Somehow I Became Respectable(theparisreview.org)
Compared to our current politics, John Waters is kinda respectable. I saw him at a university auditorium a couple years ago. Entertaining. Plus he was great on the Simpsons.
Time seems to take the shock out of things. Maybe its the non-stop access to interesting things on the internet and photos and videos of everything taking the rumor and imagination out of things.
GWAR's shows were mythic but now we have a nice wikipedia entry explaining it all. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwar.
It's funny that you mention the Simpsons, which itself used to be so counterculture that you were a bad parent if you let your kid watch it.
Now it's so mainstream that they can't find a plot that offends people anymore, not so much because they toned it down, but because society caught up to the Simpsons.
>they can't find a plot that offends people anymore,
I doubt that is true. I bet that it is more like the people they offended could not really do much about that offense other than yell about it which just made the sows writers more popular in Hollywood.
Now, if they come up with a plot that offends, they are likely to get de-platformed and lose their ability to find a job in Hollywood.
Do people not get your point or are they proving it with the downvotes? Just the thought of poking fun at any modern movement enough to cause anger?
The comment isn't downvoted. I'm sure it was when you commented, but this is why the guidelines ask us not to go on about downvotes; a downvoted state of a comment is often temporary, whereas comments it are permanent, and always uninteresting.
Yes. Even a distant hint of thoughtcrime must be punished.
"Fox turned into a hardcore porn channel so gradually I didn't even notice."
First that job went to Southpark, then Family Guy.
Now we show the most offensive plots of all but call it "reality TV"
> Now we show the most offensive plots of all but call it
Wasn't there a huge fuss about one of the Simpsons characters last year?
It wasn't about anything new about the show, though, nor about anything meant to shock.
Didn’t people recently freak out about the ethnicity of the convenience store owner?
The controversy wasn't the ethnicity of the character, it was that the character was portrayed in a stereotypical manner by a white guy no less. It is basically the audio equivalent of blackface.
The Simpsons debuted 30 years ago this year and there are plenty of 30 year old comedies that are extremely objectionable by current standards. It isn't always fair to criticize that comedy since it is important to always judge art in the context in which it was originally created. However, The Simpsons is still running and therefore needs to continue to justify these decisions today and into the future. No one was suggesting that the character should be edited out of past shows or anything, but the show shouldn't be immune to present criticisms about shows created in the present just because the mistake originated 30 years ago.
> isn't always fair to criticize that comedy since it is important to always judge art in the context in which it was originally created.
I strongly disagree. I very much remember how my dad (an immigrant to the US) felt about it when he saw the Simpsons in the 90s; I remember how obvious the racism was when he pointed it out. Just because you were oblivious to how it made people feel doesn't mean it didn't make people feel horrible.
This historical relativism crap is really just a cheap copout for not taking the time to ask: "is what I'm doing going to hurt or demean someone?" If the answer is yes, dont do it, it doesn't matter how many people are accepting of it at the time. If the answer is "I don't know", ask the person it might hurt.
The reality is, people largely didn't care how others were impacted by the things they did and giving them a lazy and thoughtless copout is nearly just as demeaning as the original actions.
(Think about it, all those guys getting negatively swept up in the metoo movement claiming that they didn't know any better with regard to sexual harassment sounds absolutely absurd; putting "historical context" on racist things is equally as absurd)
(People who are not minorities usually dont come close to understanding how racism feels; I look and sound "white" and it was always troubling to see how my dad who doesn't look or sound "white" was treated relative to me; it's painful to see all the microaggressions that my friends deal with on a daily basis (in a place as liberal as socal) and to see comments like this trying to invalidate the damage done because of copouts like historical context is incredibly disheartening because it makes me realize how far away we are from the point where we no longer treat people like second class citizens because of their grouping)
I did start that quote with "isn't always" meaning there are certain situations in which I agree with you. However, I think intent has to play a factor when judging comedy like this. It is not just intent to insult that is inappropriate, but knowledge that your comedy would insult and doing it anyway even if that isn't the primary intent. I think a lot of people were just ignorant of the repercussions of their jokes. That doesn't make those jokes acceptable today, but I have a hard time judging them retroactively like that. If we judge everyone by that standard, basically anyone born before 1995 is an awful person in one way or another.
It's also not as if Homer's speech was portraying him (or white people) in the best light. Apu was a recognizable character because of the setting and the accent. People do have accents. The audience watching the show in the 90's could relate to that specific convenience store experience. So Apu isn't the best representative of people from India/Pakistan. Homer, Barney, and the rest aren't the best representation of people from America. Comedy/satire is a thing. About the only character who represents with sterility is Dr. Hibbert.
I would push back on that a little. There are different responsibilities when you only have one instance of a character of a certain demographic verses a multitude of characters. For example, no one would complain if one of the East Asian characters on Fresh Off The Boat was a stereotype (I don't watch the show, so I'm not sure if there is one) because the cast is full of East Asian people are therefore the show is in no way implying that they all fit that stereotype. Apu was the most prominent and sometimes the only South Asian face on television for years and therefore there is extra pressure not to make that character a stereotype. There are so many white people on TV that presenting some in a bad light doesn't lead to stereotyping.
