Phi Beta Cons

Can College Students Take A Joke?

There’s a new documentary being screened on college campuses this month called “Can We Take A Joke?” It’s a look at how political correctness is killing comedy and free speech, especially at universities, where many comedians refuse to play, citing hypersensitive audiences.

Right on cue came this headline Monday: “College’s ‘Zoolander 2’ screening canceled because movie mocks ‘marginalized identities.’” How serendipitous for documentary makers, as perpetually offended college students essentially proved their point as they rolled out the movie to the masses.

The heart of comedy is to laugh at and poke fun of all our foibles, so – yes – it’s going to suffocate in a safe zone that disallows offense, à la college campuses. 

In the case of “Zoolander 2,” the student-run programming board at Claremont McKenna College told The College Fix that after screening the movie, they “observed that the film did not portray the LGBTQ community in a positive light and made a series of inappropriate jokes at the expense of individuals of marginalized identities.”

One Claremont McKenna student who disagreed with the decision to yank the flick said it’s a slippery slope.

“The entire movie is written on stereotypes taken to the extreme, that’s why it’s funny,” student John Marshall told The Fix. “Following a line of reasoning of boycotting movies that ‘do not represent communities well’ will have us boycotting movies that depict jocks as meat heads, blondes as dumb, and guys as messy.” 

Writing in Reason, Robby Soave also pointed out that “the idea that ‘marginalized identities’–the trans community, in this case—can’t handle one stupid joke is more than a little insulting to them. No one should strive to be so fragile.”

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