Trans Against Levity

by Charles C. W. Cooke

The terminally humorless strike again. Per Fusion:

For Tumblr user horriblewarning, a party game turned into a viral Tumblr post about transphobic jokes–and prompted one of the game’s creators to publicly apologize for it.

A brief overview for the uninitiated: Cards Against Humanity is a game similar to Apples to Apples, but with purposefully lewd and funny pop culture references. The game play, per the company’s website, goes as such: “Each round, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with their funniest white card.” Black cards contain fill-in-the-blank sentences, such as, “What the gift that keeps on giving?” or, “What is Batman’s guilty pleasure?” White cards have possible answers, such as, “Glenn Beck getting harried by a swarm of buzzards,” “a homoerotic volleyball montage,” and “Miley Cyrus at 55.”

Tumblr user horriblewarning was playing Cards Against Humanity with his friends. A white card with “passable transvestites” on it came up.

“A lot of my friends are LGBT, emphasis on the T,” horriblewarning told Fusion. “Somebody played that card, and somebody else was like, ‘That’s not okay.’ I decided I didn’t want it in my deck.”

I’m not greatly interested in whether this is “offensive” or not. “Offended” has become such a fluid and subjective term these days that I can’t possibly keep up — and, frankly, I don’t especially care to. Either way, that the outrage brigade would go after this game is nothing short of extraordinary. Whatever case there is for polite society, universities, or television networks attempting to keep their language within the malleable and brittle bounds that our arbiters of taste have contrived this week to establish, there is no reason whatsoever for it to be applied to a party lark. Make no mistake: The entire purpose — quite literally the only point — of “Cards Against Humanity” is to be shocking and objectionable. Pretty much every single card in the pack is shocking and objectionable. The game is “offensive”? Gosh, what gave it away? Was it, perhaps, the words ”Cards Against Humanity” emblazoned on the box? Or, perhaps, the description, “A party game for horrible people”? Maybe it was that the stated aim is to be as “despicable” as possible? A card “wasn’t okay”? Well, obviously.

Perhaps I just read too much of the Left’s output, but I’m starting to wonder whether “trans” people are engaged in some sort of concerted effort to be the most vocally boring and self-indulgent members of the perpetually aggrieved. Among the other topics at which Cards Against Humanity routinely pokes fun are incest, abortion, genocide, race, homosexuality, death, the disabled, those with crippling diseases, and the religious. A typical combination: “What will always get you laid? Date rape.” Another: “In 1,000 years, when paper money is but a distant memory, black people will be our currency.” Within the pack there are ready made Holocaust jokes, jokes about the massacre of American Indians, jokes about the molestation of altar boys, jokes that make light of black people and of slavery, jokes about fatal drug addiction, and an endless supply of gross, semi-pornographic nonsense. Oh, and more Holocaust jokes. (Oh, and even more Holocaust jokes.) Nick Summers, of Bloomberg Businessweek, described the offering as being built around ”punch lines that include Auschwitz, slavery, ‘Stephen Hawking talking dirty,’ white privilege, ethnic cleansing, terrorists, the Trail of Tears, assless chaps, nuclear bombs, ‘a mime having a stroke,’ and more depravity.” You get the picture.

Is this funny? That depends on your taste. I think it is, yes, and I enjoy playing the game. Not only do I have a high tolerance for these things, but, as a rule, I think that humor is by far and away the most effective way of conquering tragedy. Clearly, the guy who took such offense at the one card enjoyed the game too. He bought into the premise. He sat there through the rest of the rounds, which inevitably contained other “offensive jokes.” He just didn’t like it when the joke was on him. Fusion reports him saying that 

“Somebody played that card, and somebody else was like, ‘That’s not okay.’ I decided I didn’t want it in my deck.”

But the other cards, including those that relate to people who have suffered infinitely worse indignities? Fine.

Do you know what we called people such as this before the age of sensitivity training? We called them people-who-could-dish-it-out-but-who-couldn’t-take-it. We called them people-who-take-themselves-too-seriously. We told them that it was only a bit of fun. We asked sarcastically when they had been appointed emperor. We told them to get over themselves and have another drink. We rolled our eyes. What did Cards Against Humanity’s creator do? He apologized, of course: 

Max Temkin, one of the co-creators of Cards Against Humanity, said a fellow Cards creator found Jonah’s post and emailed it to him. On Tumblr, people have the ability to reblog a post and add their own commentary to it. Temkin decided to speak up.

“I regret writing this card, it was a mean, cheap joke,” Temkin posted on his Tumblr. “We took it out of the game a while ago.”

Translation: I really don’t want these people angry at me.

Worse, Temkin confirmed in the interview that a game that is explicitly supposed to be offensive — and which was created after a Kickstarter campaign circumvented the traditional channels — has been blunting its edges in order . . . not to be offensive:

Temkin says he and the other creators know there’s a big difference between cards that make fun of public figures and ones that victimize people in marginalized groups.

“We talk about the idea of ’punching up, not punching down’ all the time,” Temkin said. “It’s something that we stand behind: making fun of those power structures, because they’re already powerful. Making jokes about rapes, making jokes about trans people, they don’t have the same cultural power.”

To that end, some of the newer cards have a decidedly social-justice-friendly edge: You can now play “heteronormativity,” “the patriarchy” and “white privilege.”

Great. What a bloody riot that sounds: Cards Whose Humor Value Has First Been Filtered Through What the Left Tells Us All Is the Immutable Structure of Our Terrible Society. At which of my local DMVs do I sign up?