The problem is that our culture doesn't really agree on whether it's the responsibility of the speaker to avoid offense or the listener to "suck it up" or whether it varies based on the relative identities of the speaker and listener in a hierarchy of identities. I'm fine with expecting courteous speakers and charitable listeners, but running it through an identity matrix is inherently racist (and/or sexist, and/or etc).
Well said. I watched Blazing Saddles last night and that film flat out couldn’t be made today.
Yet Blazing Saddles used epithets and parody as weapons against racism, ultimately, with all races unifying to fight the racists and building a new town together.
Much like Huckleberry Finn and that is similarly thrown down the memory hole
Mel Brooks said as much himself. He said, "I could never get away with the 'N' word or the 'C' word today".
Why do you think Blazing Saddles couldn't be made today, when Django was successful?
Blazing Saddles was a comedy. Django is acceptable because it's a drama, but Mel Brooks' style of humor is no longer socially acceptable. We can take issues like race and anti-semitism deadly seriously, but we aren't allowed to laugh about them anymore.
Which is unfortunate because bigots often take strength from projecting an air of dignity and respectability in an attempt to legitimize themselves in the public square. It's why modern white supremacy and anti-semitism have been reframed as science and philosophy, merely a skeptical form of racial and political realism questioning the mainstream narratives of progressivism and the Enlightment.
Using humor to debase those ideologies and humiliate those who hold them could be a powerful weapon, robbing them of their potency.
Of course, not all such humor has noble intent. The difference between Mel Brooks using racial and religious stereotypes for comic effect and, say, /pol/ doing the same is who the target is, and whether the joke is "punching up" or "punching down." Punching up is funny, punching down isn't. For all of the crass and racial jokes he would make, he, as a white man, still refused to make a joke out of lynching.
> Blazing Saddles was a comedy. Django is acceptable because it's a drama
That's not at all true; except perhaps for extremely historically-grounded drama (which Django is not), drama tends to get less license than comedy.
> but Mel Brooks' style of humor is no longer socially acceptable
Mel Brooks style of humor was never “socially acceptable”, it’s was always transgressive. It's probably not as commercially acceptable in the mainstream film industry as it once was, but that's more because transgressive video entertainment has other outlets and the mainstream film industry is a more mature and more narrowly-focussed industry than it once was.
> We can take issues like race and anti-semitism deadly seriously, but we aren't allowed to laugh about them anymore.
My experience of currently successful (both live and distributed on major video platforms) stand up and other comedy suggests that, yes, we are very much still allowed to laugh at those things. The particular currently successful forms may not look exactly like Blazing Saddles, but while the latter isn't stale, it's also very firmly grounded in the time it was produced (which seems generally true of Brooks’ comedies).
I see it contrapositively; that they're now so mainstream that they can't find a plot that offends people anymore that they are not also offended by enough to not produce. It's not that society has somehow become unoffendable, but that the people who produce the Simpsons are either 1) people who were hired because they are extremely successful establishment writers, or 2) leftovers from an earlier era of the show who are far more wealthy and establishment than they were then.
It's not completely fair to say they toned it down (although they absolutely did to some extent), it's more that they fell into a establishment rut and repeated themselves endlessly.
You could effortlessly write a humanistic/heartwarming, funny script every week that would deeply offend the powerful. The network that airs the Simpsons wouldn't air them, though. That's not what they're paying for.
I knew Dave Brockie. We both went to the same school, parties, and stickball games. Death Piggy played at my birthday party. We both had studio space in the Dairy. I saw the first GWAR show at Shafer Court.
I finally got around to watching Lord of the Rings. I was struck by how the costume design was nearly identical to GWAR’s. It made me wonder if or even how a self proclaimed cartoonist could have influenced someone on the other side of the world.
Its sad that he died; I’m losing all my old friends, Adam, Mike, John, my older brother. Jim Carroll was funny to us way back when. Not so funny now.
One other thing I thought of. Our neighborhood had its own Divine wannabe. Donnie, aka Dirt Woman, was a kindred spirit with John Waters and Divine.
I first learned of gwar from beavis and butthead.
Time takes the shock out of things because people compartmentalize things that they don't think of as recent. I feel like people right now, at least in the anglo-american orbit, are constantly shocked about almost everything, or when not actually shocked, pretending to be.
I don’t know. The dog scene in Pink Flamingos still feels a bit on the edge to me.
> Somehow I became respectable. I don’t know how—the last film I directed got some terrible reviews and was rated NC-17. Six people in my personal phone book have been sentenced to life in prison.
This is one of the most interesting and intriguing "opening" I've read in a long while.
Radical is merely common sense, thirty years early.
I still want to turn Serial Mom into a Netflix series
This is one of those "I want to subscribe to your newsletter" comments.
I have just been planning on setting up a newsletter - just got the "idea" right. So thank you - a nice comment online at just the right time - you've put a smile on a wrinkly old face :-)
"Personality disorders are a terrible thing to waste."
I need a Waters-only fortune module.
FWIW added to https://github.com/globalcitizen/taoup
If you really want to shock everybody, and become a highly respected artist known for redefining the modern gallery in ten to thirty years, you should probably paint some nice landscapes or portraits.
