COLUMN: Living in the age of mockery

Seen the latest video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford that’s gone viral?

by Chris Bryan, Black Press

Seen the latest video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford that’s gone viral?

It features a press event before the Grey Cup in which Ford and some staff play a little football. He hikes the ball, goes back a few steps to make a pass, loses his balance and tumbles to the turf.

Fat man falls. Ha ha.

Because he’s offended so many people during his time in office, the humour – one assumes – is all the more rich. Regardless, the video spread around the world.

Just before the U.S. election, late night TV funnyman Jimmy Kimmel’s crew hit the streets to ask people what they thought of the second presidential debate. The twist: the debate hadn’t actually happened yet.

That didn’t stop people from commenting. People on camera said things like Obama came off better, and oh yes, the town-hall style event was much more intimate than the previous one and so on.

Funny. And yes, insightful about human behaviour.

Yet it seems humour – from the things we share on social media to the reality shows we watch – is increasingly being characterized by the concept of mockery.

Today we spend a lot of time laughing at people, and often, ridiculing them. Their foibles, their pettiness, their slip-ups.

And what’s wrong with that, one might ask?

I’m not sure. But somewhere in there, it feels off, somehow.

It’s no revelation that we live in an age in which the lens is turned on ourselves and the world around us. We like it real. Reality TV, YouTube – real life is exciting.

And as America’s Funniest Home Videos established years ago, we can be hilarious – particularly by accident.

It’s one thing, though, to laugh at ourselves. In fact, it’s healthy and humbling. After all, “self-deprecating” is probably one of the more flattering things you can say about a person’s character.

But what about when we turn it around?

When we’re laughing at others? And what if they’re not laughing? It’s one thing when we laugh at a comedian on stage, seeking to tickle our funny bone, but what if it’s just real folks going about life?

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was U.S. president in the ’30s and early ’40s, the media never showed him in a wheelchair, or being carried, helping to hide the fact he was paralyzed. Perhaps it was media collusion out of respect for office at a time when disabilities were seen differently. And it’s good today that we’ve broken many of those taboos, and acknowledge that frailty exists – even among those in highest office.

But compare the Roosevelt situation to that in the Ford video. When we watch Ford tumble to the turf, what do we think? Fat idiot? Offensive words, but how far off the mark? When we giggle at the people on the street discussing an imaginary presidential debate don’t we, at very least, think them foolish?

So what, one might say. No harm done.

But what if this trend is undermining our respect for others? What if it feeds this culture of mean that people are talking about, a culture of mockery that empowers the bullies, feeds concepts of “us and them,” lowers the tenor of public discourse and sends a message that it’s OK to celebrate when a person is hurt, and to laugh when they are embarrassed or humiliated?

How is it different if an unpopular 10-year-old girl stumbles as she walks across the school stage, and the assembled students laugh, then schoolmates continue to badger her for weeks to come?

But it is different, isn’t it?

Rob Ford is a politician. He’s put himself on that platform. He’s exposed himself.

And those people on the streets of L.A., they should have been honest and admitted they didn’t know there was a debate.

And in those cases we’re talking about people in different cities, different situations. Not people in our local community.

It’s different. Right?

Chris Bryan is editor of the Burnaby and New Westminster NewsLeader newspapers.

Just Posted

Live demos and stunt shows part of Vancouver Motorcycle Show

Annual event returns to Tradex in Abbotsford from Jan. 18 to 20

Abbotsford’s roads and utility chief left after just two months

City announced hiring of Rafael Villareal in November, but he has returned to old job in Kelowna

Manure company causing ‘toxic’ stink at Abbotsford school seeks permit

Property across from King Traditional Elementary cannot operate manure facility without permit

Your daily commute and weather forecast: Jan. 18, 2019

We may see a bit of sun mixed in with the clouds today, but then back to the rain. Congestion past the Port Mann

Mamba Fight Night returns to Abbotsford

Abbotsford Centre hosting sixth edition of local fight card

Fashion Fridays: Inspirational gym outfits

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Book a ride on a driverless shuttle in Surrey or Vancouver

Automated vehicle demos are being offered, as the two cities plan pilot projects with the shuttles

High court ruling allows long-term expats to vote in byelections across Canada

Supreme Court decision enfranchised an estimated one million or more Canadian expats to be able to vote

Vancouver Whitecaps acquire Canadian international Derek Cornelius

Cornelius earned his first senior cap for Canada in September 2018

B.C. university students dumpster dive to shed light on food waste

Eating only from dumpsters, the students hope to raise money for food banks in Northern Canada

B.C. woman posts to Facebook after she and nephew reported missing for days

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

Company issues lifetime ban after man jumps from cruise ship

Nick Naydev posted the video last week showing him standing on the balcony of the Symphony of the Seas

Unruly passenger forces B.C.-bound flight to divert to Calgary

Police say charges are pending against a woman in her 40s

The debate over how to teach math in B.C.

Tutoring businesses growing with concerns

Most Read