Wednesday, May 24, 2023

#144 / A Revealing Little Phrase


Pictured is Roseanne Barr,  who is described as follows by Wikipedia:
Roseanne Cherrie Barr (born November 3, 1952) is an American actress, comedian, writer and producer. Barr began her career in stand-up comedy before gaining acclaim in the television sitcom Roseanne (1988–1997; 2018). She won an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her work on the show.

Barr became a stand-up comedian in 1980. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she gained fame through her role in Roseanne and other performances. Barr sparked controversy when performing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a nationally aired baseball game on July 25, 1990. After singing the anthem in what many perceived to be a deliberately disrespectful manner, Barr grabbed her groin and spat. This performance was met with condemnation from baseball fans and sportswriters, and was called "disgraceful" by then-President George H. W. Bush.
Roseanne was recently mentioned in a brief little article in The New York Times, "Intricate, Eccentric, and Enraged." As is often the case, one little phrase in the article stood out for me, which led me to this quick commentary. Here is the final paragraph of the article, with that phrase highlighted:

Watch Barr’s early sets and you will find not only a quick comic mind, but also tightly written jokes. Neither appear here. Of course, it’s not just Barr who has changed. Comedy has, too. The scene is more political, polarized, desperate for outrage. Jim Jeffries prefaces the trans jokes in his new Netflix special by saying he’s doing them because he wants the press that Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais received. I’m sure he’d say it’s a joke, but I believe it. When Barr trots out a stale gag about gender, riffing on the question “What is a woman?” she gets a predictable roar. It’s a reminder that Barr once ran for president, and how much comedy and politics have blurred. Cheap nostalgia can be powerful in both arenas. At one point, Barr jokes, “The world has changed a lot since I was alive (emphasis added).”
"Politics" may have changed a lot, too. Our politics, today, does, at least to me, seem "desperate for outrage." I think that is a revealing little phrase.

It is my belief that a politics "desperate for outrage," a politics that wants to uncover everything that is tarnished, wrong, and despicable about our sometimes less than admirable efforts at self-government, is a politics doomed to send us all in the wrong direction. As most of us realize, "comedy" is often a good route to insight; it's a way to talk about truths that are hard to discuss in neutral terms. More and more "outrage" is what lots of people think is the "real story" about our government. 

That's not, really, the "truth" about politics - at least, not the way I see it - and if we keep looking for "outrage," as we contemplate our political world, we are walking away from - not walking towards - an opportunity to make our efforts at self-government succeed.

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