The Vice Ganda Joke No One Got
Netizens were abuzz the last couple of days due to a controversial comment comedian/drag queen Vice Ganda made during his “concert” when he joked that newsperson Jessica Soho has to be gang raped. The biggest biff people had was making light of being raped, and imagining that vile act on an actual person.
Everything people have said before me is correct. That rape is a horrible act, that it is a crime against human sexuality, and that it carries a political baggage. All fine and dandy. But something nagged inside me, I couldn’t shake it off.
Until I realized: It’s all ultimately a joke.
Let me tell you why.
(1) Rape can be funny.
The feminazi inside you who has read that line may be dying to kill me, but before you light your torches, let me explain myself.
Comedy and tragedy take equal prominence (hence, the iconic symbol of drama, the twin masks of Thalia and Melpomene). But what is comedy really? There are quite a few good quotes here (such as “Tragedy is comedy gone wrong” or “Comedy is tragedy plus time”) but I’d like to share this one from the venerable Mel Brooks.
Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.
Comedy — or rather, what is funny — is actually people finding humor in a world without. Life is depressing and tragic; we are surrounded by famine, by war, by pestilence, and by death. But once you stop to look at the world through happy lenses, things change. Because Philippine politics isn’t funny. It’s sad. Sex isn’t funny. It’s awkward and slimy. Murder isn’t funny. It’s fucking murder. Migz Villafuerte isn’t funny. He’s hot.
But we make do because if you remove humor from stuff, we are forced to face life in its ugliness, to take in the gravitas of forcing oneself unto another. And — if you really think about it — in this country, rape IS funny because when women get raped it’s the fault of the victim and not the attacker. And that’s just freaking hilarious.
By the way, I strongly recommend Margaret Atwood’s short stories Rape Fantasies. It’s a hoot and a half.
(2) We are bipolar.
…and, yes, if you’re wondering if I’m making fun of a recognized psychological condition — yes, I am.
Scrolling through your Facebook feed, it seems as if when there’s a hot issue, everyone has the same opinion on it. Because, hey, “everyone” means all the middle-class people like you and you who have the luxury of time and money to spend in front of the computer. It seems now more than ever that we are force fed social issues and programmed what stand you should take.
Let’s take a back track. Vice Ganda is bad, Dan Brown is bad, Nancy Binay is black, Janine Tugonon is a slut, Migz Villafuerte is hot. Those are the headlines, those are the in-things to get involved with (because, hey, FOI is just sooo boring), those are the things that are share-worthy. Facebook gives us 10 percent of the issue and one-hundred percent of the activism.
The problem here is we like-n-share comments on a daily basis that we lose track of how illogical it is. A good example is what happened to Senator-elect Nancy Binay (and, no, I did not vote for her).
During the heat of election season, a lot of people were sharing Nancy Binay memes, a good part of which involved her darker complexion. Now, people prefaced these with statements such as “I don’t want to be a racist, but this is just so funny,” or “I’m so evil but I’m sharing this lol.” Saying you don’t want to be a racist and then making a racist remark, does not free you the baggage of being racist — it just means you’re aware of it. It’s no different than saying “No offense” and then going on to flat-out offend the person.
So these people who have been flat-out racist (or, fine, racially insensitive) now have the gall to call someone on sexism. Someone here would probably comment that sexual crimes are higher than racial crimes. Because, hey, we have no history of racial cleansing in the Philippines.
But, fine, sexism is different from racism. Then let’s go to Janine Tugonon. These same people who are suddenly rallying behind feminism are the ones who have condemned beauty queen Tugonon for being, surprise, surprise, a woman with a sex drive. Because, hey, we don’t like rape, but we don’t like women who express their female sexuality.
You cannot condemn both Tugonon and Vice Ganda. You are either for total female empowerment, support Tugonon’s frank openness about her love life, and mad about Vice Ganda’s joke that demeans women, or you support the male patriarchy, admonish Tugonon for being a slut, and celebrate Vice Ganda for being wonderful.
(3) Political Correctness will be the death of us.
At this time, we tend to believe that “good” jokes are the ones that don’t offend anyone. Because we all want to be good boys and good girls and go to heaven.
Here’s the thing: No matter what we do, we will always offend at least one person. Even Mother Teresa has a hate club. We cannot — we can never be something without having someone say something against us. It’s not crab mentality, it’s human nature.