I think you're a bit too late for that; Bob Ross seems to have made a recent resurgence....I don't think you get any more landscape-ey than that.
I think that resurgence is more due to "happy little trees" memes from his show than his actual paintings... I don't see his finished paintings I'm memes, just pictures of Ross whilst painting.
Or a pro-Trump statue. That would reliably get you kicked out of every art gallery.
Shocking can become respectable in the future. Shockingly stupid can't.
50 years ago they were saying the same thing about "shockingly vulgar." Maybe culture will go in a direction you don't support, and you will end up as one of the nay-saying voices lending a counter-cultural air to the stupidadaists.
Nah, remember that a lot of people voted for him not that long ago.
Yes, but fine arts in guessing does not swing right /center
Alice Cooper said years ago that he couldn't shock audiences anymore. Shock just seems not to be a thing audiences do now.
I'm sure if you bit the head off a bat it would shock a few souls
Audiences aren't shocked, but onlookers are outraged.
Alice Cooper could say he supports immigration controls. Or he could argue that we shouldn't have breastfeeding rooms in airports.
I've personally found that people are getting more and more intolerant, and more and more shocked, especially liberals (conservatives have always been shocked and offended). Which is funny, because it's pretty illiberal of liberals to be shocked by people disagreeing with them.
If you keep posting ideological flamebait to HN we will ban you. We've asked you this several times already.
Would you mind reviewing https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and following the rules when posting here? Note that they include: "Eschew flamebait. Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents."
Judging by the tone of the democratic primaries debates, even professing support for such a benighted concept as the sovereign right of your nation to control its border is enough to 'shock' at least a reasonable portion of the public. If you refuse to use someone's chosen pronouns you're going to generate some 'shock' too. The current status quo may like to consider itself having shrugged off the prudishness of the West's Christian tradition, but they remain as easily shocked and offended as ever.
I think people are like machines that execute a few basic behaviors, but that can have ideologies and allegances slotted in to color their execution.
IMO there's a big difference between shock and intolerance. Shock may usually (but not always) lead to a negative reaction, but intolerance seems more like a default position.
To put it another way, shock is someone who jumps when you scare them; intolerance is someone standing with their arms crossed who's already made up their mind.
they're just taboos for different sets of values. nothing in a john waters movie ever 'scared' anybody.
Asking someone to be tolerant of intolerance seems like some weird thing where you ask a Turing machine if another one will halt. It's kind of paradoxical.
Supporting sensible controls on immigration hardly constitutes 'intolerance'. The framing of anything short of open-borders as 'intolerance' has perverted the entire modern political discussion.
"Imagine there's no countries." -John Lennon.
I heard an interview of him where he explained that statement. He said it referred to before the rise of the modern nation-state, where you could walk somewhere and suddenly it was another country, and it just sort of worked as a continuum of places. The idea of passport control came out of World War I. Your boundary-heavy "sensible" version is a very small part of human history.
I am aware of what people say will happen if we erode those boundaries. It's overblown. I recognize this is a minority position. But maybe let go of your fear.
Anyway. I don't think you're intolerant for believing this. But when there is subtext that immigrants are subhuman, or one nation or subgroup is preferential, which seems to go around a lot these days, then yes, I have a problem.
Bizarre to combine "immigrants are subhuman" with "I prefer my own nation".
The first of these statements is mindless hate supported by a fringe of a voiceless fringe.
The second is a common belief within nearly every human group ever. It is evolutionarily inevitable given how groups outcompete atomized individuals. It is justified within a reciprocal altruism framework. It is evident in everyday behavior where people from San Francisco to Milwaukee form social groups with others like them.
The issue occurs when you prefer your own nation so much that you spend an inordinate amount of time building cages to store members of other nations, or doubting the birth certificates of people whose names look a bit like they might have come from a different place as yours, or, one that shocks me but is "accepted wisdom": you believe that another nation's citizens should not be entitled to civil rights of your country. These are things that occur in the open, with increasing frequency, and I have problems with.
At that point and many similar ones I would stop calling it "I prefer my own nation to exist and it differentiates itself in ways I appreciate" and more of a "hangup".
Also, the suggestion that John Lennon's 'Imagine' was written before the rise of the 'modern nation-state' is complete and absolute rubbish. By the time John Lennon wrote that incredibly asinine song, India and Pakistan had already clashed at least three times over Kashmir. Israel had already fought wars against the surrounding countries five times, and the Soviet Union had already violently annexed many of its neighbors. I'm attacking this so vehemently to combat the risk that anyone might be tempted to believe such foolishness. Even if your statements were in any way factually correct they would be meaningless in the context of today's world.
> Also, the suggestion that John Lennon's 'Imagine' was written before the rise of the 'modern nation-state' is complete and absolute rubbish.
When did I say that? I said he said in an interview that ideas of another time inspired that particular line. Not that he lived to see such a time or that 1971 was such a time. I wasn't too shocked at your previous reply even if I disagree, but now you are attributing insane comments to me. Slow down. Relax.
