OpinionsNeedles in a StackEntertainment vs. Public Ridicule (Ethics 101)

Entertainment vs. Public Ridicule (Ethics 101)


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Last week, I opted to skip an opportunity to watch a classic French film by a famous auteur director. Instead, I decided to watch a very uncouth event, a live basketball game between Unano (a.k.a. dwarves or the politically-correct name Little People) against Bading (gay transvestites).

Being an American, I was intrigued by this kind of circus event that is very unique. I had the urge that I needed to see it for myself despite knowing that this “show and tell” might be offensive and embarrassing — meaning, embarrassing to me for indulging myself in this kind of amusement.

But truth to be told, the show was hilarious, quite entertaining, and just pure fun without any malice.

It seemed that everyone in the audience had a great time, including the performers themselves. Everyone was glad that the Unano won, after all, they were the underdog literally and figuratively.

The question in my mind is whether or not this kind of performance was just good old entertainment or just a plain display of public mockery of people to make a profit from someone’s expense? Is this another type of exploitation? Well, my personal answer is yes and no.

Yes, there is something perhaps uncivilized, for the lack of a better word, about making fun and cheering on of others for being unusual or different, even if they themselves consented to such a ridiculed performance.

We can’t really say that we are only laughing at their acts and not their disability or their unique capabilities.

The reason why it is funny is because their disability is part of their act, so it’s a whole package.

Yes, I must admit that no matter how things are put in perspective, there is something distasteful to the notion of putting a show in the form of “humiliating oneself” for the benefit of everyone’s pleasure.

On the other hand, it may be distasteful, but is it really that wrong or offensive? Is it wrong to capitalize on one’s disability or unique talent for the purpose of entertainment?

I guess it depends on whether the people are forced to allow themselves to be humiliated or if that the decision was made freely by the performers simply because they are good at it, and they enjoy doing it.

It is easy to just say that we shouldn’t make fun of others for their disability or for being “different”. But is it fair to discriminate against disabled people for being a comedic entertainer? How come it’s acceptable to watch regular comedians doing their slapstick performance, but we tend to be put off when a disabled person does the same?

If we claim to be a civilized society with good sensibility, then why not accept the fact that disabled people are just as entitled to be good performers as everyone else? Why assume that somehow they should be excused precisely because of their disability?

If the perception is not just about laughing at them because they are funny, rather because they are seen as inferior, then of course, it’s not right.

But who’s to say that everyone’s perception cannot be the same or the other way around? The answer is, nobody really knows. All we know is that we just want to have fun, and hopefully, without offending anyone at their expense.

Silent movie actors like Charlie Chaplin, Louise Brooks, Clara Bow, or Buster Keaton played an important role in the world of silent cinema where their acts were choreographed up to the border of tastelessness and offensiveness.

Were they being exploited by such acts? Well, the proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes, they made tons of money, and became famous entertainers around the world at their expense of being “funny”.

In Ancient Rome, the circus was a tradition of entertainment, consisting of exhibitions of horse and chariot races, equestrian shows, staged battles, displays featuring trained animals, jugglers, and acrobats. The same as Roman Gladiators, they were also one of the major entertainments during that time. The Gladiator events were simply perpetrated as a means to appease the public from their miserable drudgeries, to avoid revolts against the state.

In order for the masses to be part of the event, a mass hysteria of thunderous cheering was part of the whole show. Watching muscular bulky men kill each other in the name of entertainment is not only barbaric but also inhumane.

The same with boxing, wrestling and even cockfighting; these are sports that inadvertently require the shedding of blood or someone getting hurt, and by all means, are not funny.

Yes, a basketball event between the Unano vs. Bading may be a low-brow form of entertainment, but at the end of the day, when the audience roared with laughter, and the performers were inspired by the audience’s response, then who’s to say that the whole thing is offensive? It appears that everybody is into it, so I guess that settles the question.

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