Offensive Humor on Body Image





Offensive Humor on Body Image

Humor has often been seen as way of bringing people together or rather a form of entertainment. In most major cities standup comedy often happens almost daily. However, there are rumors that often been termed as offensive. When talking about offensive humor, there are people who think sexist or racist jokes can be used in tackling prejudice or breaking down barriers. However, there are people who think that these jokes are really appalling at times it’s not just a joke as many think (Bemiller, 459-479). The topic has often been seen to be a sensitive one as debates such as political correctness, right of speech as well as the moral values will often arise (Hall, 351-373). One of the offensive humors we have seen are often on body image and while some may find it funny, there are certain jokes that really hit hard on some people and should not be really said. This research paper will explore how popular media uses body image as comedy yet this is a sensitive topic to most people.

Popular media has often been one way which stereotypes about certain things have been created this includes Body image jokes whether about skinny or fat people. There has been argument that offensive humor be it racist or sexist can be able to break barriers as well as challenge prejudice. Those who have often used body image as humor have often done so stating that it may help more people embrace who they are and love themselves. Some researchers have pointed out that offensive jokes often have no consequences as they are just jokes but is this really the case. Some researchers have also pointed out that criticizing offensive humor may be seen as political correctness, a movement that tends to encourage censorship threatening freedom of speech and liberty. However, the truth of the matter is that at times this jokes maligns or belittles individuals in this social group.

Comedians over the years are using disparaging humor without really thinking of the consequences or what people in this position may feel. Those that get to enjoy this humor will often tell those offended to stop being too sensitive. But the real question is “are they too sensitive and do they lack a sense of humor? However, this claims may be completely false (Burmeister, pg. 223). At times these humors are often too offensive such as when one uses jokes to body shame a person who is fat. Fat men are often on the receiving end of these jokes when compared to the women probably because in most cases a man is more likely to brush it off or laugh it out although it may heart. However, for women this is different, jokes on fat women are likely to cause a craze with most women online terming this jokes as body shaming and sexist (Graefer, pg.14). An example of a fat joke that is clearly offensive is “Why is it that pubs won’t serve me if I’m drunk but McDonalds continue serving the fat fuckers? It’s hardly fair”. By just reading the joke you can already see the prejudice and the hate from the tweet. It seems offensive that the joker is insinuating that any fast food that sell junk such as McDonalds should stop serving food to “fat” people. This is offensive especially in a society that is always judging fat people for eating take out or junk foods. There are fat people who cannot eat in public because of the gaze they get from people.

It is for a fact that there are fat people joke that may be funny. Whether you will laugh or not, it will often depend on the relationship that you have to the joke and the joker (Smeltzer, 295-304). When somebody jokes are from friends or people who are close to you, one is more likely to take it on a lighter note. However, when it is someone not so close, it is likely that one may be offended by the joke (Beard, pg. 1-17). Jokes on weight are also quite edgy because weight is often a sensitive matter that may stem from complex deep-seated psychological issues. In our heads we have often equated eating too much with being fat but research has showed that being overweight may be due to psychological issues that one may be going through. In such sensitive issues then as a comedian you really need to reflect on the joke before putting it out there (Luellen, pg. 87).

There are movies that have used fat individuals for comedic effect a perfect example is Pitch Perfect. When Pitch Perfect aired on the TV, Fat Amy was a character who stood out as she gave herself that name so that other girls would not call her behind her back. The first installment did not have as much comedic effect as Pitch Perfect 3. In Pitch Perfect 3, Amy belongs to a rock band group and one thing that stands out is her hat that had been written “Make America eat again” and responds “If I joined your group, I could be Obesity.” The movies directors have often pointed out that the movie was not intended at shaming any one or making a joke out of it but rather it was to bring out a character Amy who is “badass” and confident about herself and one who realizes that there is nothing wrong with being fat as the society has made it. Although this is true, it is for a fact that what Amy often portrays on the screen is not always what goes on in the real world. For example, in very rare occasions will you find a fat person calling themselves “fat X” as fat Amy referred to herself. Some people however have applauded the movie as a great way to break barriers in the Hollywood world where most plus size girls and women do not get opportunity to premier on the screens unlike skinny girls.

There has been research that have been conducted on movie film scripts to identify movies that have contributed to offensive body humor images. Bill Murray who is a Hollywood actor has topped highest on the number of body shaming remarks that he has ever made. Weighing in on Movies was research that was conducted on 1223 film scripts and the result was comedy tipped the scale when it came to derogatory remarks on image and body weight. Comedies have most weight related mentions with 23.86 percent remarks. According to Sarah Silverman, most body related jokes made are at times made to overcome pain, most cases a fat kid makes a fat joke first. When people make fat jokes about themselves it is a defensive tactic thus it is sad when comedies and movies use these real scenarios that apply in people’s life for comedic effect. We may want to use political correctness to defend the body shaming humor but making jokes on people’s body is quite unfortunate. The pop culture is widely consumed even by children and young teenagers and the message that they get from the comedies or movies in Hollywood are often quite unrealistic. There are casting agencies that have often been pointed out for the type of body images or casting calls that they advertise out there at times these are roles that need to be played by background actors but if you look at the requirements, a person who may not fit in may feel heavily discouraged.