Perhaps I misread your initial comment, I posted it quite late. My apologies, I'm willing to delete my last post there for the sake of remaining civil if that helps.
No need to apologize or delete, friend. (We are outside the time limit for the latter anyhow.) These topics rile us up and I was also concerned I took it too far or rushed too much. So please accept my apologies too.
You must be joking. Just FYI, I'm not an American and nor am I a supporter of Trump. In the recent Democratic Primary debates a majority of candidates supported state-sponsored healthcare for 'undocumented' ( sic, the newspeak term ) immigrants. On a humanitarian level I support this. I would hate to think that a person in need of medical treatment would ever be denied essential treatment. On a financial level, this is ludicrous. When coupled with the democrat candidates' majority stance of supporting decriminalisation of illegal border-crossing, this would be analogous to directly paying American tax dollars overseas. You can't look at this issue on purely social terms, it is economic in nature. If there is no disincentive for illegally breaching a country's borders to obtain access to that country's welfare system, it will inevitably attract the immigration of indigent populations from other nations seeking welfare that their own country cannot or will not provide. How could it be any other way? We've already seen this to be true. The migrant caravan from South America is already proof of this.
When you mention that 'passport control came out of World War I'. This is incredibly disingenuous. The politics of pre-WWI Europe can not be compared to the modern day. You are talking about an era where ideas that would be considered radically nationalist were completely normal. You may have been able to cross borders, but your ability to integrate economically into a new country may have been limited. Not to mention the fact that the entire economic landscape of this point in history is not comparable to our current era. There was no globalism, global trade and global industry would have been extremely minimal compared to today.
We do pay American tax dollars directly overseas it's called foreign aid.
Of course. Individuals on the receiving end do not play a role in deciding when/where that money is spent though. Foreign aid is something entirely different, it is something decided upon by congress. An individual illegally crossing the border with the express purpose of seeking treatment for a pre-existing medical condition is an entirely different thing.
Calling someone an idiot because they express an idiotic viewpoint isn't "shock", it's calling a spade a spade.
As somewhat of a hyper-lefty progressive (and someone whose wife is an immigrant), I don't actually have any issue with someone merely supporting some level of immigration control, and I don't think I'm particularly weird about that; it's not an inherently unreasonable position to want to keep bad people out of the country. People start getting upset when the rhetoric gets borderline racist, or when they refuse to talk about anything else except some shortsighted, dogwhistling rhetoric that they read off of Breitbart the previous morning.
Intolerance of dogwhistling is what people refer to when they say that intolerance of intolerance is bad. The problem is that when you start judging people based on what you think are dogwhistling instead of their stated opinions you start getting very close to creating an oppressive regime.
Example problems: Many racists use anti-immigrant rhetoric, so an anti-racist might take all anti-immigrant rhetoric to be dogwhistling for racism. Many man haters use feminist rhetoric, so an MRA might take all feminist rhetoric to be dogwhistling for man haters.
Both sides then starts seeing the other side as rabid haters sending subtle signals of hate all over the place. As a result both sides gets attacked for having valid opinions and can thus justly declare the other side irrational. Do you see how that can easily make things escalate out of control?
Do you think such escalations leads to more tolerance? I don't. The only way to get a tolerant society is to accept a bit of intolerance, similar to how we have to accept that there are sometimes insect parts in flour, while those insect parts are bad the measures we would need to implement to get them out would force us to throw away tons of perfectly fine goods.
The immigration angle I understand (it does hurt/compete with our working/labor class). The breastfeeding thing has me scratching my head. I've seen plenty of women breastfeeding and it has never bothered me or even caught my attention beyond "oh she is feeding her kid". I suppose some people do get caught up on dumb shit.
I also don't understand how John Waters came to be seen as respectable, but I suppose it might help some people to hear that a lack of respectability, or even acceptance, is not always permanent.
Sometimes it is, but not always.
At least among the well-heeled and the culture-class that Waters cites as his markers of acceptance. Should you take his films to a Baptist lock-in you will surely be in trouble.
Widespread acceptability of formerly fringe-lifestyles and a rejection of socially-conservative values ranging from widespread availability of high-grade marijuana to drag-queens showing off their twerking capabilities at public libraries. It's in, it signals you're not "part of the system."
In a way it reminds me of the path that "shock rock" has taken, from Alice Cooper to Marilyn Manson and beyond. There was a good show on the history, I believe "Metal Evolution," which featured an interview with Till Lindemann of Rammstein who remarked, when asked about what he could do to shock at this point, "Suicide on stage." Which I think is a fair statement from a band famous for simulated sodomy on-stage. Perhaps they should try the real thing for sport.
When I was a kid, Metallica was widely seen as completely crazy (this is the Kill 'Em All to Master of Puppets era). "Big kids" who listened to Metallica were vaguely threatening and best avoided. Now even those early thrash monsters are considered to be classic rock. Metallica is eminently respectable.
There is some extreme metal that will never be mainstream or widely listened to but that mainly comes down to the amount of work that's required to listen to it (Deathspell Omega) or the purely misanthropic production quality (Darkthrone's Panzerfaust, an album I adore). This sort of music is "shocking" in the sense that most people assume bands make music because they actually want people to listen to it.