Political correctness is a movement in the late 20th century that basically means we have to coat our words so as not to offend. “Retard” is a word that would cause people to glare at you; so is calling someone “Indian” when they’re not from India.
This movement has its supporters, it has its detractors, but we have to understand what kind of humor Vice Ganda was aiming for. It wasn’t the politically correct, dry humor — he was going for the loud, outrageous, borderline-if-not-outright slapstick one.
Farces and absurd dramas, by nature, are always politically incorrect; they always deal with extraordinary and larger-than-life characters. Vice Ganda’s performance was never meant to be realist, or to be taken in a realistic set-up. The purpose of that kind of humor is precisely, if not solely, to defy political correctness — and, yes, he succeeded.
This is, say, only slight different from the racially-based humor of Russell Peters (“Any Filipinos in the audience? They’re all thinking, it’s time for karaoke.”) A better example though would be Baron Cohen’s Ali G, Borat, Bruno, and General Aladeen. He has made a career of making antisemitic, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, misandrist, politically incorrect, and, really all negative adjectives you could think of, but he’s still all sorts of wonderful.
And if you really really don’t believe that racism and sexism can be funny if they defy political correctness, take a gander at this video (Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist from Avenue Q):
(4) We’ve lost focus
There’s nothing wrong with being current with social issues. There’s nothing wrong with analyzing them. And, yes, this is a systematic problem that needs attention, blah-blah, yes, yes, go write another term paper on it.
The proliferation, however, of issues such as Vice Ganda’s, Dan Brown’s, Janine Tugonon’s, et al, are symptomatic of the middle class pseudo-activism: the socio-political issues vs the economic, the political, and the revolutionary.
This is, of course, brought about by the obsession with the Western mode of democracy, the middle-class, college-graduate hipster having access to his computer, reading about “advancements” in the Western world, and blogging about them — though majority of them won’t do anything else but.
When a popular incident involving a semi-known figure arises, we raise arms. When someone doing something that would seem really stupid when taken out of context is trending, we raise arms. When our telenovole sense of romantic justice is piqued, we raise arms.
But when the poor are starving and are rallying in front of the Department of Agrarian Reforms, or when Filipinos are being killed in Taiwan, in Mindanao, in Sabah, or when we should start to critically profile our newly elected officials, it’s a bit easier to just scroll down your newsfeed, isn’t it?
(5) The outrage is ironic.
We take offense with Vice Ganda for “promoting a culture of rape.”
But Manila is adorned with billboards that objectify beauty. But ABS-CBN and GMA promote a culture of dramarama. But our noontime shows are filled with the masculine gaze. But the CBCP in all its infallible wisdom opposes basic reproductive rights. But we are used to calling girls in short shorts sluts. But our national female icons are Maria Clara, Tandang Sora, and Sisa. But we cannot even have a rational discussion about divorce and intimate partner violence. But we blaim battered wives for not being good enough. But we encourage the prostitution of minors. But we sell our children to foreigners. But we allow our grandmothers to be whores at the street. But we starve ourselves as we stare at the mirror, hating our faces. But our malls our filled with fashion stores we cannot afford. But we cry because they made us believe we are not beautiful enough.
We are all guilty of promoting a culture of rape — moreso, the institutions of the media and the clergy — but all of us by ignoring the symptoms. We blaim it on a single person, himself the product of the system, as if he were the root of the problem, as if everything we are fighting against is found in one person.
Rape is a horrible act. It is despicable, and anyone who forces his or her sexual urges unto someone without consent is despicable.
But maybe that’s joke of it all.
That in a society that has failed to protect women, we take offense to a gay man making fun of it.
- Vice Ganda, Jessica Soho and the Contemporary Filipino Humor (erwinagapay.wordpress.com)
- Jessica Soho accepts Vice Ganda apology but denies closing door on him (entertainment.inquirer.net)
- Rape is no joke, Gabriela warns Vice Ganda (rappler.com)
- Has Vice Ganda Overdone It? (expertscolumn.com)
- Vice Ganda gets flak for ‘rape’ joke (rappler.com)
- Social media on Vice Ganda’s ‘rape’ joke (rappler.com)
- Sue Vice Ganda (opinion.inquirer.net)