226 – The Offensive

"I can't believe Jesus just called me a dick!"

This post is bloody offensive. If you’re of a religious, nervous or indeed human disposition, it’s probably best if you look away now.

I’m on a bus. I’ve travelled across the Atlantic for the first time to meet someone who’s still many miles away. The aeroplane flew right across the country they live in; I’m now at the wrong end of it, slowly making my way toward the right end.

Things are different here – greener. Traffic’s on the wrong side of the road. Everything’s a little strange. At a rest stop I call my Internet friend and tell them about it. I’m nervous, giddy, excited. Then I’m back on the bus.

I’ve somehow managed to offend the man in front of me, who’s a native of this strange, green land. The aisles are narrow and I accidentally caught my knee against his seat. He looked back at me angrily; now he harrumphs and keeps slapping his body back on the chair. He hasn’t actually told me I’ve upset him but it’s clear all the same. He’s pretty much the first person I’ve interacted with since getting here and now he’s being passive-aggressive. From now on I’ll think of the English as a passive-aggressive people.

It doesn’t take much to cause offense. Obviously there are varying states of being offended, that start with you taking offence at me pointing out the obvious as if you’re a dimbo and work their way up from there. It would be exceedingly difficult to get through life without offending at least a few people. I mean, Morgan Freeman was having a pretty good crack at it, but then he slipped up by dating is step-granddaughter, and then, when he was questioned about it he said “Fuck you, America! You know who I am? I’m Morgan motherfucking Freeman! My initials are MF. I narrated March of the Penguins, I drove Miss Daisy, and if I want to fuck my own step-granddaughter there’s nothing you nor God nor anyone else can do to stop me.”

And then he was in those MoreThan car insurance adverts, which was even worse.

Nah, he didn’t do that at all. The adverts, I mean. He fucked his step-granddaughter but they got an impersonator in to do his voice, didn’t they?

I’m just kidding, Mr. Freeman. Big fan of your work! Would you be interested in doing an interview for Tales from the Fireside some time? I know you’re well into Yu-Gi-Oh.

Now, maybe you’re offended because I besmirched Morgan “God” Freeman’s good name or maybe you’re offended I’m using the motherfucker word so often in this post, or maybe you’re offended by my casual blasphemy which – Allah fucking baby Jesus before buddha’s greasy moobs finish him off with a tit-wank – is something you ought to be used to by now. And I feel a little bad about that last sentence because I don’t mean to offend you – honestly I don’t! – and that’s the most offensive thing I’ve written here since last I wrote about how much vegetarians disgust me.

I just don’t feel bad enough to erase it. It’s making a valuable point, so it stays. Suck on that, theists.

(I’m sorry)

Because as offensive as that sentence is if you’re Muslim, Christian, Buddhist or a homophobe it’s far more offensive to you than it is to me. The most offensive part of it to me is the bit where a baby gets effed, and considering I’ve joked with you about peeled babies before, given that it’s an abstract baby being effed in purely an abstract manner, even that isn’t particularly offensive to me. It’s not until now that I debate the possible offensiveness of it and decide – before this post is uploaded and lost to the wilds of the Internet – whether I should trim it or not that truly horrible, truly offensive connotations enter my thoughts. Because let’s face it, under usual circumstances it would be a terrible thing to say. Maybe you read that line with a smirk or a laugh but you’re surely not laughing now. Not until I’ve belaboured the point to such a degree that it starts becoming funny again. Or if I say it in a funny voice:

“Well, take this fucking asshole M’tumbo here. He got caught last week trying to rape a baby!”

Yeah, one of you’s laughing now – the one making her slow way to Plymouth at the start of this post.

Offence is almost expected in comedy. Apparently. That’s not something I necessarily believe in but professional comedians believe in it and they’re the ones getting paid for their observations. Yes sir, there’s nothing comedians like better than insulting and offending their audiences. Challenging people’s expectations is what comedy’s all about, at least according to critics, specifically the Late Review critics reviewing performances at the Edinburgh Fringe last week. They didn’t want their comedians to be safe: they wanted raw performances, pain, offense! They lamented that an actor performing stand up about his disabled mother refused to use the word ‘spastic’ unless he was performing in character as her, and they did so in the most humourless and detached of ways.

