The disparity between the type of comedy found in today’s entertainment and the type that was popular a hundred years ago is understandably vast. Subject matter naturally changes with the advancing times, but is it necessary that the very basis for why something is funny be all that different? Human nature at its core surely can’t have changed all that much.
And yet I’ve recently noticed that the humor used to appeal to the target audiences that two very different films are aimed at makes me seriously question the taste of our demographic. And by “our” I mean that of the typical American college student.
“30 Minutes or Less” might hold some sentimental value for Erie natives who remember the short-lived tyrannical reign of the pizza bomber, but as a comedy, the film is lower than lowbrow. There is nothing that gives it merit, least of all its crude attempts at humor. The jokes are hinged on sex, violence and more sex. There’s a way to make something both sexy and funny that’s actually done tastefully.
When the main part of the exposition is introduced by a half-naked stripper straddling one of the main characters, it becomes clear how the movie will attempt to gain viewers and who it’s targeting. Cheap thrills are one of the most overused ways of appealing to a group of 20-somethings. Personally, as a member of this group, I take offense to the fact that movie-makers think so little of us as a target audience.
It does make me wonder, though, whether they are justified in targeting college-aged individuals with this kind of humor. As much as I’m ripping this offensive style of humor apart, I can’t ignore what happened to me as I watched Jesse Eisenberg and Danny McBride blunder their way through phallic jokes and degrading comments about women.
I found myself automatically laughing at certain parts I could tell were intended to be funny.
Whether I actually found them to be funny or not didn’t matter. It wasn’t until the next day when my Modern Drama class watched part of a different movie, also a comedy, that I realized that the night before I had been manipulated by a film that’s a whole lot less intelligent than I am. I’m not trying to sound smug – if you have any hobbies, interests or general emotion toward anything in life at all you’re already too smart for “30 Seconds or Less” by a long shot.
After we completed our reading of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which was first performed in 1895, over a hundred years ago, we watched a good bit of the 2002 film starring Colin Firth. Here is a film, adapted from a play, which is funny because it’s actually clever. And it stuck nearly exactly to the original script, and despite the fact that it was written before the turn of the 20th century, it nevertheless elicited natural, unforced laughter from my classmates and me.
It didn’t need to stoop to the level of humor that’s demeaning not only to women, but to the intelligence of whomever the target audience is.
Movies and television that are directed at our demographic, especially in the vein of comedy, seem to be slowly trending downward. Why do we seek out entertainment that is so far beneath us?
I think there probably will always be a place for crude comedies like “30 Seconds or Less,” “Project X,” etc. etc. But I think the real problem will come if this becomes the only means of humorous entertainment out there for our age group.