People my age often complain that the favorite comedies of our youth – Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles for instance – could never be made today. Brooks is a comic genius but his bawdy creations bothered the bluenoses even back then. It’s gotten to the point, however, that beloved shows with sophisticated messages would likely suffer the same fate. In this article, I consider 3 of them, all personal favorites.
Idiocracy is a 2006 movie by humorist Mike Judge about an “average” guy named Joe (Luke Wilson) who sleeps for 500 years and wakes up in a dysfunctional world in which peoples’ IQ’s have plummeted. Intellectuals love to cite it as prophetic whenever anything particularly stupid happens in the real world. Yet when it was released its studio Fox refused to promote it; You-Tuber “Loudmouth Reviews” speculates it was because the movie mocks real corporations such as Starbucks and Carls Jr. Idiocracy quickly disappeared from theaters and became a classic after it went to video. Nowadays the movie would not just be neglected but banned because the explanatory opening sequence seems to promote eugenics, that pet cause of the Nazis. The notion that intelligence is hereditary is heresy in the modern world. We are expected to believe that anyone is capable of being a doctor, a scientist, or an engineer and if they fail, it’s society’s fault.
Avenue Q is a musical comedy developed in 2002 by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx which satirizes the children’s TV series Sesame Street. It stars a diverse cast including puppets with wonderful catchy songs in which characters commiserate about the problems of adult life. Many of the jokes, however, would currently be beyond the pale. According to one of the songs, everyone is racist, including blacks. Unthinkable! Another song claims that all men enjoy pornography. Outrageous! In yet another musical number, the guys have sex with gals who are intoxicated. That’s practically rape! Worst of all may be the Asian character Christmas Eve with her weird broken English. She arbitrarily exchanges l’s and r’s to produce gems like “lecyrabers” (recyclables.) No, Avenue Q would never fly if done today.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a 1998 musical play and 2001 movie written by and starring John Cameron Mitchell. It’s a dark comedy about an East German rock musician who has suffered a disfiguring sex change operation, featuring a kick-ass musical score by Stephen Trask. I’ve heard that high schools in Canada recommend it to students as a “transgender resource.” Yet it couldn’t be made in 2018 because its transsexual protagonist Hedwig is not a likable character. She’s whiny and bitchy, a stalker and a bully and she preys on teenage boys. In flashbacks, we see the miserable childhood that turned young Hansel into the bitter Hedwig. Regardless of this, she needs to present a better example of her victimized class. These days female or minority heroes are supposed to be flawless Mary Sue types like Rey in The Force Awakens. To top it off, Hedwig’s gender dysphoria is more symbolic than literal. It represents alienation, the difficulty of forging one’s own identity in the modern world, and the existential loneliness of being human. That’s too sophisticated for our times. In the Current Year, the message ought to be something like “Cisgenders are Evil.”
As long as I can remember, I’ve loved shows like Idiocracy, Avenue Q, and Hedwig for their wit, insightfulness, and edgy humor. The current climate of political correctness, however, can strangle these babes like these in the cradle, even though they would grow up to be cult classics. We need to remember this and rush to defend those creators who may come under attack for the Outrage of the Week. I wholeheartedly recommend all of the above shows to anyone with a mature outlook and a childlike sense of humor.