Friday, 24 June 2016

Rachel Notely Can't Take a Joke

However, she's fine condemning political participation

Alberta’s NDP, their leader in particular are up in arms over a target shaped like Rachel Notely that was used at a golf tournament last week.  For the life of me I really can’t figure out why. Obviously I understand the offence taken, nobody likes to have their face used as a target for fast moving projectiles. As well, it’s likely few would cheer when they hear their likeness was unceremoniously run over by a golf cart, as was the fate of the target resembling Ms. Notely.

As much the destruction of an effigy made in ones likeness is unpleasant, you have to consider that to even feel that unpleasantness you have to be "effigy worthy". What Ms. Notely fails to consider is the rather disguised compliment in this action. Her political presence and activism has inspired people to actually care about politics! You know what people say about press: no press is bad press, so I can’t blame Ms. Notely for feigning outrage to make the most of this. On the other hand… really ? 

Image result for notley target
(The target in question which used a not
altogether terrible picture of Ms. Notely)

Being in politics is basically asking for ridicule. Political satire is one of the oldest forms of comedy dating almost as far back as written word. Effigy’s are often made of politicians, and they are generally made to be either: very unflattering, or very flammable  - both of which were spared of Ms. Notely’s effigy. 

Some people have responded to this trying to tie violence and gender politics into the issue. Doing so is about as regressive as you can get. Saying that Rachel Notely cannot be treated in the same way as her male counterparts (lets go with this flattering Ralph Klein effigy, and the Rob Ford golf target for similarities sake) is regressive, and misogynistic. The Alberta NDP with Ms. Notely at the helm took power after defeating the Alberta Progressive Conservatives. The Alberta PCs had held power in the province from 1971 till 2015. Needless to say after 44 years of the same government provincially, the Alberta NDP are challenging long held views that the west is nothing but a bastion of conservatism. To do this without expecting any push back is just Ludacris. 
Image result for ludacris
(Rapper and actor Christopher Brain Bridges,
whose stage name I often spell in place of the word "ludicrous")
A normal citizen, albeit in a crass way, created a golf target in the shape of a politician with whom he disagrees politically. In an act of political participation, a person with the right to free speech and press, committed the egregious act of satire against a public figure.

The reason why demonizing this act gets my jimmies so rustled, is because political satire is where my love of politics started. Even before I could fully understand the issues they were mocking, I loved to watch the comedy of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and the Royal Canadian Air Farce. Heck, the only reason I vividly remember politicians like Joe Clark, and Lucian Bouchard who came long before my time, is because they were impersonated with such gusto. What the heck happened though, sites like The Beaverton which have only recently begun to emerge are about the only evidence Canadians have any sense of humour regarding our own politics. With that said, we haven’t seen sketches like Talking to Americans, News From Away, or Marg Delehunty Warrior Princess in years (to be fair they are still doing this sketch its just not funny anymore). For that matter, does anyone even get the reference anymore? When did Xena go off the air anyway … 2001, almost fifteen years ago, I caution to say it, but that’s probably when Canadian political satire stopped being relevant to Canadians.

Its not like we don’t produce funny people, or even that we don’t produce funny people who make jokes about politicians. These funny folks are born here, but we don't keep them. Half the writing staff of The Daily Show, most notably the wonderful Samantha Bee, were Canucks. Such a pity that program mysteriously went off the air (Warning admitting Trevor Noah took over TDS, is like Admitting there were sequels to The Matrix). 
Image result for samantha bee canada
(One of the top images for the google search
"Samantha Bee Canada" ... I think we've lost her)
If people don’t care enough about something they don’t talk about it with their friends, or their social group let alone participate in it or motivate others to do so. In political science we call this political apathy, and its something that most people in the field agree is sucking the life out of politics. Youth simply don’t vote, and sure maybe Trudeau was the turning point and the 18-25’s will come out in droves for every election from here on in - but I doubt it. 

People of the up and coming generations don’t care about politics. Its not that they don't care about it enough to joke about it, because thats a very different level. To joke about something, or to find a joke funny, you need at the very least some basic context, something most people 18-25 have very little of when it comes to politics. The danger we face when people demonize political satire is that people will cease to care about politics at all. Even the bottom of the barrel, crass, political satire - such as making someones face into a golf target needs to be tolerated, if thats all people have the context to understand (Notely bad HaHa! Hit face with golf ball HaHa! Funny HaHa!). If Canadians are told that even this rudimentary type of political comedy is objectionable, you then have a population who barely care about politics to begin with, don't have the context to understand a complex political joke, and are told the only jokes (or in this case cutout) about politicians they do understand are nothing but objectionable. 

We need political satire if we want people to care about politics, i’ll agree this wasn’t great satire, but to demonize it, is to attack the foundation of political participation. 

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