Totally different genre, but German industrial/art/whatever band Einstürzende Neubauten has a song titled 'Hör mit Schmerzen' (Listen with/in pain) - which, as far as titles go, is pretty descriptive.
(I love the Neubauten, by the way - but I will admit to preferring their output from Zeichnungen des Patienten O.T. onwards - where at least fragments of melody can be heard... The debut Kollaps is... Well, challenging.)
Being respectable means finding a kernel of truth (that isn't necessarily widely known) and working diligently to clear the way for it to come out.
Hard work and devotion to a cause is, in itself, respectable. Having the courage to stick with something even when it was unpopular is respectable.
Heck even Terry A. Davis, late creator of TempleOS, gets some grudging respect on here.
Wow. Didn't know Terry Davis died. Has anyone used TempleOS? What is it like?
Ah he's a classic! The bold moves, the rebellion! He's a symbol of LGBT "revolution". The acceptance of what was previously considered unacceptable.
There was only one, unique place in history for his genre and he took it.
Didn't this man direct the movie with the child rape mattress and the unfeigned consumption of dog feces?
He didn't become respectable. His mental illness became mainstream.
I wish I knew how this happened. Maybe the mechanism was a combination of internet porn and the destruction of real life social spaces. Maybe it's something else. But people should perhaps spend some small fraction of the time that they spend freaking out about the weather, and use it to freak out just a little about how we are going to survive the next 50 years as a civilization with a functioning social and political system.
Did you know in Rome they didn't really have a rigid conception of heterosexuality? There were really only active, and passive partners in the sexual act. That was the distinction that mattered, and Hadrian was just seen as having "Greek taste". Also romans shat in public prolifically, as seen in the many pieces of graffiti warning people against doing it near shopfronts and people's homes. People shouldn't romanticise what they don't understand :)
Where did that comment come from? Greeks and Romans? Is it because of my username? I'm afraid that it was chosen because it's the name of a popular beginner's Latin textbook, not for misplaced Romanticism.
However, I will say that reading the classics in their original Greek and Latin has added a lot of sanity to my life, and I would recommend it to anyone. Your own conception of Greek and Roman sexuality is highly romanticized, and would fall away with a course of general reading.
This is not to say that I would hold the ancients forward as examples of "sane" societies. Generally the opposite, in fact. General societal sanity is a post-Enlightenment condition.
> Your own conception of Greek and Roman sexuality is highly romanticized, and would fall away with a course of general reading.
What do you think I'm romanticising? Can you mention a specific point? Also I didn't mention the actual aspects of Greek sexuality - just how Romans viewed Greeks. If you want to discuss Greek sexuality I'm happy to. You wanna discuss Phaedrus or The Republic, or the Sacred Band, or something else? Would be lovely to revisit postgrad.
Waters is indeed a very sane post-Enlightenment thinker, steeped in and derived from the sanity of the civilisation he is a product of.
> You wanna discuss Phaedrus or The Republic, or the Sacred Band, or something else?
Sure. How much Plato have you read in Greek? What do you think, for example, he means by ὑπηρετεῖν when applied to χαρισάμενα παιδικά?
> Waters is indeed...steeped in and derived from...
This makes me suspect what the answer to "How much Plato have you read in Greek?" was, and exactly how much that postgrad degree was worth.
So you can't say what I'm romanticising. Understood.
"First the establishment will ignore you; then they laugh at you; then they crack down on you and then you become part of the establishment." Someone
I'm glad everything he represents is now accepted. I remember watching Pink Flamingos in the early 2000s when I was discovering cinematography and understanding the industry and it's evolution. It has shock value, but it was deeper than that. When I saw his film, it reminded me a little of Warhol in a way.
I'm actually glad the acceptance is so quick, just 13 years ago the United States federal government arrested someone for 'obscenity-related charges' in film production, though admittedly it was considerably more disturbing footage than what John Walters ever produced. *
I truly wonder what's the next set of values to go through this process. By definition we can't know what they are and speculation has a terrible history of accuracy, especially if it is what we know as the truth (as defined by the majority, i.e. the establishment)
Also wonder if as technology accelerates the rate of social change, so will the typically generational cycle speeds of acceptance of new ideas.
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
-Mahatma Gandhi (Maybe?)
No, it wasn't his quote (at least not sourced)
Tons of people have attributed it to him though.
Personally, if I don't have the book and page of a quote, I don't source it.
> I truly wonder what's the next set of values to go through this process.
One still cannot do a funny movie/work of art about the Holocaust, as far as I can tell that’s one of the most taboo things to work with as an artist. Benigni’s movie was not a 100% comedy and maybe that’s why it eventually worked the way it did, but as far as I know Jerry Lewis’s movie was much more on the comedy side of things.
And if the King of Comedy himself cannot pull this off I think nobody else can. I also find it interesting that nobody else seems to be even trying nowadays, it has become too much of a taboo.
Not true! "The Producers"
Sure, The Producers is a great comedy but it doesn’t take place in the actual camps themselves, that’s what I was trying to suggest that it is now taboo, i.e. that doing almost slap-stick comedy having the Holocaust camps as a background has become culturally out of reach.
