Comedians are given broad latitude to push the envelope for the sake of humor. But comedian Kathy Griffin this week, in a revolting photo shoot, proved she has no idea where to draw the line, or even how to distinguish between the artistic and the horrifyingly disgusting.
The photo shoot included shots of Griffin holding a mask of Donald Trump’s head, covered in red paint to make it appear bloodied from a beheading. Griffin posed, ISIS-style, holding the faux decapitated head by the hair in a gruesome display of raw barbarism. This is what passes for art in the left’s “anything goes” cultural decay.
The photographer, Tyler Shields - one of Hollywood’s favorites - and Griffin were so confident that they would not face any backlash or consequences that they joked with one another on Twitter about being forced into exile in Mexico once the images went public. The banter between the two on Twitter shows just how unconcerned they were about any actual consequences for the photo shoot. Jokes aside about fleeing to Mexico, the two “artists” apparently had no worries that the pictures might cost either of them sponsorships or contracts - or even fans.
On Tuesday, as the pictures made their way around the Internet, and as everyday Americans began tweeting their horror, Griffin defended her actions, tweeting: “OBVIOUSLY, I do not condone ANY violence by my fans or others to anyone, ever! I’m merely mocking the Mocker in Chief.”
Obviously? Americans can be forgiven, of course, for making the obvious connection between beheadings and violence. The photos were not merely a condoning of violence; they were, in fact, a celebration of the most inhuman violence.
Political mockery has played an important role throughout history. Ancient Greek playwrights, most notably Aristophanes, perfected the art of political humor, honing the craft of making audiences laugh while poking fun at politicians, political systems, and government bureaucracies. But political satirists play with words, not the likeness of decapitated heads. And Griffin, whose chosen profession is comedy, should know the difference.
The coarseness and the lack of creativity of Griffin’s photo shoot signifies much more than the descent of her career. Those tasteless photos also represent a broader problem - the left’s decline of civility.
Only a few weeks ago, I wrote in these pages about late-night comedian Stephen Colbert’s crude and vulgar anti-Trump tirade. Prior to that, Americans witnessed Ashley Judd’s disgusting televised rant at the Women’s March held in Washington, DC during President Trump’s inauguration weekend. These are only a few of the examples of liberal Hollywood’s departure from civility.
What should we make of the recent examples of actors and comedians ignoring all boundaries of civility with their in-your-face crudeness?
Hollywood’s crassness today is the product of a decades-long progression of the left’s selective regard for the cherished pillars of our society’s freedom. Freedom of speech today is nearly unrecognizable from what the Founders of our country had envisioned. From the liberal perspective, freedom of speech is protected - so long as it conforms to the liberal orthodoxy.
Nowhere is the erosion of free speech more clearly seen than on today’s college campuses. American college campuses have been overwhelmed by students seeking refuge or “safe spaces” from being exposed to any ideas that remotely challenge their worldview. For thousands of years, the academic setting was where people went precisely because it would shake their worldview and challenge them to see things differently. But no more is that the case.
The left’s group-think, from college campuses to comedy clubs, is mentally stultifying. Left-leaning comedians and actors (and that encompasses most of them) are not equipped to create sophisticated humor. The liberal mindset only has one line of thinking, and comedians are forced to go further down that uniform line of thinking - pushing the envelope ever harder and ignoring all lines of civility - if they want to gain attention. When the punch lines are all the same and the humor directed at one person - President Trump, most recently - there is no space for creativity. All that remains are shock-and-awe vulgarities.
After the backlash on social media on Tuesday, Griffin released a video, apologizing for making, as she sees it, an error in professional judgment.
Apologies are important, but so are consequences. Squatty Potty, whose ads feature Griffin, announced Wednesday morning that the company is ending its contract with Griffin and pulling the advertisements. CNN, which employs Griffin as a regular commentator, should follow Squatty Potty’s example and fire Griffin - immediately.
Freedom takes many forms. Kathy Griffin is fortunate to live in a country that allows free speech, where individuals are not forced to flee to Mexico for profoundly poor decisions. But we also have freedom of choice as consumers, and corporations are free to make good business decisions like dropping contracts with comedians who make light of murdering heads of state.
Comedians have one basic professional duty - to make us laugh. Based on the social media response, Americans weren’t laughing at Griffin’s antics this week. She failed, not only as a comedian, but also as a member of a society that cherishes decency and civility.
The consequences of Griffin’s actions are likely to be as unfunny as the photo shoot itself.
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