CMN 2180: Lecture 5 Oct 13 2011
Humor as Social Commentary and Resistance:
Humor is the ability or quality of people, objects, or situations to invoke feelings of amusement in other
people. The term encompasses any form of entertainment or human communication which invokes such
feelings, or which makes people laugh or feel happy.
The serious side of humor:
Humor can be threatening (using humor to lessen hierarchy)
Serve to dissolve rigid social rules
At one point in history: dissolution of humor and laughter for the purpose of strengthening hierarchy
Bakhtin’s Carnival :
Bakhtin depicted the popular culture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance as a carnival or laughter culture
Medieval culture as divided into two opposite poles: official culture and popular culture
Bakhtin saw carnival only as a festivity, a point at which popular feelings were free of any obstacles.
Others report massacres happening in carnivals
Laughter and joy go hand in hand with hate and fear
Bakhtin stressed that at the heart of the carnival was the idea of overturning reality, the tradition of turning
the established social and religious order upside down.
Hobbes: “through our competitiveness and out desire for glory, we rejoice in anything that shows our
superiority or another’s inferiority.” Freud’s theory of jokes: “There are only two purposes that it (a joke) may serve… It is either a hostile
joke (serving the purposes of aggressiveness, satire or defense) or anobscene joke (serving the
purpose of exposure, sexuality)”▯ aggressive
Jokes are assaults against real individuals And groups in the social world. They serve the emotions by
allowing the expression of aggression safely ‘masked’ as play.
Characteristics of humor:
Suddenness of recognition
Function vs. Structure
Jokes can be used to express hostility but at the same time appeal to a creative, playful part of human
Ex: ethnic humor▯ humor may be used by the dominant culture in an attempt to control the behavior of
ethnic subgroups, particularly to emphasize the need for members of these subgroups to conform the
norms of the dominant culture.
Or used to puncture stereotypes while acknowledging that there is some truth to them.
What is the social function of humor?
Critical : focuses attention on what is wrong and sparks resistance to it.
Cohesive : it creates solidarity in those laughing together at oppressors (authority).
Coping : helps the oppressed get through their suffering without going insane.
Pop Culture and humor:
Mass mediated humor, mass access, profitable business
Aggressiveness and criticism
Humor as shock and deceit When is humor abusive?
Popular culture and Religion:
Religion as pop culture
Religion in pop culture
Policing pop culture and religion
Religion as pop culture: comm