Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Who's laughing now?

There were concerns amongst the liberal comedy community that the election of Barack Obama sounded the death knell for political humour. After all, George W Bush gave satirists, humourists and general takers of piss eight years of great material. With the US finally selecting a strong, dependable and trustworthy leader, where was the comedy gold to be mined?

Recently, US network ABC premiered its new animated comedy show, The Goode Family. Created by Mike Judge, the talent behind Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill, the show focuses on a family of environmentally-friendly, politically-correct liberals, with an adopted African son and a vegan dog. As with most new comedy shows, opinions are divided, but I'm sad to say that they're split almost exclusively along political lines.

Liberal viewers are dismayed that their uber-tolerant, ultra-considerate, worldly-wise lifestyles are being skewered on prime time TV. Irrespective of the fact that right-wing views are regularly satirised in animated shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad. Alternatively, conservatives are falling over themselves to congratulate ABC for finally daring to poke fun at 'ditzy do-gooders' who 'care so very, very much about everything' - as though caring for things and doing good is a bad thing. They also seem to feel that, by poking fun at environmentalism, the show invalidates the concepts of sustainability and conservation.

Unfortunately, both sides are missing the point. I'm happy to remain blissfully ignorant about Mike Judge's political leanings, but early clips suggest that he is using the show to poke fun at liberal guilt and the pressure involved in always making the right choice. It doesn't really matter how he votes, as long as the humour he uses shows an inherent understanding of the issues he's portraying. In the pilot episode, the speaker in the organic supermarket announces “Attention One Earth shoppers. The driver of the SUV is in aisle four. He’s wearing a baseball cap” and the family's Toyota Prius has a bumper sticker that reads “Support our troops and their opponents.” This shows a sharp understanding of the complexities of modern life, and the way people try to do what's best, despite a conflicting sense of priorities.

A good friend of mine repeatedly reminds me that true intelligence is the ability to hold two conflicting points-of-view at the same time, and it's clear that this show understands that principle. So even if I see myself as the butt of many of the jokes, I hope the show lives long enough to find its audience.

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