I knew John Waters as like a camp figure, I saw Hairspray, heard stuff from his books and speaking engagements, all of which is cool but not particularly challenging to the dominant culture. So I understand the respectability.
Then I watched Female Trouble which is a completely insane movie and thought, this person is out of his mind, I can’t believe they’re letting him go on the Today Show and that he’s assimilated into square culture, does anyone know what he’s all about? The question of whether his films would “shock” seems besides the point, they feel totally electric whether or not the culture has supposedly acclimated itself to certain things.
Acceptance is a function of how deep you're reading from the Big Book Of Things Too Radical To Say In Public.
The problem is that too far outside the average conception of normality it becomes difficult to judge if your Radical Thing is net-positive or net-negative for society. Gay rights? Yes. Legal incest? No.
Some people can tell the difference. Most can't. And that's why "you can't shock anyone anymore" is exactly as true as it's always been. It's just that radical art 40 years ago and radical art in 2019 look different. Too different for John Waters to tell.
He directed a movie where an actor literally ate feces.
That's still not acceptable in 2019 last I checked. Hell, nearly nothing in Pink Flamingos wouldn't be shocking today, though much of it (like rape or animal cruelty) hasn't aged well.
But you've seen two girls one cup. You've seen people dress in fursuits and fuck, and been fisted, and sounded, and it may not be attractive to you but it's not shocking. That's what he's talking about.
I'm guessing that a minority of people on HN haven't seen video of someone dying in a gruesome manner. Perhaps it was ISIS sawing off someone's head. Perhaps it was someone falling from the twin towers. Perhaps it was somebody murdering a homeless man for fun.
It's not shocking. It's despicable, but it's not shocking.
Nazism and white supremacy and racism and misogyny isn't shocking - it's dismaying, but it's not shocking. It may be socially acceptable, but it's not shocking. If anything, it's hackneyed.
What is this radical art? Maybe 4chan shocked people a decade ago, but goatse/gap3 pranks preceded that, at least in my world.
> Gay rights? Yes. Legal incest? No.
Honest question: Why not yes to both? I’m fine with it.
Hipsters, that's what happened. John Waters has become something of a hipster schlock icon, a way for millennials weaned on easily available hardcore porn and rotten.com to connect with a time when things like what John Waters does were actually shocking and transgressive.
Yeah. Hipsters. Totally non-existent 40 years ago.
A true American hero.
Honestly, inside me it makes me wonder if we're seeing the cultural movement toward more progressive ideals, or if we're just seeing the cumulative generational shift away from what their parents stood for.
Meaning - WWII's "the greatest generation" was a relatively conservative generation, and it's gone more liberal in terms of social movements ever since. Are we going to keep seeing this movement toward liberalism, or are we going to see children rebel against their parents and move toward more traditional and conservative values?
When we see the move back to conservatism we won’t recognize it as traditional. The things that were feared didn’t change society much so there won’t be a movement to return to old norms.
Maybe this is where all the young fascists are coming from. To be genuinely outrageous these days you've got to hurt people, or threaten to.
The young fascists are usually just hardcore libertarian converts with ethnic ideals. Most right wing 2000s kids are just sick of progressive bullshit - particularly males, who form common talking points by shaking their heads at the world that doesn't want them to be males. Are they always right? No. But my generation has a point and the conservative uprising has its roots in a genuine unrest.
Gen X / early millenials are the last progressive liberal generation for sure. If you really think about what late millenials, etc. are about, it's both conservative and classical liberal, but not particularly 60s esque.
I dunno, it doesn't seem like we are moving toward liberalism. Everyone wants everyone else kicked off a twitter, everyone wants censorship. Tumblr bans porn, youtube bans anything people complain about, cloudflare doesn't want to do business with 8chan, etc etc. These are all incredibly illiberal and having nothing to do with true liberalism.
Liberalism, fundamentally, is about freedom (negative rights), both economic and social. The freedom to offend, to abhor, to hate, to disagree, to keep one's own money, to control one's own body, to decide himself how he should live his own life. This means legal drugs of all kinds, this means legal hate speech, legal death threats, legal sodomy, legal polygamy, legal bestiality, etc.
We are so far away from this world of liberalism and freedom that it makes me sad every time I think about it. In fact, I feel like in the past few decades we are getting farther away still.
Thank you for posting this, it articulated my views on this issue so perfectly. I would call myself a liberal. Recently someone else who would describe themselves as a liberal called me a "free speech absolutist", a term they thought to constitute a dire epithet. To me this event only further highlighted what a dire state of affairs we were in. The triggering event was posting a clip of the Sir Thomas More "Give the devil benefit of law" speech from 'A man for all seasons', which I thought was liberal if nothing else.
Youtube didn't "ban" "anything people complain about", they just demonetized it and stopped recommending it as frequently. Still not great, but they're not taking your soapbox away, they're just not paying as much for it.
What would you suggest companies like Cloudflare do exactly? There have been talks of 8chan being accessory to literal terrorism; do you think that they really want to be hosting that stuff? Isn't it part of Cloudflare's free speech to say "we don't want to be party to this"? Isn't it a very liberal position to say "all these private companies can do business with people that they want to"?
