Takei Way —
Last month, Hillary Clinton gave a powerful speech on preserving and protecting the human rights of homosexuals around the globe. The speech drew widespread praise from a diverse coalition of politicians, activists and ordinary Americans.
Yet, oddly enough, nobody commented on her opening monologue in which she mentioned how great it is that a black man had finally reached the highest office in the land. “Unfortunately,” she quipped. “He’s still relying on government-subsidized housing.”
For me, this moment is second only to the time the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, when he included a copy of his favorite comic strip.
Yeah, they should, unless you’re a complete and total asshole.
And not simply because the “jokes” are horrible, but because the idea of such bigotry and hatred coming from Clinton or King, both proponents of equality and humanity, is unimaginable.
Yet when contemporary gay activists, such as Dan Savage or George Takei, post offensive jokes, comments or comics about fat people, nobody bats an eye. It’s just a joke, after all. Why so serious?
I have previously shared my thoughts on fat jokes and my take is this: a comedian’s job is to amuse and provoke, and the nature of their job gives them a certain license to offend. But in the end, they are responsible for who they piss off. When comedians tell fat jokes, I’m more concerned about whether those jokes are actually clever, original and insightful, rather than hackneyed, hateful stereotypes. The former requires skill, while the latter is the mark of a pathetic, talentless douchebag.
But when a person with a reputation for being a talented, compassionate human rights activist posts hack fat jokes, I’m taken aback. That’s what happened this week when gay activist and USS Enterprise helmsman George Takei posted this “funny” comic to his Facebook page.
The response from fans was as expected.
Likewise, the response from fat activists was a expected.
And the response to the fatties was a expected a well.
And an added bonus, the author of the comic even responded.
Ah, yes, the “I wasn’t making fun of fat people” defense. Cartoonists who dabble in fat jokes love to pull the “I was really making fun of [INSERT ACTUAL TARGET HERE]” card when they’re called out. Some even do it in advance to assure readers of purist intentions.
For example, this hi-larious comic strip for Natural News…
The point of this comic is not make fun of Santa or obese people (I used to be nearly obese myself), but rather to point out that everyone needs to exercise in order to be healthy — even folks like Santa Claus who seem to be immortal. (Does he ever really age?)
Yeah, clearly his intent had nothing to do with fatness or Santa.
For me, the most offensive thing is the hackneyed nature of the comic (which took two people to develop, mind you). In fact, these same two organic assholes had the chutzpah to recycle this “Santa’s too fat for his sleigh” joke for a series of “Santa’s too fat” comics:
For me, the most disturbing part of Takei’s “joke” is that this is the second fat cartoon he has posted in as many days.
The first, which Takei refers to as a “gem,” gets one point for originality and negative 1,000 for needless cruelty.
Wow, that’s hilarious because fat people never exercise! Oh, my sides are splitting.
Allow me to point out that Mr. Shatner is 80 fucking years old and still incredibly active in the entertainment industry. Who gives a flying fuck if he’s fat? HE’S EIGHTY. Besides, I thought there weren’t any old, fat people.
As far as Kate Mulgrew is concerned, very original picking on an overweight woman. What courage! What bravery! What honor it takes to insult fat women. Thank you for tackling this huge issue (HAHAHA! Did you see what I did there with the words and the thing…).
First of all Mr. Takei, fat people do work out. In fact, last night I was at the YMCA running on the elliptical for 45 minutes, keeping my heart rate between 130 and 150 BPM, which is something I’ve been doing for over a year now with nary a budge from the scale. And the night before that I was in the weight room working on strength training.
You see, what makes your comic “funny” is its reliance on stereotypes: namely, fat people are lazy.
Other comics use the “fat people are gluttons” and “fat people are ticking time bombs” stereotypes, the foundations of which I addressed in a lengthy response to Dan Savage’s douchebaggery.
Now, George, I realize the concept of offensive stereotypes may be new to you, a gay Japanese American, so I’ll try to explain in a way you might understand.
Some people claim that stereotypes originate from a kernel of truth: some gay men are effeminate, some young black men are criminals, some women are domestically gifted. Part of what makes stereotypes so wrong is that they do not allow individuals to define themselves before the stereotype is applied. So it’s wrong to assume that all women enjoy housework, all young black men are criminals and all gay men are flamboyant hairdressers.
Jokes that reinforce those stereotypes (such as the joke about Obama above) are just as bad, if not worse, than flatly applying those stereotypes to people.
Because when I simply say, “Look at that homo, I bet he’s an interior decorator,” society in general will respond with, “Hey, that’s not right.” But when you tell a joke about a gay interior decorator and people laugh, they are subtly internalizing those stereotypes. Whether they agree or not, laughter excuses the offense.
Where people might respond with an appropriate sense of outrage at direct mischaracterizations, they might excuse the stereotype joke because… well… it’s just a joke.
Yet when anti-gay comics pop up in mainstream publications, the gay community responds forcefully. For example, this comic ran in the Washington Post:
The Post was roundly criticized for it and they eventually deleted hundreds of critical comments to stifle the controversy. The same thing happened when the New York Post, the hate-mongering ass rag, posted this comic.
And, oddly enough, when you married your partner of 21 years, Brad Altman, the New York Post ran this comic about you.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) immediately attacked the artist.
So, clearly, comic strips that perpetuate gay stereotypes, or degrade gay people, have become socially unacceptable. Nobody is issuing pathetic excuses like, “Well, clearly it’s not about gay people, it’s about the modern American western film” or “This isn’t meant to offend Mr. Sulu, it’s a comment on the sanctity of marriage vows.”
Yet every single day, some newspaper will publish an anti-obesity comic strip that purportedly attacks the “obesity epidemic,” while simultaneously slapping fat people in the face. The practice has become so common that cartoonist Tim Eagen includes the anti-obesity comics in the “generic 4 pak” of political cartoonists.
Every day, people share hundreds, if not thousands, of fat-bashing comics across Facebook and Twitter, and very few people think twice about it, let alone speak out against it. When the vocal few do speak out against it, they’re told that it’s “just a joke.”
It’s not just a joke, Mr. Takei. These are comic strips that humiliate and degrade people that look like me and my friends and my family. These are comic strips that make light of, and encourage, the public humiliation of fat people, and you, a self-described human rights activist, have joined the goon squad.
In June, when comedian Tracy Morgan told a truly disgusting joke about killing his son if he was gay, you said, “When I first learned of it, my blood started boiling, but then, the more I read it over, you know, he’s a sad, strange man. He’s an African-American who has been subjected to bigotry and hate before, and for him to be perpetuating that, he must be an insecure guy.”
Although Morgan’s joke was significantly more offensive than the two you shared, the underlying truth is still there: in order to perpetuate hatred and bigotry, the offender must be pretty insecure.
George Takei, you have the power to influence the way other people think and feel about the humanity of others. By posting cartoons that perpetuate stereotypes about fat people, you are participating in the dehumanization of fat people yourself. There’s no such thing as “just a joke.” All words have meaning and context and connotation. What you say and what you send to your fans, sends a message about what you believe is acceptable and who you think is a fair target for abuse and criticism.
While I judge the fat jokes from comedians based on originality and cleverness, you are not a comedian, Mr. Takei. Today, you are best known as an activist, and for an activist to demand respect for their own identity group while shitting on another is just plain hypocritical.
And if you can’t see that, understand it and remedy it, then fuck you Mr. Sulu. Fuck you at warp speed.