Two days ago the “comedian”/professional arsehole Frankie Boyle sent out the following tweet:
My advice to people with depression is to keep it to yourself, maybe just fuck off on your own when you’re down, it’s a bit of a drag.
As someone who has suffered from depression, I’m not about to get all upset about this. I know there is genuine prejudice surrounding mental illness. However, I doubt many people will read Boyle’s tweet and think a) “hey, perhaps he’s got a point” or b) “ha ha, that’s hilarious”. If anything, I’d like to think Boyle might giving those who seek to raise awareness a helping hand. After all, “Frankie Boyle” is synonymous with “person who says shit things just to be offensive”. Thus bullying the mentally ill can be placed alongside laughing at rape victims and mocking the disabled as something you only do if you’re a total bastard with a career that’s completely reliant on desperate, toddler-esque boundary-pushing.
Funnily (or unfunnily) enough, this morning I happened upon this piece in the Guardian relating to Boyle. According to the author, Leo Benedictus (who sounds like he should be a naughty monk rather than a piss-poor comedy apologist), perhaps Boyle isn’t so bad after all. What if he’s “only being honest about what many of us think”?:
Boyle does not actually mock affliction; he just never cuts it any slack. Where honesty is concerned, he is a fundamentalist, sparing no one his opinions.
Hmm. I have to say, from where I’m sitting, he sure as hell does ‘mock affliction’. As for his free-thinking, uncensored list of victims, this includes people such as Elisabeth Fritzl and Katie Price (in relation to her disabled son). He’s not like you and me. Benedictus argues “if he can make you laugh then perhaps he’s no nastier than you are”. Thankfully, Boyle doesn’t make me laugh. If that’s a flaw in me, then I’m glad to have it.
Boyle’s main defence seems to be “at least he’s not a hypocrite”. He’s only “being honest”, yet it’s an honesty that’s entirely unnecessary. It’s not sodding wikileaks. His witty aperçus are merely things people don’t say not because they can’t – and nor, indeed, because they don’t ever think them – but because they don’t want to hurt the other people. You can make mean jokes about celebrities in the comfort of your own home but put them out on twitter and there’s a chance that the people in question will hear. This is not being brave. It’s just bullying. I don’t want to be a hypocrite – no one does – but Boyle has yet to inspire me to think “I know! Next time I think my best mate is looking a bit rough, I’ll say so to everyone on Facebook, albeit in a witty manner! Hey, it’s better than just ‘hypocritically’ thinking it in private”.
I say all this and it’s not as if I’m some moral paragon. I do worry about being mean on this blog in particular (while neither I nor it are famous, it’s obviously a public space). Sometimes I read something that riles me, then get totally carried away trying to mock the hell out of it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with ridiculing prejudice, but there’s a risk that you also end up ridiculing people (and even if you think “well, they shouldn’t be prejudiced”, I don’t believe my own definitions of right and wrong are so watertight as to justify hurting others). I know I get all of this wrong sometimes, and that the balance is hard. If someone is hurt because I don’t like their views, then I can just think “they don’t like mine, either”. Even so, I worry about treating articles on the web as pure text rather than pieces with actual people behind them. I didn’t start blogging in order to be spiteful; I do try to write about things I care about (and some things that truly anger me), but even so, just because I’ve created my own space on the net, I don’t want it to become a space in which I act like a bully or someone who puts trying to be funny way above being humane (especially when I’m actually a total wuss who gets completely freaked out when reading through comments – so please don’t take this post as a request for feedback on whether or not I’m a total bitch. Not unless you really can’t help yourself).
Anyhow, I obviously do not want to start using Frankie Boyle as my moral marker. Once I’ve started thinking “hey, at least I’m not as bad as Frankie Boyle” I’ll know I’ve become a complete and utter cow. But even thinking “I’m only being honest” is halfway there. So I need to be careful. But not that careful (Frankie Boyle, if for some bizarre reason you happen to be reading this, you’re still a cunt).