Now, I'm actually totally willing to entertain the discussion that these corporations are so big that they should be either broken up and/or treated as utilities, but that seems to fight against classical liberalism.
Also, in the United States, it wasn't that long ago that marijuana possession was an enforceable crime in all fifty states, which is slowly going away. I wouldn't bring this up, except you mentioned drugs being illegal as some sort of evidence that we're becoming less liberal, despite the fact that cannabis legalization has been happening and expanding.
Not exactly sure how legal bestiality fits into liberalism; if you view the animal as a thinking entity, wouldn't having sex with something unable to provide consent be a violation of liberal principles?
Youtube has removed many videos pushing subversive views. Do I agree with these views (maybe I do, I haven't seen the videos, but I doubt it), no. But that's beside the point. And you're right, youtube and 8chan don't want to be hosting that stuff. If I had the power I would like to think I would act differently, but I understand that the teleological purpose of a company is to make money and if I was in a similar situation, I might fold as well.
And, like you said, classical liberalism is about freedom, for both corporations and individuals. I certainly don't think that censorship on these platforms should be illegal or anything. I'm just disappointed, I guess. I feel like the world is moving in the wrong direction. I always thought the internet was going to empower everyone and subvert centralized power structures. In some regards, it did and it still does. But these subversive upstarts are now the new centralized power structures and it seems like the next wave of subversion and decentralized has not happened yet and may not ever happen.
It troubles me that the very same people arguing about a women's right to choose are slamming facebook and youtube and twitter for allowing people to express their opinions. It troubles me that these same people don't recognize the rights to buy and use drugs or consume pornography. The political axis of most people seem two multi-dimensional: They like some freedoms and want to take away others. But the way I see it there is only one dimension: oppression and tyranny on one end and free speech and individualism on the other. Social and economic freedoms go hand and hand, which is something both conservatives and liberals both seem to be confused about.
Health care isn't a human right, housing isn't a human right, forcing businesses to transact with you if they don't want to isn't a human right. The only true human right is to live one's own life free from tyranny and oppression. To do anything that doesn't impinge upon another human's right to do the same.
> Not exactly sure how legal bestiality fits into liberalism; if you view the animal as a thinking entity, wouldn't having sex with something unable to provide consent be a violation of liberal principles?
Well, I mean, then maybe we should outlaw animals having sex with each other? It's not like they give consent to each other.
> And you're right, youtube and 8chan don't want to be hosting that stuff.
It actually looks like 8chan is perfectly fine hosting this stuff, which is the problem. I doubt Cloudflare would have as much of an issue if 8chan were proactive in taking down a lot of its more terroristic content.
> It troubles me that the very same people arguing about a women's right to choose are slamming facebook and youtube and twitter for allowing people to express their opinions.
Is anyone actually getting mad at Youtube/Facebook for simply allowing dissenting opinions? Most people get upset with the really awful stuff, like, genuine harassment or race-baiting; I honestly don't know anyone that is calling for the removal of people just because they hold an opinion against the norm.
People called for Alex Jones to be banned (which eventually happened) because he was actively and purposefully doing things to hurt people. He was spreading a lot of misinformation, which led to someone with a gun trying to shoot up a pizza shop, and to people directly targeting the victims' parents of the Sandy Hook massacre because he, for years, spread the idea that it was a hoax; he also would constantly accuse anyone he disagreed with of being a pedophile.
Everyone has a line for free speech; the easy example is "yelling fire in the crowded theater", but if I hired a hitman, it's not like it would be a valid court defense for me to say "Well it's my free speech to tell someone to kill someone". Saying that there should be no limits on free speech is intellectually dishonest, and we gain nothing from it. If certain people are causing measurable and unambiguous harm from the things that they're saying, then, to me, that's where we draw the line at giving them a platform.
> Well, I mean, then maybe we should outlaw animals having sex with each other? It's not like they give consent to each other.
I don't believe that you're saying this in good faith. If two thirteen-year-olds have sex with each other, society doesn't typically have too much of an outrage because they're just two kids who don't know better. If a forty-five-year-old has sex with a thirteen-year-old then we get upset, because a grown-ass adult should know better.
There ain’t no right to live without tyranny or oppression. Literally no right to do anything except what society says.
This is just you and your libertarian sentimentalism.
>But the way I see it there is only one dimension: oppression and tyranny on one end and free speech and individualism on the other.
Other people don't see it that way, though, and in fact there are a few well-mounted defences from philosophers which define that "other" view. You're arguing for a roughly liberal (perhaps liberal egalitarian) point of view, but we shouldn't act as though this is the only way to conceive a healthy view of liberty and freedom. Liberalism isn't the only game in town any more, and it hasn't been the only game in town (speaking in terms of relief from the oppression of kings and barons) since the 19th century. It is a valid view that is commonly held and argued for, sure, but it is by no means the only coherent view of liberty there is.
