humor. Maybe, as is often suspected, they're just out looking for a reason to be offended.
If you produce quality work, I think you'll find there are a lot fewer of these than you think. When I self-published my first book, Critical Failures, in 2012, I went into it knowing that what I had written wasn't for everyone. I was anticipating about an equal share of five-star and one-star reviews. People were going to either love or hate what I was writing.
Turns out my predictions were wrong.
Out of 383 reviewers, only 2% have seen fit to tell the world how much they hate my book. Those are numbers I can live with.
Are these 2% SJWs? Who can say? I don't know them. All I can do is respect their opinions as maturely and professionally as I know how.
5. If you're the kind of person who regularly uses the term "SJW", it may be an indication that you're an unimaginative shithead.
"Social Justice Warrior" was a joke. The first time I heard it, I chuckled, because it really hit the nail on the head with regard to whomever I and the person I was talking to were discussing. It was clever mockery, which is something I appreciate.
But like any joke, it has limited mileage. The fact that "SJW" is a recognizable abbreviation should be a big hint that those miles ended a long time ago.
"Social Justice Warrior" is a lazy insult. "SJW" is a lazier way of expressing one's aforementioned laziness.
What's even worse is that it's someone else's insult.
I expect more effort put into mockery from those who would seek to make a living at a creative art.
Also, consider the target of your ire. People who you believe are simply trying to draw attention to themselves under the pretext of half-assedly advocating for social justice from behind their computer monitor?
If your own efforts to draw attention to yourself consist mainly of parroting "SJW" over and over again at a virtually non-existent threat to your livelihood (see entries 1 and 4), you're not only being even lazier than the target of your misplaced frustration. You're also being a shithead. It's like donating a nickel to the KKK to spite someone else donating a nickel to the United Negro College Fund. Neither of you are making an appreciable difference in the world, but one of you clearly more of an asshole.
If your work isn't netting you the sales, fame, or accolades you seek, perhaps consider shifting your focus from blaming other people to not sucking so much.