Although most body image jokes may be directed to fat people slim people are also attacked with certain jokes that may be quite offensive. This is often termed as skinny shaming as the jokes make skinny people uncomfortable in their own body. Skinny people have often wondered why skinny shaming is often given a pass than fat shaming. An example of a skinny joke that I found offensive was “You are so skinny, your mom actually enjoyed child birth”. This joke is wrong in all ways and offensive as it insinuates that the mother to this skinny person most likely did not have any labor pains or simply had it easy during child birth because of how tin he is. We all know child birth or labor pains no matter the weight of the baby when born is so painful. Secondly a person may be skinny as an adult but while young they were not skinny and the mother might have even developed complications during child birth. As stated earlier, an offensive humor will most likely be offensive unless it comes from someone close or someone wo you know are stating the joke but on a lighter one.

Body jokes are sensitive because of self-esteem issues. You may identify a fat or a skinny person who you may think that they are okay or rather confident enough in their body but this may not be the case. Many people struggle to accept how the feel about the way they look and as comedian it is wrong to use body humor and later state that it was only a joke yet it hit a nerve for some individuals. A comedian intention may not to hurt anybody feelings or cause harm, as eventually his goal is to make people laugh but these actions and words may affect a listener emotionally and psychologically leading to a lower self-esteem. In a family setting, at time you may find people teasing each other and these jokes may include body image jokes. The individual who the joke is intended to may laugh along to the joke but deep down may be uncomfortable. When you are around people chances are you may smile or laugh long to a joke even though it may have made you uncomfortable or nervous. It is therefore important to be mindful of the body image humor that we use or how we tend to tease people close to us.

Body jokes image also entail jokes on people’s skin color. Most jokes on skin color have often been seen to be racist (Rosenthal, pg. 126). Kevin art is one of the comedians that have made body jokes that were seen as offensive. In his twitter account, Kevin Hart wrote “Light-skinned women usually have better credit than a dark-skinned woman…Broke ass dark hoes…lol”. Many dark skinned women definitely found the joke to be extremely offensive. Most black women attacked Kevin Hart for this and termed the joke to be offensive. This aspect shows how most people are now standing up against jokes that they think are prejudiced. Trevor Noah is another comedian whose jokes have been found to be misogynistic, fat shaming, anti-Semitism as well as homophobic. He has often been criticized for making this jokes and over time it seems he has dropped them (McKinney).

Tannishtha Chatterjee was angered by the show Comedy Nights Bachao Taza who seemed very obsessed with her skin color. She pointed out that at no point should skin color ever be used as a source of jokes. Tannishtha had gone to the show to promote a movie that she had premiered on and had been told that the show would be like a roast that happens on American shows such as Saturday Night Live. Although she was ready for the roast, the only thing that the host focused on was her skin tone. Tannishtha pointed out that her anger was because skin color and tones is sensitive as we live in a generation where people of certain skin color and tone may not get job opportunities. Often dark skin girls have often felt as if they have been marginalized and thus making fun of ski tones is nowhere close to funny. Jokes that involve skin color may be an offence that someone may not take at a personal level but at a social level because of the many prejudice that is associated with skin color. We live in a society that has constantly pointed out how being dark skin is a short coming and thus it may be difficult to understand why people still want to continue making jokes that seem to mock certain individuals, devaluing their identity.

In conclusion, it is for a fact that there is a thin line between being funny and offensive. AS a comedian it is important to recognize that there are certain jokes may prove a stereotype or prejudice towards a certain group. It is important to keep in mind that there are certain ways that the society is set up and some jokes will be not funny as will be considered a way being used to target a certain group. It is high time we discuss the impact that body humor has without classifying every conversation as political correctness. Although most offensive humor is often not told to create prejudice, then it is most likely to cause a social impact as a releaser of prejudice.

Works Cited

Beard, Fred K. “Advertising and audience offense: The role of intentional humor.” Journal of marketing communications 14.1 (2008): 1-17.

Bemiller, Michelle L., and Rachel Zimmer Schneider. “It’s not just a joke.” Sociological Spectrum 30.4 (2010): 459-479.

Burmeister, Jacob M., and Robert A. Carels. “Weight-related humor in the media: Appreciation, distaste, and anti-fat attitudes.” Psychology of Popular Media Culture 3.4 (2014): 223.

Graefer, Anne, Allaina Kilby, and Inger-Lise Kalviknes Bore. “Unruly Women and Carnivalesque Countercontrol: Offensive Humor in Mediated Social Protest.” Journal of Communication Inquiry (2018): 0196859918800485.

Hall, Jeffrey A., and Ken Sereno. “Offensive jokes: How do they impact long-term relationships?” (2010): 351-373.

Lockyer, Sharon, and Michael Pickering, eds. Beyond a joke: The limits of humor. Springer, 2005.

Luellen, Morgan. “That’s Not Funny.” ENGL 4384: Senior Seminar Student Anthology. 2016.

McKinney, Kelsey. “The Line between Funny and Offensive Is Thin. Trevor Noah Is on the Wrong Side.”, Vox Media, 31 Mar. 2015,

Rosenthal, Angela, and David Bindman, eds. No Laughing Matter: Visual Humor in Ideas of Race, Nationality, and Ethnicity. Dartmouth College Press, 2015.

Smeltzer, Larry R., and Terry L. Leap. “An analysis of individual reactions to potentially offensive jokes in work settings.” Human Relations 41.4 (1988): 295-304.