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Soup of This Day #318: Put Out The Fire

June 21, 2013

Canadian Museum for Human Rights
That piece of fantastical architecture with all of the angles is the under-construction Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It’s being built in Winnipeg, which also happens to be the birthplace of Paulette Bourgeois, the creator of Franklin the Turtle – Photo: AJ Batac, 2013. AJ Batac is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

When is a joke not a joke?

This is the question a High School principal, who I will call Professor Xavier, once asked me. It wasn’t a rhetorical query – At least I don’t think it was – Mostly because he paused for an uncomfortably long time after asking it, presumably so that I could answer, but also because I had no earthly idea what he was getting at.

In my defence I was just 14 and suddenly very aware that the girl seated to my right, who I will call Kitty Pryde, was attractive in a way that just hadn’t occurred to me before. That’s the kind of thought process that was generated by a 14 year old Longworth72 when he was thrust into a difficult situation, such as being asked obtuse questions by authority figures.

The problem with this reaction was that I was the Head Boy, the male leader of the student body, elected to go in to school administration offices to answer obtuse questions from authority figures. In this role I was to be ably assisted by the Head Girl (Kitty), whose long, flowing hair, lovely smile and curvaceous figure were of great comfort in the face of such difficult breastions.

Sorry. I meant questions.

Anyway, that’s how I imagined the scenario going down and that’s exactly how it did not happen – Mostly because how I’d projected it playing out was: a. Sexist and b. Dumb.

Basically, she was smarter than me, more confident than me and I’d only been elected based on my ability to swim fast. And no, that’s not a metaphor – I was brilliantly quick at breast stroke.

That’s not a metaphor either – I saw no breasts as a 14 year old, outside of National Geographic exposes on lost tribes.

Kitty Pryde by contrast had evidently seen her own breasts and was not at all phased by their presence, and had, and this is the critical bit, been elected based on representative potential rather than sporting prowess.

So it was pretty much down to her to handle this discussion about what a joke was, to get through the seemingly solid walls in our minds and somehow get Professor Xavier to accept that a boy scorching his shoes was a fine laugh.

Because this whole thing had been prompted by a fellow student, who I will call Scott Summers, attaching percussion caps to the soles of his shoes. He then jumped up and down until they went bang.

Because we had no Internet then.

Fortunately we have that whole global communications thing now and so we have entertainment beyond the simple detonating of your footwear. We can for instance, hang out at home (Winnipeg, Manitoba), watch sport (NBA Finals, Game 4) that is happening many miles away (San Antonio, Texas) and then talk about it with lots of people online (Via Twitter).

You could even liken the Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh to a fairy.

Yep. Evander Kane, a forward for the National Hockey League’s Winnipeg Jets, did all of that:

@kane: Chris bosh looked like a fairy going to the rim.

I’m assuming he means gay folk rather than actual fairies vis a vis the kind you find in fairy tales and at the bottom of gardens and that have gossamer wings and magical dust that is not in any way related to cocaine etc.

It’s not a particularly accurate metaphor – The gay people I know are pretty much like the straight 1s – They generally don’t live at the bottom of gardens, they don’t have gossamer (Or any other kind of material) wings and they don’t spread fairy dust around, least not that I can tell.

Also fairies are fictional. Gay people are not.

And gay people play basketball. Magic Johnson for instance often went to the rim looking like a basketball player, a feat that contributed to his 3 NBA MVP awards, 12 All-Star selections, 5 NBA Championship rings and 3 NBA Finals MVP awards.

It’s hard to imagine Tinkerbell managing all that – Fairy dust would surely constitute a Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) and even if she could use it, the rim would not be the place to go near – According to Wikipedia, iron is like poison to fairies.

So the Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh is not at all like a fairy and instead, calling him 1 was likely a homophobic slur.

Which is not very nice.

To be fair to Evander Kane he did quite quickly realise that what he’d said was not very nice, helped along by a conversation with Patrick Burke of the You Can Play organisation. Shortly thereafter that intervention Kane removed the offending tweet and offered up the following instead:

‘Just spoke with Patrick Burke + @youcanplayteam and would like to sincerely apologize for a tweet where I used a homophobic term. I made a mistake and will learn from this. I apologize to anyone I offended by my tweet and this will not happen again.’

Which is a decent retraction – 1 further backed up by Burke’s explanation:

‘Evander knew that he had made a mistake. He didn’t understand why it was offensive. He thought it was just a joke and I talked him through it.’

Yep, there’s that whole ‘joke’ thing again. And this time Kitty Pryde isn’t around to make things clear. They’re really tricky things, those jokes. It’s not just the words you have to consider, but the actions around them, the context even. Take for example the following:

Rajon Rondo does kinda look like Franklin. Which, by the way, is ok because Franklin is a cool dude.

See, those tweets weren’t jokes, at least until the folk they were aimed to wound disarmed them and extracted some laughs for themselves. Which gives me a kind of template to apply to those other scenarios:

What Evander Kane said about Chris Bosh was not a joke because his words, and 1 in particular, could hurt some people. Meanwhile, Scott Summers’ actions were a joke because his shoe blasts were controlled and kept from harming anyone.

Like a man with an optic blast wearing a shielding quartz battle visor.

Which finally gives me the answer to Professor Xavier’s question.

When is a joke not a joke?

When it hurts somebody.

Put Out The Fire

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