Have you ever read an internet article and dreaded the comment section that followed? Those poorly-spelled, hate-filled glimpses into the dark recesses of the human soul–complete with racist, sexist, xenophobic, and religious-based attacks on anyone and/or anything that is considered different? Those people are out in the world among the rational, and they are as frightening as their defense of Ghostbusters as a male-only endeavor. I recently had an unfortunate experience with such a piece of human waste.
I write for a local sketch comedy group, and the new season has brought fresh blood for the writer’s pool. One of those eager beavers was a tall, glasses-wearing oaf of a young man, and he quickly made his presence known with his mouth: while the head writer caught people up on new business and the meeting’s outline, the kid interrupted several times with random nonsense as well as calls to read his sketch about a male feminist. (WARNING #1)
The head writer did his best to quell the kid’s inquisitive nature, but it only got worse. We then read new sketches, and the guy occasionally butted in with aimless chatter important only to him as well as odd comments on the scripts (one being that mentioning the paltry Apple MacBook specs would be funny because of the price). And he continued to ramble about anything and everything for anyone within earshot–despite the wishes of the head writer. (WARNING #2)
The floor then opened up to new sketch pitches, and the weirdo shared his idea: a parody of crazy warehouse-sale commercials (eh) where the insane, angry salesman selling mockeries of warehouse sales (getting better) boiled over when his wife interrupts him and proceeds to beat her for several minutes. (That’s it; I’m out of here.)
I was floored. This guy advocated putting domestic abuse into a sketch comedy piece because, and I’m paraphrasing, he wanted to “get a reaction” out of people. (You know what’s a reaction: NOT BEING A FUCKING PSYCHOPATHIC CREEP.) The room fell into uncomfortable silence–the kind of quiet when someone says an awkward thing–for a few seconds, but it recovered in the spirit of positive collaboration: lots of tip-toeing around the elephant in the room by tweaking other aspects of the sketch idea. The asshole was stubborn and talked around the suggestions, making it known that he wanted to get a reaction out of people and rail against the system. (We politely acknowledged that the show was in the vein of Saturday Night Live.)
He again brought up his want for a battered wife focus, and seeing that the elephant was squeezing all the oxygen out of the room, I asked “Is there a way to do the sketch without the domestic violence?” Shit, as they say, hit the fan.
The kid was immediately defensive, saying that he didn’t want to do the sketch if he couldn’t have his spouse slams, and insisted we erase all notes of the idea. (We had no problem with that.) We foolishly thought the weirdness was behind us, continuing the meeting with new sketch pitches. Meanwhile, Creepy Longpsycho made his discontent known with odd mumbling and playing “noise” sounds on his smartphone (and admitting to searching for “noise” videos). When I pitched an idea about a Men’s Rights Activist harassing people on the street to peddle his group’s pleas, the idjit said (paraphrasing) “I’m just mad because you guys shit on my idea.” (He added that people with such hateful thinking like Men’s Rights Activists should die, which didn’t help the argument that he was a disturbing person.) He then excused himself from the meeting.
Again, we foolishly thought we were safe from the jackass’s tantrums, fleshing out the pitches, but he stormed in minutes later, saying that he had to use the bathroom. He did his business, stormed out and slammed the door behind him. We all looked at each other in confusion and, after the head writer cracked a joke, we got back to the business of writing non-edgy comedy that didn’t involve woman-beating.
One thing that I wish we had done was better explain why domestic violence was not funny. Despite noting that we didn’t want to make people uncomfortable, this was lost on deaf ears. And perhaps the kid had not known someone who had been abused or experienced the effects firsthand. I know that it took being close to someone that experienced rape before I understood a shred of the damage that sexual assault inflicts–physically and emotionally.
Later that night, I thought about the dickhead that derailed the meeting in spectacularly uncomfortable fashion. How did that guy come to be the person he was: an angry, anti-status quo advocate of anti-comedy at the expense of another gender? Society is no help, as sexism is widely ingrained in nearly everything we read, watch and listen to. Immaturity could be a culprit, as teens and 20-somethings are still figuring out their viewpoints and their voice in the world–though that voice shouldn’t be used to announce one’s acceptance of abuse in the name of humor. Maybe he had attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)–the inability to pay attention for long periods of time, being impulsive, and restlessness.
Or maybe the guy had a combination of one or more of the above afflictions in combination with being a d-bag. Some apples end up rotten despite the picker’s best efforts, and like Chris Rock said, “Whatever happened to crazy?”
The head writer assured us that the jackal wouldn’t be invited back to future meetings, which is a relief. But what about those other assholes with similar mindsets and propensities for anti-people views with a way to voice said musings? In a way, having internet comment sections lets them release their emotional pressure valves, though I don’t support such behavior in the first place. There will always be jerks in the world, be it online or in the flesh, and one without a way to voice their hate is one less person to inflict hurt.