>don't recognize the rights to buy and use drugs or consume pornography
Perhaps it's surprising, but there are actually liberal views against pornography, i.e they claim to proceed from core liberal tenets to positions in which pornography would not be permissible - see Rae Langton's work for example. In fact, this caused so much of a storm that liberal philosophers took it upon themselves to try and argue against it precisely because they viewed it as a threat to some traditional liberal opinions. It may further surprise you that some philosophers have argued that J.S. Mill himself(!) would have been against pornography.
>Social and economic freedoms go hand and hand, which is something both conservatives and liberals both seem to be confused about.
This is actually the core of certain 19th c. German critiques of liberalism.
>The only true human right is to live one's own life free from tyranny and oppression.
This is simply one opinion amongst many. Negative liberties, like traditional liberalism, isn't the only game in town any more, even in liberal circles. The idea that freedom is necessarily freedom from is not supported by some major liberal theorists (look at Rawls, or perhaps Habermas). The distinction itself, Eric Nelson argues, may not even be relevant any more.
Perhaps you didn't mean to say that this is what liberty is, but rather you were only stating your own conception of liberty, so my apologies if so - but to say that the only other possible conception of liberty is fundamentally wrong, or worse, that it is "totalitarian" is pretty shabby (as far as political philosophy goes).
>Well, I mean, then maybe we should outlaw animals having sex with each other? It's not like they give consent to each other.
This misses the point which is that most philosophers don't consider animals to be moral agents. Liberal philosophers themselves are divided on the "rights" of animals, however some prominent theorists argue that the property relations of animals should be viewed as custodial/trustee ones.
Even on free speech contemporary liberal philosophers are divided, but vanishingly few argue for no restrictions at all on speech, even considering obvious caveats (like threats of immediate violence). The trouble is finding a justification within a given free speech principle for certain restrictions to be permitted. It is a question of why we value free speech at all. For example, one justification for the primacy of freedom of speech is that freedom of speech aids discerning truth from falsehood, however how would this apply to deliberate lies? Surely most upholders of free speech would allow at least some lies to be uttered. So then comes the next free speech justification: that speech is inseparable from thought, but that also has its critics etc. (see Susan Brison on this point)
What I'm trying to say is this: maybe critics of liberalism have a point, and maybe we ought to rationally investigate why we hold certain liberal ideals rather than, in J.S. Mill's words, cling to them as dead dogma. It doesn't take an anti-porn conservative or a pro-universal healthcare progressive to do that.
You know, this is probably one of the best comments I've ever received that consists of counterpoints to my own. Kudos for your well reasoned points with links. I really wish the rest of hacker news was as gracious and thoughtful as you. And this is high praise coming from me!
I disagree with your interpretations about Rawls or Mills, but I very much appreciate your views.
Legal death threats? Lol hard pass.
Liberalism does not mean the unrestrained freedom to do as you please.
(I don’t even know where to start responding tbh.)(you’re fundamentally misunderstanding even society as a concept)
Neither. The shift towards liberalism has significantly slowed and even reversed on some issues with Gen Z, but the result isn't looking anything like traditionally conservative values.
>Are we going to keep seeing this movement toward liberalism, or are we going to see children rebel against their parents and move toward more traditional and conservative values?
We've already had it, remember Family Ties, the Yuppies, that "hippie" had become a dirty word, the "stick it to the Man" type a caricature, and so on?
Those were still within the framework of Baby Boomers though. Now we'll see even more backlash. It's a tide, not a line...
If it helps, based on the first paragraph I don't think the guy is remotely respectable.
Maybe he just started hanging out around people with lower standards?
Honestly, John, you were responsible for a massive hit Broadway musical, one that's entirely acceptable to the out-of-towners after their visit to Times Square. You didn't "become respectable". You sold out.
Getting gross stuff shown in a modern art museum is hardly an accomplishment. Manzoni did his "canned poop" thing in 1961. You're gonna have to try a lot harder than clips from porn movies. Pink Flamingos is still gross. You could do that again, if you wanted.
Though these days you're competing for attention from everybody on YouTube. You were an attention whore when it took some real effort to get it distributed. Now everybody can do it. They'll censor Pink Flamingos to put it on TV, but I'd be shocked if there weren't a dozen imitators on YouTube. (No, I'm not going to look.)
Congrats, you lowered the bar on bad taste, and I guess that's enough of an accomplishment to make you a commencement speaker. But once people figured out your formula, the bar lowered pretty far pretty fast, and rather than get ahead of it you let 'em make Hairspray.
Meh. Why so negative? A man makes money after doing some transgressive things in the past that are considered iconic. Sell out? Really?
Yes, really. You should assume that people mean what they said.
He should have sold out, though. He's old and he did a bunch of wonderful things. If he had waited any longer, the cash-out would have passed him by. Should everyone work forever?
Attending exhibitions of his work as the guest of honor, giving talks at film festivals, doing lecture/stand-up tours every once and a while for a bit of travel and excitement; that's the life and a well-deserved victory lap.
He didn't have to sell out, but it wasn't like he was a activist or something, he was a grotesque Douglas Sirk having a little fun.
I don't mind him making money. I mind the "Oh, poor me, I used to be so outre" tone of his article.
I'm glad he got rich. That's cool. Bawlmer kid makes good. But the article feels like flaunting it, without providing either insight or introspection.