People tend to have different views on what is considered funny. We have all seen comical videos that have made us laugh hysterically or have provoked feelings of anger, but there is a fine line between funny and offensive.
Since comedy is known to be subjective, it is difficult to consider the limits. A prime example of this is the video series called “Shit Girls Say” which went viral over the Internet in a short amount of time. In essence, they are videos starring a guy, dressed as a woman, who says catchphrases he heard from women, such as “You know what? That’s not okay!”
The creators of the series of videos, Graydon Sheppard, a filmmaker by trade, and Kyle Humphrey, a graphic designer, originally started this idea when they made a “Shit Girls Say” Twitter account and tweeted catchphrases. When they garnered a lot of followers, they turned the idea into a series of videos. With over 12 million views for the first video, the series is not only acquiring plenty of fans, but many critics as well. The Internet is flaring with accusations of how these videos portray sexism and put all women in one stereotyped category. There are many arguments that these characterizations of women objectify them.
However, fans argue that these videos are all in good humour.
“I don’t think it was sexist. The videos portray stereotypes that are funny and pretty accurate,” said Annie Bertrand, a human relations student at Concordia. “It’s not like the videos are putting down women or comparing them to men in an inferior way.”
In an interview with the entertainment newspaper The A.V. Club, Sheppard responded to the critiques by saying “You can’t really respond to it, other than positively. We respect women; we love women; we grew up around women; the people who helped us on the project were women. Obviously we can’t critique anyone for critiquing us in this way. Everyone has the right to critique it.”
These videos aren’t made intentionally offensive by Sheppard and Humphrey. They exaggerate feminine characteristics, which makes these videos funny because they’re about stereotypes and not women in general.
“I would argue that they look familiar because they are imitations of sitcoms, specifically American sitcoms. The language, gestures and style of humour comes from that television genre,” said Dr. Sheena Gourlay, a women’s studies professor at Concordia University and the University of Ottawa. “I would argue that the discussion should be less about whether it is sexist because this is to imply that it is saying something about women. Instead, I think we should ask why these images and forms continue to circulate.”
Certain comedies are bound to annoy some people. However, people must keep in mind that comedy tends to point out the obvious while exaggerating the situation. It probes on stereotypes and it is up to people to recognize that they are just that: stereotypes. People find videos like “Shit Girls Say” funny because they identify with them.
“I don’t think they’re sexist. Girls say those things sometimes. It doesn’t mean that they’re stupid. It doesn’t mean anything,” said Tarek Alhusayni, a construction management student at Concordia.
Concordia student Katherine Duggun brought up the point that had these videos initially been about stereotyped masculine qualities, they would have been equally hilarious, adding that “We could do the same thing for guys and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t feel that it was sexism.”
It is understandable that certain women might feel defensive due to the fact that the actor in the videos is a man. It gives the impression that he is mocking women. However, the videos are only offensive if you think that the behaviours in the videos are wrong. Asking someone to pass you the blanket or getting excited when you see your friends aren’t exactly shameful behaviours.
What is more concerning is how the “Shit Girls Say” series of videos lead to the spread of other “Shit People Say” videos, such as “Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls.” Rather than keeping the main idea of silly things girls say, the Internet now boasts shit that dozens of other demographics say.
Some videos really put emphasis on the sensitivity of interracial communication and other videos highlight the issue of racist remarks directed at certain ethnic groups.
While their main purpose is to serve as a parody to the main video idea, these videos bring up a discussion of an important issue that exists to this day. Funny or offensive, these videos address issues that are embedded in our society. How each one of us approaches these issues is key to how we react to these videos.