I think that’s what I found most offensive about this section of the show: rather than the snippets of the guy talking about his mother, Ruby Wax talking about her mental illness or Margaret Cho talking about her pubic hair it was the critics, dessicated, looking like they’d been sucked of anything resembling passion, who talked about what was and wasn’t funny through lips that would surely splinter if they ever pursed to smile.

I can see why comedians might want to push the envelope, and how taboo might be the best – some might say the only – direction in which to push. Regular readers might have noticed the slow mutation (which is only partly intentional) of this blog beyond its original remit. Those comical stories of taking the dog to see Santa seem written a long time ago; we’ve been through an unremitting period of doom and gloom, made our way past social commentary and we’re entering a dark age of sarcasm, bitterness and bile. If I’d stuck to writing an essay about every person I knew as I did in the early days, I’d have run out of subject matter a long time ago. Sometimes we need to be offensive just to keep our sanity in check.

Strange things are happening over on the other tabletop gaming blog, the blog who’s name we dare not speak for summoning angry Scottish things.

I’m a fan of his. I like it. And I understand all the complaints levelled at it while still enjoying it.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, there’s a professional comedy writer who’s a gamer, who’s written about video games in the past and now writes about tabletop games for PC gaming blog Rock Paper Shotgun. He wrote for them for a while last year and though his column was rather popular his comedy writing was even more so, and he left the site to work on sitcoms for various TV channels.

Another writer took his place writing about board games and was also very popular. This second writer recently left the site and when the first writer returned the readers who’d grown accustomed to his began to boo his replacement. It’s not the same! they said. He’s keeps being silly! He calls us names! He doesn’t talk about games so much as he goes off on flights of fantasy, straying far from the point at hand!

That said. you might understand why I enjoy his writing.

I’m quite jealous of the number of people who read his game writing compared with the number who read mine, but those people taking offense when he dares publish his crazier thoughts, I’m not jealous of those at all. If I were in his place, receiving that kind of feedback  I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Wallace and Gromit style, you’d have to upend the bed-frame and tip me into my clothes – and even then I wouldn’t be good for anything. I’d just mope around complaining that everyone hates me – which is pretty much what I do anyway.

And though he does ramble a little far off topic (who doesn’t?) he certainly doesn’t deserve the measure of spite aimed at his writing; especially when people are so offended at having to read a free article that doesn’t suit their taste they then belittle the noble charity he supports, a charity created in response to the outflowing of warmth directed toward a prominent tabletop gaming family who’d lost a child soon after birth; that hopes to provide anyone within that community who might find themselves in a similarly terrible position with as much support as they need to overcome it. I mean, what kind of a low down fucking cunt says something like that? What kind of wretched homoncular sputum can take a charitable act that wasn’t pushed into their face or forced otherwise upon them, and rail against it as ‘cheap plugs of money raising bullshit’?

You know what offends me? You offend me, sir. You offend me with the very act of your being.

The comedy writer might have been upset about that – he might have. I think it’s more likely he was glad he annoyed that blot on humanity  and all the other people complaining about it. I think he gets off on it. Not in a sexual sense you understand: I think he sees it as a job well done. If he’s offending people like that, it means he’s doing something right.

I don’t want to offend anyone. I’m polite. I’m apologetic to the point of being annoying. I say my pleases and thank yous and try to curb language and subject matter when in decent company. I don’t think I’ve ever said ‘motherfucker’ in front of anyone who isn’t my wife, and even then I’ve only said it because her mum is really hot.

Oh God, I’m sorry, I’m joking, please don’t kill me!

I do crack jokes as they occur to me, which is usually at the absolute worst points in time. It’s something I’m working on, but as you can see, my work on it thus far has been unsuccessful.

I’d prefer people not to be offensive. I’d like them to be nice instead. It would be nice to live in a nice world with lots of nice people who are all nice to one another.

But people aren’t nice. As long as there are offensive people I’m glad there are others out there willing to push the envelope just as hard and offend them right on back. And if that means a few abstract babies get raped along the way, well, that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

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