Despite running the risk of being branded as a TV addict, this week I decided to write about another TV show. During the last year at university, the show ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ was frequently playing in the living room. In fact, the sentences ‘episode of sunny?’ and ‘one more then we start working’ were quite possibly in the top 5 most used, of course alongside ‘just one more game of fortnite’ and ‘let’s deliveroo’ (in case you hadn’t caught on, I lived with boys). While it featured greatly as background noise, I never really watched it. However, when I had run out of things to watch on Netflix, I decided to give it a go.
During the first episode, aptly titled ‘The Gang Gets Racist’, I instinctively and confidently labelled it as one of the most offensive shows ever made. The unabridged and debauched humour made me feel uncomfortable and, in honesty, angry. While I found much of it funny, I felt too guilty to laugh. However, once I had persevered I understood that I had been missing the point. The show is there to be unnerving, controversial and at the same time entertaining. The ‘offensive’ actions and language are so extreme and incredible that they become ridiculous, thus making fun of them.
Comedy has often been used as a political and social tool, with comedians using satire as a platform to comment on society and its faults. This show is the latter in its purest form. It follows the simple model in which a group of people behave in obscene ways and experience the repercussions. Themes including sexism, racism, anti-Semitism and mental illness have been explored. In each case, while the behaviour exhibited is undoubtedly offensive and inexcusable, the show in no way praises or advocates it. The premise of the show is to explore important and controversial issues by demonstrating an extreme example of what not to do, in an effort to galvanize its audience into self-reflection. This platform is an excellent way to engage with an audience that may otherwise not be interested in listening or learning.
With the progression of society leading to a more open and expressive community, this and subsequent generations bear the responsibility of steering us in the right direction. As opinions become more fluidly shared we have formed a society which is often too quick to be offended, and thus shut the door on discussion. While we gain confidence in expressing our views, so too we must become more willing to listen and debate with others. There is no denying the show is wildly offensive, but that is exactly the point. While I praise myself with being a far cry from the characters in this show, I am, like everyone, by no means perfect. Without provocation, we as both individuals and a society are unlikely to become aware of or reflect upon our flaws.
The show in its extremity exposes and ridicules behaviour which it deems to be wrong, and as such criticizes its audience. There is a clear and distinct difference between humour at the expense of minorities or certain individuals, and humour which is making fun of discriminatory of wrongful actions. Society needs to become less affected by offensive behaviour and instead appreciate it as a means to influence and educate its perpetrators.